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Shooting Long Exposures

We have covered some of the techniques for shooting in low light, so let’s go through the process of capturing a night or low-light scene for maximum image quality (Figure 8.11). The first thing to consider is that in order to shoot in low light with a low ISO, you will need to use shutter speeds that are longer than you could possibly handhold (longer than 1/15 of a second). This will require the use of a tripod or stable surface for you to place your camera on. For maximum quality, the ISO should be low—somewhere at or below 400. The long exposure noise reduction should be turned on to minimize the effects of exposing for longer durations. (To set this up, see Chapter 7.)

Figure 8.11

Figure 8.11 A long exposure and a tripod were necessary for this twilight photo of the Lincoln Memorial.

ISO 200 • 8 sec. • f/9 • 18mm lens

Once you have the noise reduction turned on, set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av) mode. This way, you can concentrate on the aperture that you believe is most appropriate and let the camera determine the best shutter speed. If it is too dark for the autofocus to function properly, try manually focusing. Finally, consider using a cable release (see the “Pimp My Ride” bonus chapter) to activate the shutter. If you don’t have one, check out the sidebar “Self-timer” earlier in this chapter. Once you shoot the image, you may notice some lag time before it is displayed on the rear LCD. This is due to the noise reduction process, which can take anywhere from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds, depending on the length of the exposure.

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