Storytelling After Dark

 
Sit absolutely still for the first half of the exposure, then move rapidly. This will create a rough human outline accompanied by blurs. Photograph/Audrius Sidlauskas

Sit absolutely still for the first half of the exposure, then move rapidly. This will create a rough human outline accompanied by blurs. Photograph/Audrius Sidlauskas

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.

Thanks to the wonderful laws of physics, objects closer to the camera appear to move faster than those further away. This can lead to interesting blurs in the foreground while the subject is sharp. Photograph/Nirlep Singh

Thanks to the wonderful laws of physics, objects closer to the camera appear to move faster than those further away. This can lead to interesting blurs in the foreground while the subject is sharp. Photograph/Nirlep Singh

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

Blue LEDs can create havoc with the cameras sensors leading to patchy images. A flash helped get a cleaner image and freeze some of the motion. Exposure: 1/5sec at f/4.5 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Blue LEDs can create havoc with the cameras sensors leading to patchy images. A flash helped get a cleaner image and freeze some of the motion. Exposure: 1/5sec at f/4.5 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

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

The archetype of creative low light photos, this image uses camera shake, B&W and grain to create a dramatic story. Exposure: 1/2sec at f/2.8 (ISO 400). Photograph/Mahul Mukherjee

The archetype of creative low light photos, this image uses camera shake, B&W and grain to create a dramatic story. Exposure: 1/2sec at f/2.8 (ISO 400). Photograph/Mahul Mukherjee

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)

When light painting, make sure you keep the light source away from your body, so that it doesn’t appear in the final image. Exposure: 180sec at f/22 (ISO 500). Photograph/Selvaprakash L

When light painting, make sure you keep the light source away from your body, so that it doesn’t appear in the final image. Exposure: 180sec at f/22 (ISO 500). Photograph/Selvaprakash L

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

Tilting the camera upwards created the streaks of light. The image was dodged to boost the contrast. Exposure: 120sec at f/4 (ISO 800). Photograph/Bharat Baswani

Tilting the camera upwards created the streaks of light. The image was dodged to boost the contrast. Exposure: 120sec at f/4 (ISO 800). Photograph/Bharat Baswani

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

Shadow Sculpting
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

Primal Instincts
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

Get Graphical
Bright night lights, geometric shapes and symmetry can be used to create a feeling of alienation and uncomfortable perfection.
Take Inspiration From: Branislav Kropilak

Be on the look out for car headlamps and other unusual sources of light to capture interesting moments. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/5.6 (ISO 1600). Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

Be on the look out for car headlamps and other unusual sources of light to capture interesting moments. Exposure: 1/80sec at f/5.6 (ISO 1600). Photograph/ K Madhavan Pillai

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.

By wearing a black hoodie and moving just his head, the photographer was able to create a this headless portrait. Exposure: 4sec at f/4 (ISO 1250). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

By wearing a black hoodie and moving just his head, the photographer was able to create a this headless portrait. Exposure: 4sec at f/4 (ISO 1250). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Tags: Aditya Nair, Blur, creative, Low light, Noise, out of focus, september 2014, story telling