Shooting Video in Low Light Conditions

Multimedia / 05.08.15 / Kari Gassmann

When shooting video, it’s important to utilize plugins and equipment to get the best results. However, sometimes it can be difficult to achieve good results. One of the trickiest situations can be shooting video in low light conditions (nighttime or dimly lit rooms), especially when you don’t have the right equipment.

Below are some tips and techniques to help improve the quality of low light shooting and reduce the amount of noise in the final image.

Use Styles to Increase Your Dynamic Range

Using Styles is an easy way to increase the amount of  data or detail in your picture, which will allow you to control the darks of the image better without creating noise while in post. Technicolor’s CineStyle gives you a flat style that retains data in your lights and darks better than your camera’s standard profile. CineStyle is great in any situation because it makes color correction a lot easier, and it’s also FREE!

Buy a Camera with a Bigger Sensor

Full frame cameras have a bigger sensor than cropped sensor cameras, so buying a full frame camera will help bring in more light. Do some research on the camera you plan to buy and read up on what people are saying about it’s low light capabilities. If you plan to shoot in low light situations a lot, you should consider Sony’s A7S for your next purchase. This mirror-less camera has incredible low light capabilities at an affordable price!

Buy a Lens with a Wider Aperture

When considering a new lens, purchase one with a smaller f-stop/wider aperture. You can quickly tell how wide you can open the aperture on a lens when you see f/. This feature tells you how far you can open your aperture. The lower the number the wider you can open it. For example, a f/1.4 24-70mm lens will take in a lot more light than an f/4 24-70mm lens.

Adjust Your Camera Settings

First make sure you’re at the desired shutter speed to shoot. You’ll want to keep your shutter speed between 1/30s and 1/50s. Next adjust your f-stop/aperture. Increasing your f-stop will open your aperture to allow more light to hit your sensor. For example, if you have a f/1.4 lens and you’re sitting at f/2, then stopping down to your max f-stop will give more light to your camera’s sensor. Next adjust your ISO. Your ISO should never go over 1600ISO, especially when using a crop sensor camera; 3200ISO when using a bigger sensor, full frame camera. However, every camera is different. If you still don’t have adequate lighting, make sure you have exhausted all options before increasing your ISO.

Correct Noise with Third Party Plugins 

If you do happen to go above that magic ISO limit, then you’re still not out of options just yet. There are a lot of third party plugins out there that do a really good job of getting rid of noise or grain in video. My favorite is Neat Video. This plugin is one of the most powerful denoisers I have come by. It’s easy to use, and also offers more advance features for those that want more control over their end product.

If you practice these tips and techniques, shooting in low light situations won’t be as intimidating. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera and how it acts in low light.