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Essential Skill #4: Low Light Techniques

Lesson 13 from: Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques

Scott Robert Lim

Essential Skill #4: Low Light Techniques

Lesson 13 from: Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques

Scott Robert Lim

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Lesson Info

13. Essential Skill #4: Low Light Techniques


Class Trailer

Day 1


Course Introduction


What Photographers Should Know


Lighting Gear Box


My Camera Gear


Understanding the Magic of Flash


Shoot: Essential Skill #1 - Lighting Positions


Essential Skill #2 - Bright Light Situations


Lesson Info

Essential Skill #4: Low Light Techniques

Essential skill number four mastering low light okay um here's who hey where we hear yesterday this looks familiar okay so this's a little light situation this is of course in you know seattle where they throw the fish and stuff like what do you call that place pike place yeah by clint's right. Ok so wow how did I step this shot up? Anybody want to say what my thought process wass on on how I achieved this photo anybody want to take a stab at it and you you set up the aperture for to get the background the way that you the way that you wanted it lit up and then you brought in your flash from brother what I do with the center speed can I put it at one second the shutter speed you can go down to one second if you wanted to but I would say for this shot you probably did around one sixth of a second one six limits like it look again okay, well you're almost right with that but I like your way of thinking and where you're going with yes basically what you do here is you set your background ...

