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How To Take Better Portraits In Low Light | Mango Street

By Brittany Smith on June 16th 2018

Ask any portrait photographer what their ideal time of day is to shoot and chances are that not a single one of them will say night time. Shooting in low light conditions without additional lighting equipment is challenging and requires more forethought to achieve the desired outcome.

Adding a model to that mix adds to the challenge and the payoff for the extra planning is bountiful. Mango Street met this challenge head-on while hitting the streets of LA’s Chinatown for a recent photoshoot. Here are some of their tips to take better portraits in low light.

Find the light

Look for a location that provides ambient light and separates the subject from the background as well as a side or front light to illuminate the subject. Colored cellophane can be used to cover your phone’s flashlight to provide additional fill.

Slow Shutter Speed

Slower shutter speeds let in more light and allow a lower ISO for reduced noise. A good rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed that is no slower than the focal length of your lens when shooting wide open. For example, shutter speed should be at least 1/80th of a second when shooting with an 85mm lens on a full frame camera.

Nail Auto Focus

Fast lenses will absolutely be ideal when shooting in low light. If the camera’s auto focus is failing or struggling, use your phone’s flashlight to illuminate the subject. Rachel and Daniel also recommend using back button focus as well as a tripod if the shutter speed is really slow.

Low Light Edit

Images can be edited entirely in Lightroom. Daniel suggests lifting the highlights and removing lens vignetting by utilizing profile corrections to brighten the overall image without losing too much detail. A graduated filter can be used for noise and clarity reduction for the background.

[REWIND: Simple And Dramatic One Light Fashion Setup | How I Shot IT]

Additional light sources such as an LED panel are a great way to add fill light to the subject. Another option is an LED Pixel Stick which is a little more expensive and provides the traditional white as well as additional color options to create a variety of possibilities for the overall look and feel of the shoot.

[Rewind: Couples Portrait Photography Tips]

Gear Used

True to form, Mango Street’s video is under five minutes and is packed full of insightful information. Be sure to check out their YouTube Channel for more.

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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