Photographers are often told that light is the most important element in an image and that the quality of shots is dependent on the amount of available light source.  As a result, many avoid dealing with dimly lit situations and would much rather shoot in bright daylight. The fact is, a myriad of creative atmospheric photographs can still be produced under low-light conditions with the proper use of light sources and techniques. The only limit is your imagination!

Image Credit: @jimchanfc

If you are urged to shoot creative urban low-light photographs after reading about the ideas and tips provided in this article, consider joining Canon PhotoMarathon XVI Singapore 2018 (CPMSG2018)! There will be a twist this year as the third and final theme will be announced at 5pm instead of the usual 3pm. This makes it the perfect opportunity for you to experiment outside your comfort zone!

Obtain a dreamy blur with bokeh

Bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in an image. This can be achieved with the use of a low aperture or f-stop numbers. Often, bokeh leads to beautiful circles of light in the background and these light sources often come from the city and street lights. When they are shot from a distance in an out-of-focus manner, this leads to a dazzling shallow shot that is extremely pleasant to the eyes.

Image Credit: @lightfactor92

To achieve smooth and pleasing bokeh when shooting at night, a tip is to place your subject physically close to the lens. At the same time, leave a distance between the subject and the lights in the background in order to create depth. Keep your lens focused on the subject while allowing everything else to fade into a dreamy blur. This is a great way to draw the viewer’s eyes to a specific area of your shot!

Image Credit: @paweenac22

Get creative with light painting

Image Credit: @js_praxis

If you can’t find light, why not create it yourself? Another great way to get creative with your night shots is to experiment with light painting. This is a type of photography where artificial light painting tools such as glow sticks or LED lights are used to paint and illuminate a scene. In dimly-lit locations, this leaves colourful flashes, streaks, and trails of light in your image. Light painting provides you with endless opportunities to get creative as you will be free to add any new elements to your image!

Image Credit: @right_piano_pedal

One effective way of capturing your audience’s attention with light painting is to choose the right location. Even the most stunning drawings may seem uninteresting when shot at mundane locations. It is best to pick a location with an eye-catching background, such as one that oversees an iconic city structure. This will definitely help to elevate your shot!

Image Credit: @thesimplefolks

In terms of equipment, we recommend using a tripod for steady long exposures and a full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or Canon EOS-1D X Mark II as this will allow you to crank your ISO up when shooting in low light.

Of course, it is also important to embrace the spontaneity and unpredictability of light painting as the perfect shot may not come easy at first. Before the actual shoot, you may even need to think about the shapes or words that you wish to create and plan the direction of your paintings accordingly.

Make an impression with zoom burst

If you are looking to add a dynamic and abstract quality to your shot, try the zoom burst effect! This is an easily achievable photographic effect that simply involves zooming in and or out as a photo is taken. A zoom burst results in a striking image with blurred streaks emanating from the centre outwards, as though the scene is bursting towards those who are viewing it.

Image Credit: @kenng.99

This effect is perfectly suited for low-light photography due to the involvement of long exposures that leads to amazing light streaks. Although most subjects make for a stunning zoom effect, we recommend choosing ones that come in plenty of colours and patterns for your image to stand out, such as city lights or stained glass windows.

Turn fast-moving lights into stunning trails

Image Credit: @officialjianli

In a city like Singapore that never sleeps, the night is often as vibrant as it is in the day. Light trails are a creative way to capture moments that our naked eyes are unable to catch. With a tripod and a few seconds of your time, heavy traffic can be turned into beautiful streaks of light. This helps to add a sense of movement to your shot! To achieve the desired light trail effect, we recommend a shutter speed of at least 15 to 20 seconds.

Image Credit: @pichancruz

Another fun way of creating light trails is to bring a friend along on your shoot and have them draw patterns in the air with the chosen light source such as with a flashlight or sparklers. When shooting in low-light, another tip is to use the bulb mode on your camera. This is a feature that keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter button is pressed, thus allowing more light to enter. It is also best to have a remote shutter release when on this mode as the pressure applied to the button could cause unnecessary vibrations to the camera and potentially lead to a blur shot.

Image credit: @leol.chan

Snapping perfect photos under low-light can be tricky on its own and this gets tougher when creativity is added to the table. Just like most genres of photography, creative night photography requires a ton of practice. Try not to feel disheartened as you may find yourself making constant adjustments at the initial stages.

Despite all that, learn not to limit yourself to only shooting in the day. For starters, why not go forth in tapping into your creative self at CPMSG2018? Click here to sign up now!

We are prepared to see your unique twists to the ideas so do remember to tag your shots at #CanonSG.