exposure first so whatever looks good I you know that's kind of depends on how much ambient light is in there if there's a lot of ambient light then you've got to be aware of your shutter speed but if it's really, really, really really dark then shutter speed doesn't matter but this is kind of a little bit of a bright light situation so I would in this situation I would try to keep my set her up may probably at least in a twentieth of the second I would be happy if it was that about fiftieth of a second just to be safe okay and I just my eyes so I had just my f stop I just my shutter to make that background just right then the subject is completely dark because there's no light in them then I look at my settings I use my little chart and then I felt I put my umbrella I adjust it and then I bring my umbrella this is probably like three feet away okay bam blast the flash and then I had another flash on this back side toe like that up but I still got a short side shadow right on that edge right there. Okay, yes question would just stand up and introduce yourself my name's amelia from edmonton, canada. My question is when you set up a shot like that would you pull the person out and just get everything set up remembering the person back in for the flash right? And so yeah that's good work flow question so what I do is I don't even have the subject in there until I get my act together so I'm kind of like all right, let me see the background and I'll get the back okay, this looks good in the camera and then if it's especially a bride or bribing groom all what I'll do is I'll bring somebody in if I can just do a test shot for the lighting so I can kick you stand right here let's set the slight up take a couple shots lock it in kind of figure out my position of the flash right? And then I bring this subject in and and then guess what when I have all that stuff already figured out and I bring that subject and one of my concentrating on now yes exactly right saying over there says posing ok yes because I've eliminated all those other distractions in my mind and now it's just me and the client and that's really the word the work comes in we were trying to get that expression that look that pose that lean that oh yeah right there bam who the magic begins at that point okay, the magic isn't in the lighting the lighting enhances the subject sometimes we think it's the other way around we want especially guys were that way oh yeah well let's add ten lights let's do that all of this right but in reality it's actually the subject so we need to get this lighting down so we can it's sze lifting up the subject and putting them on a pedestal and said, hey that's, the central focus here the lighting is just enhanced the subject but when you're first starting off and you're trying to manage everything and you're like oh always get it's hard to get to the subject that's why we need to practice practice practice practice because we need that lighting like it's just like looking at the back of our hand like we just intuitively feel it and know what bring the subject of the dam that's how you could be at doing two minutes, three minutes at a shot instead of ten minutes at a shot here's another situation here where I'm using the in bere ella okay and I'm using another flash on this particular picture here I'm using an umbrella here knows towards the light and then this is I'm not sure if this is the window this might be just the window right here I'm not sure if I set up two flashes it could be a flash on that side I could be a window because I know this shot here I did differently or I used the umbrella but there was some window like this way too, but I used an umbrella that see that catch light in her eyes over there and so there was some window light and then there's just a little broad in the flash here teo, hit this little highlight their c I mean, you probably could have done this shot without this little highlight and just maybe this was natural light here, but I think a little scary, but I did hear what the heck did you actually through umbrella. So this is an umbrella here? I could have just done it with the umbrella. It probably would have looked nice. Right? But because it was easy and I actually had a couple assistance with me. Or maybe I had one and I just put that in stamp most likely had two assistants with because I rarely put things on a stand, but I realized on this workshop we had such hot models and nobody even wanted to help me. They just wanted to do their own things. I was by myself a lot, but I mean it's easy for myself so I can do little things like that just that little edge light. Now it looks like it's a big home and bring that existent around just for that little edge light right there. Why? Hey, but you know what? Over the course of the body of your work and every shot you have like that is just executed with nice lighting, nice lighting, nice lighting when somebody views your overall work and they're judging between you and another photographer there's, just something magnetic. They're just going to be drawing back. They're going to go look at some wimps. I think you know what? That's okay, but, you know, for some reason, I still like this one over here, right there. Look at another website. Uh, it's still not as good as this guy, right? And then the looking and you know why I still like, you know what? I'm hiring this guy, it's? Just those my new little you know why? Because most of our client is not an art. They're not like photographers and know about lighting, and they don't see that go. Yeah. That's umbrella there. And that's, the other got a flash from the back. Like he probably put a gel on it. Do you think they know that stuff? You know, they get a feel of it. See, photography has that elicit some sort of emotional response. And so they get a feel about your work and you start pumping it out like this over nor in your very consistent about your work. It's, magnetic. But, it's, just your client. You may be this much better than the other guy, but the normal person on lee sees you this much better. I did that all the time like my friends look good by the way all day maybe they're looking at the work for the first time or whatever there is this going to my hey this is pretty good what you do for a living oh yeah for dr rick well that's cool right and you think you kind of like oh she come on man they know I won this award that like something no don't think what's creative live man right and you're thinking like come on right but that's the way the real world is so we have to get this much better to gain that much advantage for people to really see the difference but that difference will mean a lot and it will speed magnetic keep strong your back that can you gonna get hired get video light so I love using video light in those low light situations using constant light sources because I could see that situation so in this particular area here let's see if I um um actually why use a video light in that strobes? I could have used a stroke here why did I choose to use of the light what's that to right? Yes and no it could be but I could probably still use a flash with an umbrella put a diffuser on it put it at one sixty one twenty eight power it probably still would have worked no so now jodi anything did you say uh what you see it jodi stand up what you see is what you get you can see and what you see is what you get you have you listened to my electricity once or twice once or twice ok all right so what you see is what you get and it makes it easier for the shadowing the placement the feathering of the light and it's so much faster you'll find out today that's a lot easier to shoot with delight than it is with a flash on dh so that's why it's really cool to use okay so when to use a video light we have my chart here of course and the flash is great for you know bright life situations I s o one hundred whatever but then don't you notice down here there's some gaps and if we put sixty four hundred over here then they'll be even mohr space here that would be empty and that the flash can't go low enough to do that area right so there's some areas of lighting because of technology say the reason why video light became a cool gizmo was because of technology technology started allowing you to shoot it aiso thirty two hundred and above I mean back ten fifteen years ago to live it isil thirty two hundred there big man that's crazy may for a few special photo journalistic grainy shots all use that but not toe live with that? I I know I need to shoot it I s o s a one hundred or four hundred right? That was the thing back then but now because of technology we have this whole spectrum here that really flash is not good at covering, but video light is great at so that's why when I go on and