I recently shared an article about how to take great photos with bad lighting. But let’s take it a step further. What if you have next to no lighting? Is it still possible? I say yes!
I still say there is no such thing as bad lighting. The below images were captured with just a door open on a really, really overcast winter’s day — it was so dull. Yet they look nice and bright, and well lit, with great details.
So what’s the trick to great lighting?
Don’t adjust your ISO, leave it on 100. Use a wide-open aperture (f/2.8–f/4.5) and use a longer shutter speed. To avoid camera shake, use a 2-second timer and put your camera on a tripod!
The other key point is to use a silver reflector to bounce as much light as you can back onto your subject. Keep your background as light as you can; this will help as well (these photos might look bright, but it was actually pretty dark). My shutter speed varied from 1/8s to 0.4s. If it was darker I could have shot even longer — 10 seconds or so. My subject wasn’t moving, so it doesn’t really matter.
My table is easily 3–4 meters from the door and my scene even slightly further away. I could have moved the milk and icing sugar, but I really liked the soft shadows they threw in.
Shooting with my Sony a7R III and Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens, I was able to use an ISO of 100, aperture of f/2.8 and a focal length between 44–50mm. On the lead photo I tried shooting handheld, and I had to increase my ISO to 2000! I used a 5-in-1 reflector similar to this. My background is two 40cm vinyl tiles propped in white acrylic, which also bounces some light.
It REALLY is all about bouncing and reflecting as much light as you can when you have next to nothing to work with.