The Complete Guide to Night & Lowlight Digital Photography
Author: Michael Freeman
Publisher: Lark Books (Sterling Publishing Co.)
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
It’s good for Michael Freeman that I decided a while ago that I would not hold it against a book if the content did not match the title. Otherwise this book would have to be called “The Complete Guide to Wide Apertures, Slow Shutter Speeds, and High ISO’s”.
That’s because rather then concentrating on the usual stuff like metering on the sky at dusk or setting up flash units, Freeman assumes that the reader understands exposure and most post-processing and instead concentrates on what can be done to mitigate the consequences of wide apertures, slow shutter speeds and high ISO’s.
After a general introduction dealing with the nature of sensors, noise and similar topics, he divides the book into two sections that at first appear idiosyncratic: hand held and locked down. Primarily he does this because he says the ways of correcting for the problems created using the two different methods are due to exposure setup. Hand held requires wide apertures and high ISOs while tripod shooting uses long exposures and these require different corrective measures in post processing. Each section first indicates methods of mitigation (steadying techniques, tripod management) and then discusses post processing, which is the meat of the book. For example, in discussing hand held shots, he points out that camera movement is a source of blur and that software tools can be used to correct for this. Freeman also has an extensive discussion of high dynamic range processing that is similar to his recent book on this topic, although the use of HDR for handheld photography is a subject not often encountered.
I hesitate to describe a text as aimed at advanced photographers since the definition of an advanced photographer depends on the individual doing the defining, but I can certainly say that this is not a book for novices. Most of the post-processing techniques offered require a thorough knowledge of image processing software, the devotion of time to handcraft an image, and occasionally the use of software above and beyond Photoshop. Moreover, to apply Freeman’s suggestions, I had to sit with the book in hand and follow his procedures step by step on my own images. But the techniques Freeman offered were certainly worth the investment of my time to study, and hopefully, to apply in a low light situation.
(Freeman appeared to be using an older version of Adobe Camera Raw in some of his examples that did not include the new input sharpening facility which works in tandem with ACR’s noise reduction and I wondered if there were some advantages in processing low-light images with the newer software. Hopefully he’ll answer that in another book.)
The more skilled one becomes as a photographer, the harder it is to find useful advice that one has never encountered. For many skilled photographers, this book may prove useful.