that's why I said everybody needs toe have a video light why? Because it covers the spectrum of light especially with the cameras that we have now and I told you that if you don't feel comfortable having a camera that can shoot it isil thirty two hundred you deserve it to go out today right now when we take a break on amazon or being nature wherever or at aram I mean and just buy another camera you deserve it don't worry about just fell, so just bring him to me I say you need that right? Why? Because the new photographers that are coming in they're being able to do it and access this full range open up new opportunities, new options for you shooting it makes a big difference. Ok? And so when I mix video light with flash, I always put my flash and around sixty four hundred let's say, I'm I'm doing a main I'm using video life for my main subject and I want a little rim light and a lot of times I like using flash like that because flash like goat is like I said it's like a tasmanian devil is just kind of goes all over the place so when you put it on low power they will just go all over the place and leave a nice little rym light around okay uh cliff house the question stand out so let's talk about video lights because when I went to w p p I mean your video lights good but what makes what would switch is I'm gonna look for how much power what do they need was going to suffice yeah you know good well what do you look for in a video light? Well I think you know it's the quality of the led a lot of times and so some video lights have different coloring slants and some have a green tinge I try to make my video lights all like daylight balance s o and then another huge thing I think about video lights is the type of batteries how is it powered ok, so you get some video lights that have to be charged up all the time that don't work for me why why do you think that doesn't work for me as a photographer going out on location and if I have to charge up something to use it all the time how long does it take usually to charge something up overnight so what happens? I'm on my gig and it's a twelve hour gig and I use up the battery power and then I've got to go to keep shooting would I have oh, we gotta hold this session overnight because I got to charge this up that don't fly with me right? So I need several sources I'm especially like if you can use double a batteries with it why is that you could go to the liquor store around the corner and get double a batteries right? You can find them anywhere so you can always have a set in your bag ready to go and so let's say you're in some remote areas of remote areas in the mountains or something and you're doing a job or whatever ah working I plug up here you can't plug up anything here we can do right? So um double a batteries is good another thing yes I'm chaos one fifty five three other people were asking do you have issues running out of batteries on speed lights or video lights and how like how many do you carry with you when you're you know let's just say doing a wedding for instance with long right? How many do you care? You okay question so you know what I noticed when you're in manual you must use at least half the amount of power or maybe more than in detail mode use way less battery power so when I switched over to manual on like saying man, these flashes air lasting forever, so I'll do a wedding maybe it's ten hours or so okay, I won't even changed the batteries maybe if I'm doing a lot of reception lighting shots and I'm just going crazy because I'm having fun taking photos and I'm just ripping him off and maybe if if my assistant is like, can I use your trigger too? And she realized, ok, go ahead, you can use my lighting setup, right? We're just going out and shooting you know, I might need to change a set of batteries in those near the end of the day, but when I'm doing a wedding and I'm shooting in manual and I know how to manage my power and I get that light sources closest possible because it could be four times as much power shooting out here, so if you're a photographer and you feel we've got your flash six feet away twelve feet away guess what? Your flash is only gonna last one hundred shots before you got to change the battery, especially using tl that's. Why oh, I need a battery pack I did this I know, but if you know how to manage your life better, you can go all day on a set of batteries so I rarely have to actually change my batteries so that's that's like a rarity so all you know just in case I'll usually just have a couple sets available uh you know for me and when I'm using video light I don't use it a lot because why I know how to get in and out with my shot so at most maybe I have it on for two or three minutes at a time and so let's say my battery khun run two hours and it only takes me an average of three minutes to do a shot with video that's a lot of time actually three minutes is a lot but my name is let's say was three minutes right three three minutes and what one hundred twenty that's like what's three divided one hundred twenty forty that's forty setups set ups with a video light that's a lot all right I may be only do at most ten setups with the light okay so usually it's ok but I have extra just in case it doesn't work okay good all right let's keep going man we got a lot to cover this is how it video light works here and the way why a video light is well remember we talked about matching light intensities right and so that's what really? A video like kind of matches the power of the lights that you see at night it's very close to that output power whereas the flashes a lot brighter then the light's better up so that's why it tends to match and makes it easier to arrive at the exposure because it's very similar to what you see in the background or what's you know lit up so whenever lit up at night the video light kind of matches that so that's what makes it easier? Okay, so here's another video light situation here I'm exposing for the background first and then just bringing in the video light tio just like her up the and now this is not even diffused because I was going kind of just off the cuff here so I just kind of noticed something it was a come over here is going to get shot in a shot it and I just I didn't have my umbrella set up the way I just hit it with some video light and then feathered it off to the side a bit and took that shot but that's just straight video like that's, not even with an umbrella. Okay? And so I'm shooting at thirty, two hundred right there thirty, two hundred five six that's pretty high aperture really at one twentieth of a second I would probably change this, but you know here the moment you're getting going and you know, and sometimes you don't pay attention to your camera signs anybody do that like the only one that it happens right but I have to show the world my screwups but anyway that's ok so if I had to change that I would lower this f stop and raise my shutter speed just to be a little bit safer so I could go down to f four or f I could on this particular lens I could only go down too force I could go down one more stop to f four and raise my sharp speed at fortieth of a second foreign equivalent exposure but you have to know that like that in your mind you know I need to raise my shutter speed get to know you have to know instantaneously say like I know I don't even think about that we'll raise my shutter c four fortieth damn I don't even think about it it's just in me right that's where you have to be at you can't be like ok wait a second if I especially if you don't have live you then you're going to shoot it back and forth to figure out what the equivalent exposure is right that's why you got to know this stuff okay so here's another technique which we're going to get into is fine some twinkle lights right that's why we have these over here find something that's lit up nicely in the background right and then you expose for that right use a long lens whatever the loneliest lend you have and zoom out right? Preferably the further away that you are from those lights and zooming out is better and then the closer that you can get to your subject that's why we're going to do it here and I might have to get up be off the grid a little bit because I like actually more room than this but we're going to try to make it work within this small area here but the further away the subject is better the longer the lens that you use is better and the closer that you can get makes the twinkle lights get bigger and bigger and bigger with the low f stop okay and we'll kind of do that's the lowest possible f stuff and that's how you compress the image and you're bringing that background closer by using a longer lens so when you's a longer lands the subject may not necessarily be bigger but