Light, the opposite of dark. Without one there cannot be the other. Of course, without light there is also no good videography as lighting is key. So what happens when there isn’t enough light to shoot web video properly? Must you live with poor quality, bad color and lack of detail? NO!
Today we offer up the following 7 tips for shooting better web video in low light conditions, courtesy of Israel Hyman (pictured on the left and of course, in the video). Israel runs a valuable membership website at IzzyVideo where he provides a popular video training series all around how to best produce video for the Internet.
7 Tips for Shooting Video In Low Light Conditions
There’s a list of things you can do when you haven’t go the natural light to shoot what you want. They include everything from supplying extra lighting to changing certain settings on your camera.
Video cameras aren’t really designed to shoot great video in low light so you end up with things like noise, grain, under-saturated images, low contrast, muddiness…. Low light is tough to deal with and there’s no perfect solution but there are several things that you can do to dramatically improve things.”
1. Add Lighting If Possible – On-Camera Lights
It’s easy enough to add light with a simple camera-mounted video light, or even a handheld light source (if unable to mount one). Obviously a mounted light is preferable as it will always be pointed in the same direction as the camera.
Other options are utilizing more pre-existing light sources by reflecting light into the area or keeping a portable lighting kit on hand. Then again, if you have one of those, you don’t really need to read this article.
2. Bigger Aperture Is Better
Aperture, iris, F-stop, whatever it’s called – you need to understand how it works.
The lower the F-stop, the better in regards to low light situations. We could give you the really technical definition, but we’ll just say that the smaller the number the larger the diameter of the aperture which means more light gets in. An F-stop setting of 2 is good, 1.4 is best.
Zoom often lowers the F-stop and makes the aperture smaller. This then results, obviously, in less light making it through. So if you are in low light conditions, try to use little to no zoom for best result. You can always move closer to your target if necessary.
3. Slower Shutter Means Longer Exposure
Shutter Speed equals exposure time. The lower the speed the longer the exposure time meaning more light. A setting of 1/60th of a second is pretty standard for normal lighting conditions but if you’re in low light you can lengthen the exposure time per frame. At 1/30th of a second twice as much light will get in and brighten up the video immensely.
If you’re doing some high-action low-light shooting this could result in motion blur and you might need to consider a different angle of attack (as in another option). If you are doing more static, less rapid movement shooting in low light this is a good option as it’s fast enough for much standard movement by human targets.
4. Lower Frame Rate Means More Light
Frame rate is of course, how many images are captured over time. There are loads of options these days with digital cameras and standard film rate is 24 frames per second. Well, 23.976 for NTSC (American Television) and 25 for PAL/SECAM (International TV). Progressive scan is usually higher, in the 30-60 frames per second range, with 30 being about standard for many video cameras.
Of course, the more frames per second means the less light as they are being captured more quickly. Lowering the frame rate from the standard 30 (if that is the case) to 24 fps will of course allow longer exposure time and more light to get in which in turn brightens the video.
If you have more static imagery (landscapes, buildings, etc) that you are shooting, instead of people, sports, animals or any type of action, you could certainly go much lower, even down to perhaps 6-12 fps. If that’s not enough then try coupling that with a slower shutter speed and a lower F-stop.
5. ISO Is Your Last Option On-Site
ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. One of the things they’ve created is the ISO scale for film speed. It’s all extremely complicated mathematics (you can read about it at Wikipedia if you like). It used to talk about the sensitivity of the film being used (and still does in film cameras). But in digital video it’s slightly different. On digital cameras you might see it called gain or sensitivity.
This is the worst of options as it will add noise and distortion to the image. This will often show up in the form of colored spots that seem to move about and makes the video look poor, often drawing away from the video content as well as obscuring part of the image.
If you have tried everything else and still can’t get enough light in, try this in small increments but remember, any change here will begin to degrade the image quality. This should be your last ditch effort when you’re on-site.
The following options can be done before or after. You can always be better prepared beforehand and sometimes you can do some editing after the fact.
6. Filter, Plugins And other Digital Editing
If you did finally resort the upping the gain on the camera to get the footage you desired, then you’ll need to try and clean it up later. This can be done in several different programs through several different options. Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier and other video editing programs will have some options built in or you can purchase some add-ons to these programs that will also be of assistance.
You will never regain 100% of the lost quality, but it might make it far less drastic or distracting.
7. Digital SLR Is One Answer
Using a digital SLR (DSLR) camera for videography offers you a wide range of options that you can mix, match and change to get the best image possible in low light while not sacrificing a lot of quality.
The reason for this is that many have individual settings for everything discussed here and even the gain on them can be used with less loss of quality or addition of noise. Faster processing, larger sensors and higher quality optics all help make these the optimal choice for low-light video shooting.
Thank You Izzy
Thanks to Israel Hyman for allowing us to share this great video with our readers. I would encourage all of you to take a look at IzzyVideo and consider subscribing to his valuable video training series designed to teach you skills for capturing better web video. The price to become an Izzy Video Premium Member is only $129 USD for a full 6 month membership. And, the price to renew is only $36 for an additional one year period. This is a small price to pay for developing skills that results in better video quality and of course. better video marketing. Check it out at IzzyVideo.com.