For over 20 years Seattle-based photographer Rick Takagi has been taking amazing shots in one of the harshest environments photographers face – low light. Whether he’s on assignment for a wedding, a party, or taking photos of Snoqualmie Falls or wildlife, Rick has found a few tricks for taking great low light photos using his DSLR and HTC One X alike.
Which of the above photos do you think was taken with an HTC One X?
Whether using a professional camera or the one on your phone, here are some tips from Rick for taking great photos in low light.
Use the Low Light Setting
In my opinion, most pro photographers would rather not rely on a flash. Instead, we’d prefer to use natural light. With my HTC One X, the built-in Low Light setting, accessible under the camera scenes, makes it easy to take a great photo without getting the unbalanced look that often occurs when using the flash.
For example, the picture on the left was taken using the Auto (default) setting. While this isn’t a bad shot, look at the same picture on the right. It’s easy to see how much better the photo turns out when taken using the Low Light setting.
To get to the Low Light setting, go to the camera and you’ll see an “A” (for “Automatic”) in the lower left hand corner of the screen. Touch the A and it’ll open up a whole menu of options, the last one is Low Light. You can touch the words or the little radio button to activate the setting. Once selected, you’ll see the setting activated on the screen where the “A” used to be.
Take Wide Shots Without Zoom
Many people have a tendency to zoom-in tight on a person. To take great photos when lighting is poor, the best trick is to keep the lens wider, allowing more light to enter the frame. You can always crop the photo in the camera’s editing tools. I use the crop feature in the One X often and it works like a charm. So, don’t zoom in.
Selective Focusing for Exposure
This sounds more complicated than it is (and is by far my favorite camera feature on the One X). Do you ever notice how some great photos have a slightly blurry background while the subject is sharp and crisp in the foreground? This is because of selective focusing. On your HTC One X, you can tap anywhere on screen to shift the focus to that section. The exposure will also be corrected for the selected part of the screen.
What does this have to do with low light photography you ask? When lighting is low, selective focus allows you to determine the main subject and the camera directs light to the selected area, making your subject look best.
Always Use a Tripod
A good tip for all low light situations is to make sure your camera is stabilized on something, whether it’s a chair, a table, or a tripod. I use a tripod for all of my low light shots, whether I’m using my DSLR or my One X.
You think your hand is stable when holding your camera, but it’s probably not stable enough to give a clean, crisp shot. Using a tripod removes the risk of unsteady hands and makes it much easier to come away with a great shot.
About Rick Takagi:
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Rick Takagi has been living and working in Seattle for over 20 years. His work has been published in National Geographic, CNN, 425 Magazine, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Weekly, Parade and many others. He lives with his wife, three children, and their two dogs in Kirkland, WA. Rick’s work can be seen at his website and his blog.