that background gets bigger because it's what they call compressing the image right that's what they call it compresses you ever hear that term oh yeah compress it right what are you doing you're bringing the background closer so it's big looking like it's bigger in your camera okay so use this is what I use the killer video like through the umbrella and that we're going to do that technique right in here okay so this is the same situation you expose for the background this is far away right and then you bring a video light right in here and then everybody just goes crazy start taking pictures but that's the technique right is just using that video light bringing it in making those little twinkle lights um and pulling that together okay, this is the same situation here final exam who's doing this shot andrews dues he volunteered to do this for the final exam right? So I'm using actually here I'm pretty far away but I'm only using a fifty millimeters lens but I'm using the lowest f stop possible the blur it out so the lower the f stop makes the lights a little bit bigger on then if I would have had a longer zooms I think I borrow somebody have a seventy two, two hundred and so I think I borrowed somebody's tio suit longer here but I didn't have I didn't get those files so I just showed this one but that's the idea of creating those twinkle lights in the background is just finding something what's pretty in the back blurt out add your video like damn you're off to the races okay, so look at that I'm shooting at f two fifty five millimeter lens at one two hundredth of a second plenty of shutter speed so she moves around a two hundredth of a second I can grab it but I'm using that's why everybody's gotta get have a fast lens and they're back everybody's gotta have a fifty millimeter one point eight at least because they're only one hundred freaking bucks and they're so light and they're so small it needs to be in your bag because you might get into a situation like this and you need some below you need a low light lands and that's very, very inexpensive and everybody should be able to afford one of those even if you can't afford it, you need to have it just doesn't matter you need to get it okay compressing the background here I'm using the this year I'm using that sony lends the three five to the four five eisenman ulta lands it's a really old lands it's maybe twenty years old like it's a sleeper lands is actually pretty good and if you can find it, you could probably get it for less than one hundred dollars you could probably call on somebody into giving a tea for forty bucks because I don't know what this is take it right s o I like it because it's a little really so I bring it with me it's literally like this big so I want two hundred and I got limited bag space and I just need something for long lands just in case I usually just shoot my eighty five but just in case they need a long lands it's on lee that big right, I can turn my iast so up to thirty, two hundred so f stop is not oh, I'm shooting at four five big deal when I have upto s so five hundred thousand I just turned my eyes so up to thirty, two hundred sixty four hundred what's the big deal nowadays so see how the camera body and technology allows you to access other lenses? They're not quite as fast and you don't have to spend a thousand dollars or take up this much room in your bag when you can put other stuff in there ok, so that's the reason why I do that okay um okay here's the same thing here with an eighty five millimeter lands and this is what we're trying to I think they got close if I go to the outer limits of bit and kind of stretch it so you might not be able to see me, but you can hear my voice because I went off the area of shooting cause I need as much distance as possible, we're going to try to kind of simulate something like this today, okay? And it's going to be cool, so same situation here, I've got a gel on that side just to give me a little highlight there I don't have to have it, but hey, I got somebody laying around here go stand over there, shoot it right uh and then I have the video light through the umbrella here okay? So that's that and then we did the same thing when I do a gel in the background it's the same picture so I just jailed the background color and I think we're going to get to that right today too so we're going to do that and video light here so that's how video light looks and lower light looks beautiful well blah blah blah blah here you seen I don't know if using this before I'm exposing for the background first right? And then what'll I do bring this video light in on them and I'm shooting it see the coverage that you get with the video light you get really nice coverage this is with my older video light to this is not what the the bigger one but s o you get really nice covered still with that like how beautiful the light is you know what I mean? Come on, that is do we need another dismal or something to great great light like that just didn't like through an umbrella is really great you could do good things with it okay here again exposed to the background really light there on the subject's okay, I'm shooting it I so two thousand here um here's the same thing I'm probably shooting at thirty, two hundred here at two point eight very little like I wanted to get down there cause I wanted those clouds still in there. That's why I had to keep raising my eye is still so when you have. If you're not getting background in a little light situation, keep raising your eyes so up because shutter speed is affected here because it's constant light that's. Why? You can't keep lowering your shutter speed like you can in flash and dark. But in video you have to keep your video your shutter speed constant. I like to keep mine at fiftieth of a second because it's constant light. If they move, you're going to see it. Does that make sense to you? So in order to get more background and you have to keep raising your eyes so up. Okay, so it's very common to get to thirty two hundred I so with this technique hey, this was in here. My last workshop here with the wedding workshop. We just were right in here doing this. This is when I think the blinds were open was a super overcast and I and I just sent a video like through there like that. Ok, here's, another situation measuring the background the light on them flashed in the back the light, uh, jelling the background, right and I had a kind of a sequence I put a sequence back down there to get kind of like those big little lights back they're shooting at a low f stop but I'm really close to my subject so the farther the way you are and then the closer this to your subject you are and the lower the f stops makes those little twinkle lights bigger ok, when you say that again farther away from the background longer the land's closer you are to the subject and lowering your f stop makes twinkle lights better bigger okay, you can do it in real life you can kind of understand what that situation is here. Okay here's, another situation here I kind of cheat a little bit and I'll show you how I cheated eso this is the set up here this is the look and this is my set up one video light through the umbrella flash uh behind it at a high power maybe sixteenth power I wanted it just to feel like damn this light was coming through a lot of it right? But I was using a low f stop so I get those nice blurry big bulb kind of lens flare feel right and so that's the original picture that I was getting but what I did was I shot some kind of larger twinkle lights and I just kind of added it and do that to it. So when you're shooting dark stuff, it's very easy to add stuff like that. So a lot of times I'm just going around and d focus light and take pictures of it, and then you can just use it in in your stuff. But the original shot was that like that. So it wasn't like I was super cheating sort in camera, but it just adds, doesn't that add a little bit more? Move to it, right? Ok, so that's what I shot before and I just add you could do double exposures. S o you could do this in real life and that's kind of like what we were doing in the paris workshop, someone started doing double exposure is like, oh, wow, that's cool, and they were adding things like that, and I was trying to download my double exposure thing in my camera, and I couldn't do it. I was getting all pissed because they were taking all these awesome bill exposure, and I couldn't do it. They were making fun of my sony camera, but anyway, I'm going to download that program, be able to do it, but I cheated. I just did it in post same thing.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Crazy Stupid Light Review
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide
Final Exam
Going Big on a Tiny Budget - HD

