How to Film in Low Light | 6 Cinematic Tips

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Filming in low light is one of the most challenging environments for a cinematographer and pushes the limits of your camera's sensor. Sometimes when a scene calls for an extremely dark environment we don't always want to simply crank up our ISO.

In today's episode of Ask Aputure, Benny from the A-Team goes walks us through 6 cinematic tips for shooting in low light. Use these cinematography tips for the next time you're filming in a pitch black environment and need to get a little more light into your sensor.

From opening up your aperture to lowering your shutter speed, these 6 tips will help you up your filmmaking looks for narratives, music videos, horror films, or anything else!


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Summary:
Director of photography Benjamin Berg demonstrates six cinematic filmmaking techniques the can be done for low light or pitch black environments. Aputure's YouTube channel provides free high quality cinematography, lighting, and filmmaking educational content to help you take your film projects to the next level.

#LowLight #CinematicLighting #IndieFilmmaking

💬 Comments
Author

What's your best tip for shooting in low light?

Author — Aputure

Author

I actually find it best to over light a scene just a bit and then do all the darkening in post. You can always bring something down, but you can't bring it back up without degrading the image.

Author — Ranger 7 Studios

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Embrace the darkness! If it’s dark, use a small light source to creatively illuminate your subject and use the darkness as negative space for dramatic effect.

Author — Scott Maclean

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1:04 "Zooming in = Smaller Aperture"
Yes but no, some zoom lenses have constant aperture. So, that "tips" only concern some kind of zoom lenses

Author — ClankZoniProd

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Everybody says add more light. What if you can't ? Situations like observing animals at night, filming a school play or Petra by night (In Jordan).

Author — Ross Booker

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A flashlight used as a spot on the subject's face is a great effect

Author — chris mcdermott

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You can also shoot at sun down when there’s a bit of daylight left, and then further darken in post.

Author — JHamilton

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I tend to over light my night scene, then adjust camera settings until I have what I want in my waveform/false color. Then also tweak exposure in post.

Author — David Horn

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Best tip for shooting in low light: Use natural lights such as neon signs and street lights, get as close to it as possible for the best results <3

Author — Simon Celestial

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I think many of us tend to forget that we can lower the shutter speed in those static situations. great tip!

Author — JHamilton

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I find that shooting in the soft moonlight gives me way better results than if I were to record in the day! Great tips! #AputureFallSeasonLights

Author — s e l a h

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I like to use a few small cheap lights and place them so it looks like natural from the moon or the street.

Author — BadKarma 714

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Shooting with a camera that is good in low light always helps (i.e. Sony a6500 or A7S ii). I would also suggest filming with manual focus as dark scenes can often cause a camera's autofocus to not work correctly.

Author — Ryan Hafey

Author

Generally when I know I’m shorting low light I’ll write it into to where the main character may have a flash light to help light the environment. Depending we the shoot depends on how the rest of the scene is lit. For example if we’re shooting in the house we’ll bounce the light off the ceiling to add ambient light to help simulate darkness

Author — Eaze Day Ent.

Author

I tend to use very dim lights placed in different spots in the background. Though the light might seem illogical the viewer barely notices. Another brighter light from above to immitate the moon, if it fits the scene, is also a nice way to create depth.

Author — LuceSD

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Super, Valuable information, Thank you so much for your help and support 😍 Solly Teacher Calicut

Author — Solli J

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Very nice the new style of episodes! Different presenters in the frame is also good idea! Keep going and thank you :)

Author — Вадим Петров

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good tip could be controlling the darkness you could shoot during day. but closing the curtain and blocking all light except what you need

Author — lamada facka

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Always bring a small light like the m9 and try to backlite people so you only see a thin rim light.
It looks cool 👍

Author — Gray Sparrow Films / Troels Graakjær

Author

The very very very first thing to do, in my opinion, is to add more light. This is obviously contingent on if you have the ability to do this. If you care about a "professional" image at all, then try to keep everything at default and adjust the lighting externally. Your scene may not call for a wide open aperture where you will have to ride the focus, you can keep your camera at its native ISO, and you don't have to worry about messing up your blur or frame rate. Bring anything that makes light (and lots of it) and something to diffuse it or choose a location with a decent amount of light and bring something to bounce it. Over exposing slightly will usually make you very happy later in post and give you much better details in the mids/shadows. If you can't bring the lights with you then you may need to adjust your location if possible. You just have to weigh whether this exact location is more important to the story than being able to see everything. It may turn out that it doesn't matter that you shot in the dark alley because you can't even tell your in an alley because its too dark. If it works for you, pour some water on the ground to help add some depth to the scene (lots of night scenes have water on the ground). To further keep the depth of the scene, put up some lights far off in the background, or find a location with lights already there, and maybe add some water there too. Then if all this is not enough, start adjusting settings.

Author — FTL Studios