Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Low light challenge....

I recently agreed to cover to jobs for the Plymouth Criminal and Law Society which was advertised on the college Facebook page. It was apparent they wanted a student to do this job for their own portfolio and to gain experience at no cost to the Law Society.
After contacting the Law Society I agreed to cover the events, but at a minimal cost. I fully understand the process a student photographer has to go through to 'get their work out there' however I would say I have already gone through this and am a working photographer, I also believe in these situations travel and equipment costs should be covered.

The actual event, a cheese and wine evening, was held at Plymouth's aquarium. It was previously stated there would be no flash allowed at this event as to not disturb the fish. I always feel it best to be up-front with your client from the start, as not everything is possible. They wanted both candid and staged images using the large fish tank as a backdrop, but without the use of fill-flash I knew this would be a near impossible task.
©2012 Matt Elliott (no fill-flash)

As soon as I arrived, making sure I was early, I took some test shots for exposure readings and knew it was going to be a 'trying' event. I bought with me some continuous lighting (LED) which I thought would be useful for the staged images (speeches) and to be honest would have struggled without them.
My camera bag always contains several different lenses
  • Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70 2.8 
  • Sony 1.4 50mm
  • Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm 1.8
  • Sigma 12-24 wide angle.
My preference when working on events is my 24-70 2.8. it works well in low light, however at 6400 ISO (very noisy) ƒ2.8 I was still only getting 1/15- 1/20 th which is no good for motion. I showed this to the organiser and was allowed to use flash for a few images with my back to the fish tank.

©2012 Matt Elliott (with flash)

This was short lived as one of the staff then said one of the fish was becoming agitated and asked me not to use any more flash. As the organiser wanted some group/portrait shots I said it would be best if we found a useable area with some flash. I didn't want to disrupt the guests evening and asked for several people to come and have their picture taken.

For the remainder of the evening I shot at a distance using my 135mm prime at ƒ1.8. I took a high viewpoint to take advantage of available light and knew I would be removing noise in Lightroom 4 when post-proccessing my work. 

Overall, under the circumstances, I was more than happy with what I achieved. The client received 250 fully edited images and I was able to push the boundaries of low light photography to an acceptable standard. For future work I have been asked to cover their Ball at the Cornwall Hotel in March and to my relief I can use flash as much as I want, I will also ask for an assistant to help for their own experience.

If you are ever asked to do a job like this my advice would be don't do it unless you have the right equipment and are confident in these conditions. There's no point in over-streching yourself and getting a bad name in the long-term. However there are plenty of opportunities to practice.

All images ©Matt Elliott 2013

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