Ratings and Reviews

Dan Frumkin

I read several reviews on this site which gave me hesitation to buy this course. Nonetheless, I pressed on. Now I have a suggestion for those considering parting with their cash. Before you buy, go to any of Scott’s galleries online. If you can shoot at Scott’s level move on. If you cannot see the artistry in Scott’s work, move on. If you cannot conceive of the technical proficiency Scott has with flash, move on. But if you are mortal photographer that desires to improve your work, compare your personal portfolio to Scott’s. He wins awards for good reasons. Invest the time and money. You will be amply rewarded. Real World Lighting: Advanced Techniques is worth every penny. So is Crazy, Stupid, Light. I purchased both and now use Scott’s advice and techniques daily. Plus, he provides a good dose of inspiration and humor. Scott is an awesome professional, fantastic photographer and a wonderful teacher.


I already own Lim's class, "Crazy, Stupid Light" as well as two of his Strobie 230 flashes with transmitter (in addition to my Canon speedlight). I appreciate being able to get into lighting with flashes and equipment that costs much less than Profoto lights etc. that I couldn't afford yet. Lim has a very organized and energetic teaching style. He is a great speaker in that he is excited about what he is doing and seems to love to help others learn how to be successful with their lighting. He is very animated and funny and has the right blend of being confident yet self-effacing and admits his mess-ups during class. I find him very engaging and interesting. If you have less than $500 or $600 to spend on lights, but want to start adding lighting to your photo shoots, he is a great place to start.

a Creativelive Student

This class was fantastic! I've always opted for the easy way out when it came to lighting my subjects, usually resorting to using just natural light and a reflector even though I always have my lighting kit with me. I learned in this class how creating my own light can be the easiest way to get the results I want. It's much easier than trying to make the natural light do what I want it to do. Scott's passion for photography and teaching are evident, and his commitment to the success of his students is amazing. I definitely recommend this course for photographers at any level. I came away with many ideas on how to build upon the lighting tips presented here to make it my own. Thanks Scott Robert Lim!

Student Work