Low Light Portraiture

We have long been fans of using natural light for portraiture if possible, and low light portraiture in particular conveys a very distinct ambience. With the development of the newer generations DSLRs where shooting at even ISO 102400 is possible, capturing usable images in low light is not that difficult.

It obviously helps to have a good quality lens with a large aperture, and a good place to start is the 50mm prime. All DSLRs have 50mm primes suitable for them with apertures varying from f1.8 to a f0.95 from Leica. The f1.8 lens from Canon for example is great value at < $200.

These images have been taken at f1.2, at night using available lighting. The first is using coloured lighting from a fountain (and hence the cast).

The second is using light from a street lamp.

The bonus at shooting wide open is the very narrow DOF which isolates the subject from the background. These two images were deliberately taken with another person in the background to demonstrate this.

The only downside is that there are no catch lights in the subject's eyes.This can be overcome by careful positioning, which may be a challenge if the spontaneity of the portrait is to be maintained.

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