Low Light Video – 7 Best Tips For Shooting Video In Low Light

Shooting video in low light situations – Are you an independent filmmaker with a modest camera kit and find shooting video in low light conditions frustrating? If that’s the case, don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Shooting video in low light with minimal lighting equipment depletes the life of your image. You could end up with grainy, undersaturated, low-contrast, muddy video footage if you’re not careful.

So, what can a novice filmmaker do in low-light situations with minimal lighting equipment? You’d be astonished at what you can do in low-light situations to make your video footage come alive.

If you want to be able to shoot in low-light situations, here are several possibilities to consider. If you want to learn 7 effective strategies to film video in low light, keep reading. (If you’re a newbie filmmaker, these tips will help!)

Before we get started, I’d want to point out that the lighting guidelines you’ll be reading are the most basic. Depending on the camera, lighting, and other factors, the mileage may vary for each of us.

That’s why it’s crucial to take test footage with the camera you’ll be utilizing ahead of time. You must be aware of your camera’s limitations and how to make the most of it.

Low Light Video
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The key to shooting in low light settings is to not be afraid to introduce light into your scenes. There is no way around this, you always need light to create an image. 

But, when you are shooting a video, there is no such thing as perfect lighting conditions. We all live in a 24-hour day cycle, and when daylight begins to fade, night conditions follow. But with low light, you can capture incredible video footage that can improve the atmosphere of your scenes. 

So how do you shoot video in low light? Here are the basics of what you need to know, from choosing camera settings for low light video shooting, right down to thinking about the surroundings you are filming in and the available light you can work with.

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ISO

Knowing your ISO limit is the first advice for shooting video in low light. When shooting in low light, you’ll need to figure out your camera’s true ISO performance, which means you’ll need to try it out beforehand.

The more you change your camera’s ISO, the more digital noise enters the frame, potentially ruining your shot. If you’re wondering what the ISO rule of thumb for video cameras is, it’s below 6,400 on Full Frame, below 3,200 on APS-C, and below 1,600 on the Micro 4/3 system.

Are you curious as to why these settings have been chosen? The larger the sensor, the larger the single pixel, and hence the smaller the noise.

low light conditions

SHUTTER SPEED

Controlling your camera’s shutter speed is the second step for shooting video in low light. Adjusting your shutter speed when taking still images is one change you can make to better capture a low-light image. To allow the most available light to reach your sensor, slow down your shutter speed as much as feasible.

When taking a video, though, you don’t have that luxury. Your camera’s shutter speed is determined by your frame rate. You don’t want to go too fast because that will reduce the amount of light available even more. A decent rule of thumb is to keep the shutter speed at double the framerate.

If you’re shooting at 25 frames per second, maintain the shutter speed at 1/50. If you’re shooting at 50 frames per second, set the shutter speed to 1/100. This advice is useful in a variety of shooting situations, not only low-light ones, because it provides for the best motion blur in the shot.

NO HIGH FRAME RATES

If you increase the frame rate, you’ll have to increase the shutter speed as well, as a result of the prior recommendation. This implies you’ll need to adapt to a higher ISO, which will take you above the recommended maximum ISOs.

You can alter your frame rate to 24 frames per second instead of the standard 30 frames per second in low-light situations.

You can capture the frame for 1/24th of a second instead of 1/30th of a second if you turn off the shutter (or change it accordingly). The slower shutter speed allows more light into the camera, resulting in a brighter image. Even if it’s only a small increase, it’s still an increase in light.

FAST LENSES

Playing around with your camera to achieve the best settings for low-light is key, having a few fast prime lenses in your kit helps as well. By choosing a fast lens–a lens with a wide aperture–you will be able to allow as much of your scene’s available light as possible to reach the sensor.

A nice and bright optics can make all the difference in some situations. A 50mm 1.4, for instance, will be 4 stops faster than an f3.5 lens. What does that mean? That shooting in the same condition, you could lower your ISO from 6400 down to 800 and have almost the same exposure!

Many photographers and filmmakers use primes over zoom lenses because Primes offer wider apertures, produce sharper images, and their fixed focal lengths force you to think more carefully about your composition and story.

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USE THE AVAILABLE LIGHT AROUND YOU

low light conditions

When you’re stuck filming video with no accessible light, take a glance around to see if there’s a light source you can use. Use traffic lights, street lights, moonlight, or lights spilling out of businesses or houses if you’re shooting on the street.

Use light coming in from a window or any other available light source for recording interior video footage. Make a note of any prospective light sources that you could employ creatively while exploring places during your pre-planning, and how best you can tilt your camera to take it up.

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CREATE LIGHT

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Sometimes you may be stuck in a filming situation where it’s completely dark with no light source at all. That’s where introducing some light into your video with entry-level LED panels will work wonders for your low light filming.

LED panels allow you to easily adjust the intensity and color of LED panels so that you can introduce more light without it being overwhelming.

Plus with a few gels, you can guarantee that artificial light falls exactly where and how you want it. You could always introduce more practical lights, particularly into interior scenes. Table or standard lamps, fairy lights, smartphones, and even fish tanks can help you out here.

CHOOSE YOUR SETTINGS CAREFULLY

low light conditions

When shooting a night scene, one important thing to remember is to prevent log recording and colour grading in post-production.

This frequently results in the introduction of noise into the scene, something you want to avoid at all costs. Film with a greater contrast colour profile and shoot for the colour that you desire.

Also, don’t try to increase the light levels in post-production because this will increase the amount of noise in your footage.

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Summary

These are just some helpful tips for shooting videos in low light, but these were not the only ones.

You will learn to adapt and play around in any situation as you begin to understand the limits of your camera. Another tip involves the use of noise reduction plugins.

Many filmmakers seem to have great results, others prefer to manually grade and set filters to reduce noise.

If you liked this article, please help me share it via a tweet, stumble, pin, or Facebook share would be much appreciated! 

About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

Low Light Video

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