How to: Capture Details In Dimly Lit Places

/ Thursday, February 16, 2012

When the lovely ladies at Night'N'Gala Event Design contacted me about their Valentine's Day Inspired shoot they were putting together, I was excited. And nervous. Very nervous. These ladies are talented and I knew there were lots of details that NEED, nay, DEMANDED to be captured. OK, I'll stop the drama. But seriously, I knew the  Bellaj in Burbank would be dimly lit and I didn't want to lose the details the ladies worked so hard to put together. Also, there were no windows in this venue. No windows means no natural light which could be a challenge on it's own. So, here is my take on how to capture details in dimly lit places...

I love what natural light does and prefer to shoot outdoors. However, it doesn't mean I won't or can't shoot indoors. My answer: bring the outdoors in. Below is the equipment I used on the shoot:

- Nikon D700 - my baby, the love of my life. Don't tell the BF.
- Nikon 50mm f/1.4 - for low light
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 - to provide a different range and option. To capture wider shots.
- Video light - I also use this on reception details if I have to. It's a great video light... just don't shine it on anyone. I may or may not have done that a couple of times. It's dim-able and I love that. It also mimics the intensity of the sun (5600K). I highly recommend it. 

With the help of Mary from Night'N'Gala, I was able to create great detailed shots in a dark setting. She carried the light and directed it at a 45 degree angle against the tablescape...

It created a different feel and mood of the photo without blowing out the details on the cake and the vases. I also attached the video light to the hot shoe of my camera in some shots...

This was taken straight out of camera with no editing aside from making the green "EXIT" sign disappear in the background. What I wanted to emphasize were the gorgeous red roses and the details of the room. Against a dark background and minimal light from the chandelier, it could be difficult to capture all the details in the shot without my handy video light. I also shot as wide open as I could, meaning the lowest aperture (or f-stop) the lens had. The wider the aperture, the more light goes in = a pretty shot.

As we were wrapping up the session, I noticed a door underneath the "EXIT" sign and asked Mary to open it. And just like that, the photo shoot took a whole different direction...

And this are some pictures I took with camera and lens only... thank goodness for the beauty that is natural light and reflectors!

The light streaming in from the door shone gently on the tablescape and I was also able to capture the details of the room. A different mood and feel... and the gorgeous details still captured. I was so happy to give a variety of perspectives while maintaining the details we needed to showcase their hard work. Yay!

Here are some tips that helped me with this shoot:
1. Research - I looked up Bellaj's website gallery and noticed there were no windows. Being prepared helped the shoot run smoothly.
2. Ask the coordinators the mood & feel they want from their photos. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
3. Bring everything - see #1.
4. Experiment a little. Try a different lens. Find a magical door. =)
5. Be ready to eat some delicious cupcakes when you're done...someone has to!

This is not a comprehensive list. These are some things I learned and I wanted to share with you. Everyone has a different approach and I hope you enjoyed mine. =)


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