Nikon School is a venue for photography training that aims to educate and inspire. Their workshops cater for every level of photographic ability, whether you are a beginner, keen amateur or professional photographer.
We joined them on their low light experience day course to learn how to shoot better portraits under darker conditions, or outside at night. Throughout the course we were shown, alongside a handful of other lucky people, how to focus in low light, remove distracting and unwanted mixed lighting and make use of street lights for beautiful background bokeh.
With the AF assist lamp enabled on the camera body the lamp shoots out a beam of light across your subject to allow easier autofocusing in low light conditions. You can, of course, just use manual focusing but autofocusing is often faster and more reliable.
2. Settings for low light
Wide apertures like f/2.8 are useful for maximising light input to the image sensor, as are higher ISOs. However, if you’re using off-camera lighting you won’t need to go to extremes with your settings. f/5.6, 1/200 sec (the sync speed of the flash) and ISO200 is a good starting point to work from.
3. Add some lights
Shooting with the above settings should get you to an image similar to this one. However, adding an off-camera flash in the form of a speedlight will mean that extraneous, unflattering light is removed, leaving us only with the more powerful and controllable flash light.
4. Trigger the lights
We used the WR-R10 radio trigger to communicate with the speedlight in order to trigger the flash, but older systems could easily use the SU-800 infrared controller to communicate between older camera bodies and speedlights.
5. Time to modify
Putting the speedlight in a softbox we were able to soften the light dramatically, to make more complementary soft shadows over our model’s face. We also added a honeycomb grid to the softbox to direct the light towards the model, preventing spill onto any nearby surfaces.
6. Adding colours
We experimented with purple and green filters which were placed behind the model to backlight the hair. With an un-gelled speedlight camera-left and in a softbox there was still a strong key light which lit up the model’s face and prevent her falling into silhouette.
The real benefit to attending this course, as well as the exclusive access and opportunity to shoot some excellent low light portraits, was the excellent tuition on the day. We were able to get instant feedback from the trainer, which was invaluable to drastically improving our photographic technique. Neil Freeman and Ricci Chera were able to give us suggestions for camera setting tweaks and came up with creative ideas that none of us thought of, but also gave us the room for experimentation to try out our own ideas.
Whether you're a beginner wanting to learn their camera for the first time, or a pro that wants to brush up on a few things, head over to the Nikon School site to book in for your own course, just visit Nikon School's website .
If you'd like to book on your own portrait photography course, visit Nikon School's portrait photography page.
You can read more about this shoot in issue 96 of N-Photo magazine, on sale 14 March 2019 available in all good stockists. You can even buy it online in print and digital editions on My Favourite Magazines.