Storytelling After Dark
The flaws of low light photography lend themselves beautifully to the narrative of the image. Aditya Nair shows you a few examples.
This article was originally published in September 2014.
Once you get a hang of shooting in the dark, the medium and its shortcomings are a great way to make strong conceptual images. Here are some examples of what you can try and the photographers who have turned them into art.
Celebrate Human Imperfection
We often believe that good images are are sharp, well exposed and without grain. Reverse this sterile stereotype by using overpowering flash, noise, blurs to showcase a more realistic impression of humanity and the beauty of the imperfect world we live in.
Take Inspiration From: Victor Cobo, William Klein, Daido Moriyama
Find Beauty in the Obsolete
Abandoned buildings and urban decay are at their depressing best in the night. They can also look as if they have witnessed many tales of adventure. Tell these stories through your images.
Take Inspiration From: Todd Hido, Irene Kung
What the Human Eye Can’t See
Landscape photography in pitch darkness results in capturing colours and shades not normally seen. Use this technique to give mundane scenes a more interesting spin.
Take Inspiration From: Ansel Adams, Tim Simmons, Dhruv Malhotra (Sleepers)
“Everytime I heard a sigh or a groan in the dark, I pushed the button.” —Weegee
Juxtaposing the Past
You can light paint an abandoned object like an old car or a tree stump. Including the ambient light cast by the surroundings can help you heighten the sense of isolation.
Take Inspiration From: Selvaprakash L (Stump Vision)
Create Fantastical Worlds
Using a slow shutterspeed in the dark to photograph water bodies or clouds can help you create surreal worlds.
Take Inspiration From: David Burdeny, Dayanita Singh (Dream Villa), Jan Pohribný
The Look of Film Noir:
Black and white, high contrast and grainy. Lowlight photography blends beautifully with the design aesthetic of film noir and the mystery that such imagery can create.
Take Inspiration From: Richard Koci Hernandez, Mojtaba Saranjampour
Place your subject in a completely dark room and then use a flashlight to paint them into the photograph.
Take Inspiration From: William Ropp, Emil Schildt
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” —Ansel Adams
Lowlight imagery highlights the dark side of the human mind and works well when shooting themes like fear, violence or evils.
Take Inspiration From: Gerardo Montiel Klint
Or the Human Spirit
Use grain and 100% blacks to evoke emotions. Focus on showing intensity, desire, even dreams. The look is great for portraits, sports and documentary work.
Take Inspiration From: Pari Dukovic, Prabuddha Dasgupta (Longing)
“To be able to see in concrete terms what was created in a fraction of a second is a rare luxury.” —Ralph Gibson
Bright night lights, geometric shapes and symmetry can be used to create a feeling of alienation and uncomfortable perfection.
Take Inspiration From: Branislav Kropilak
Experiment with Black Lights…
… to get unnatural colours for portraits and body art.
Take Inspiration From: Sabine Pigalle
Natural Tones with Flash
Use Slow Sync flash as a fill in to illuminate your pictures without the overpowering flash look.
Take Inspiration From: David Alan Harvey
“Photography used to be about available light. Now it is about available darkness.” —S Paul
Meaning, not Aesthetic
Desaturating images is the easiest way to make them look better. However, instead use black and white to convey a departure from the world of colour.
Take Inspiration From: Michael Ackerman, Antoine D’Agata, Sohrab Hura
Low light conditions may not be ideal, but it is the challenge that makes low light photography so much fun. It is equal parts visualisation and serendipity! It is great to discover something unexpected after you have released the shutter.Tags: Aditya Nair, Low light, Blur, Noise, creative, out of focus, september 2014, story telling