How to successfully take a photo in a dark environment?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by richard_pisani, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. I'm not completely sure how to get a strong and clear picture when in a dark space. My film either comes out really dark or completely
    blank. Any tips or suggestions? Thanks!!
  2. Look at this thread.
  3. In such circumstances always I rely on handheld lightmeter; take into account the film reciprocity failure if necessary; and, of course, use a tripod and remote cable release.
  4. Define "dark." Are you talking about totally dark, as in a darkroom, with no light at all? A dark reception hall or church at a wedding (where there is plenty of light to see by but maybe not enough for photos)? Outside at night, which can be anywhere from a moonless night (still not total darkness but very dim) or lit up like a gas station parking lot?

    In low-light situations, the first option is fast lenses (2.8 or faster) and high ISO (1600 and up). You also need to work in whatever pools or light there are, and close to the light source (next to the table lamp in a house, under the lamp pole on a street).

    But you do get to the point where there simply isn't enough light, or not good light. That's where you have to bring in light of your own, whether it's hot lights, flash, etc. If you look at night scenes in movies, they are almost always lit, but in a way that makes them still look like night.
  5. One problem with dark is that it is hard to meter. Averaging meters don't work well, if you want to expose for a lighted subject with a dark background. (Not so bad if you want to expose for the background.)
    Incident readings, where you measure the light shining on the subject, not reflected off, are often better. If you have an 18% gray card, you can meter the reflection off that, either with a hand held or built-in meter. If you don't have a gray card, meter off your hand and reduce by one stop. (Assumes your hand reflects about 36%.)
    If you have an automatic camera without a manual mode, but with exposure lock, meter off something close to what you want to expose for, then compose the desired shot while holding the lock button.
  6. Richard, this may not be the same sort of thing you're looking for, but FWIW: Photo like this (the building I work in shortly before dawn), I've got the idea that 1/30th at F5.6 is about right for the well-lighted parts of the building and the film I'm using. So I set up the shot and shoot one at 1/60th at 5.6, another at 1/30th, and then one at probably 1/8th. If you're using sheet film you can follow the old rule, "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights," but I use rollfilm. This works pretty well--it takes some experimenting. Oh, and if you take your film to a printer, you'll NEVER get a good result. Scan those negatives for yourself, edit the ones that you like, and send them to a printer. HTH!
  7. It depends upon how large the space is and what you want your image to convey, but the obvious solution is use a flash or multiple flashes.

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