How to shoot video with little available light

There is no video if there is no light. That is something you’ll never get away from, unless you want to shoot everything in green and white with an infrared camera… Here are a few tips to gather as much light as possible even when it is scarce.

Outside, at night

You’re taking a walk on a beautiful summer evening. Something happening in the street catches your attention and you want to bring back great shots? Here’s what you should try.

One of the first things to check in this situation is the maximum sensitivity with which you can shoot while maintaining a level of noise that is acceptable for you.

If your camera’s sensor is on the large side, as are most recent DSLRs, you should get great results even at ISO 1600. Beyond that, it's up to you. When you increase sensitivity, the noise generated by the amplified signal can be unpleasant.

Also, not all cameras give you manual control of sensitivity. Sometimes the only adjustable parameter is the aperture. If the scene does not extend a long distance away from your camera, choose the largest possible aperture, as in the smallest f-number. This will reduce the depth of field in the image, but you will at least get to see something.

For tighter shots and closeups, try to choose subjects that are within the reach of outdoor lighting. This reduces the chances that your camera cranks up ISO to an unwanted level.

A magic trick at home

One of your friends has a spectacular magic trick to show you after dessert? Time to pull out your camera!

The best advice for you in this situation is to turn on lights. How much? As many as possible, and not just close to your subject. Having light in the background of your images prevents pronounced shadows that would isolate your magician in the middle of darkness.

At the end of the trick, having all the lights on will allow your camera to see the reaction of the audience, whether he succeeded or not.

Exploration night

You want to discover a forest in the evening or you are tracking rodents in your backyard? Bring a headlamp or other portable light source for your adventure.

It may be a little harder not to be detected by the creatures of the night. But if one of them falls within the scope of your lighting, you will see it very well. And you will bring back images that could come close to a horror movie (!) ...if you manage to create enough suspense when editing.

You can also choose different angles as you travel the darkness with your portable light source. If you light tree leaves with your lamp placed on the ground, or if you decide to use it for side lighting, it could create unexpected images and a unique perspective. Like placing a strong light behind a tree and seeing what shadows lurk on the monitor of your camera.

Don’t forget to keep a close look at your white balance and make sure that the setting is appropriate for your light source.