Noise is a topic of great importance for many photographers, mainly because photographers tend to want to avoid it as much as possible. No one can completely escape having to shoot at high ISO levels, however. At some point, you will find yourself in a situation that requires you to crank up the ISO.
So how can you get great results in low light/high ISO situations? Below are 5 tips that will help you out.
1. Take A Test
Rather, give your camera a test. Set your camera up on a tripod, turn off all the noise reduction options, make sure you’re shooting raw and take a series of shots spanning the ISO range (whole stops and skip the expanded settings).
Now view those shots on your computer monitor (or the biggest screen you have) so that you can determine at which ISO level a shot becomes too noisy for your taste.
2. Use A Fast Prime Lens
Using a prime lens such as a 35mm or 50mm with a large maximum aperture (f/1.4 or f/1.8, for example) will gather more light, meaning you won’t have to increase ISO so much in low light environments. And a prime lens will ensure you’re still getting great image quality.
3. Use A Tripod
A tripod can be a drag sometimes (unless you get yourself an easy to carry mini tripod), but if the situations call for it then you need to suck it up and break out the tripod (the big one). A tripod is there best stabilizer there is. You can set your camera up, set it to the lowest ISO and you won’t have to worry a bit about noisy images.
Note: Disable the in-camera long exposure noise reduction setting. When this setting is on it can result in processing times that are as long as the exposure itself. If you do need to apply any noise reduction it’s best to do it in post.
4. Use A Wide Angle Lens
The wide field of view means greater light gather ability, which is what you want when attempting to keep ISO low. But another advantage of the shorter focal length is that it’s easier to shoot at lower shutter speeds (check out this article about the reciprocal rule), so you might be able to skip the tripod.
5. Just Get The Shot
High ISO performance in most cameras these days is pretty amazing. If you find yourself in a low light situation and you’re forced to shoot handheld, there’s really nothing to worry about.
If an ISO of 6400 gets you the shutter speed you need to avoid camera shake, then you’re all set. Just get the shot. It’s better to have some noise in a shot than to have no shot at all.
But if you insist on having as clean a shot as possible, you can always apply some noise reduction in post.
Noise is somewhat of an obsession among digital photographers — specifically, how to avoid or eliminate it. It’s not always possible, but digital sensor engineers are paving the way for high ISO performance to become an afterthought.
For those times when you do have to make adjustments for low light environments, the simple tips above will help ensure you get the best shots possible.