FinePix® E900 Low Light Photography – An Introduction

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Some of the best photographs you can take are only possible in conditions where the light is low. Subtle lighting has always been used by published photographers even during the nineteenth century when photography began.

The Fuji FinePix® E900 has superb low light capability

Many of us were brought up with the idea that a good photograph required us to have the sun shining over our shoulder clearly illuminating the subject. That advice, although good for the box cameras used by our grandparents, isn’t appropriate today, especially for an instrument as sophisticated as the Fuji FinePix® E900.

Taking photographs in low light doesn’t necessarily require flash, or special equipment. If you have a tripod it might help, but with a little ingenuity even a tripod is not essential.

The Fuji FinePix® E900 has a number of modes that can help you take good photographs after dark.

The Natural Light Mode

The Natural Light Mode is designed for taking photographs without flash in conditions where the light is restricted. Natural Light Mode manages most of the camera settings for you including ISO sensitivity, metering [Multi-Pattern], colour balance, aperture and shutter speed. In other words it’s a mode in which you don’t need to think of anything more than composing your picture.

Amateur photographers sometimes can be dismissive of the automatic functions of up-to-date digital cameras such as the Fuji FinePix® E900. This is pure snobbery. Simply because you know what terms like “f stop” or “shutter speed” mean doesn’t require you to perform manually every calculation that your camera is capable of computing in nanoseconds.

The Late Patrick [Earl of Lichfield] used the automatic settings on his 35 mm cameras when he knew that they were up-to-the-job. So does David Bailey and most likely every professional photographer who earns their living 100% from taking photographs.

For example, the Fuji FinePix® E900 is far better at calculating an appropriate colour balance for a picture than you are, when the lighting sources are mixed, such as when domestic lighting consists of both tungsten bulbs and florescent tubes. It will usually choose the best ISO sensitivity, unless you intend to enlarge the photograph to poster size.

Unless the picture taking opportunity can be repeated, or the images are unimportant I would recommend you to use the Natural Light Mode on your Fuji FinePix® E900. But having got a few good pictures for the record by all means move on and experiment with the alternatives.

The Portrait Mode, and The Night Portrait Mode

These two modes are identical but with one subtle difference, and that difference can turn an average photograph into a great one. Which of the two modes you use will depend upon the image you’re attempting to capture.

Portrait Mode sets the camera metering mode to Multi-Pattern. It sets the exposure and, if you pop up the flash, it will fire in Red-Eye-Reduction Mode. This means it fires a pulse just before the main flash burst causing the pupil in the subject’s eyes to contract so that the flash isn’t reflected from the red blood vessels at the rear of the eye ball. The scene will be correctly exposed for the foreground, but the background may well appear dark, or even black. Portrait Mode is ideal if you wish to emphasise the subject, or even separate it from its surrounding context.

Night Portrait Mode differs only by keeping the shutter open for longer so that the background can be more easily seen. This means that, even though you’re using flash, you must hold the camera very still or the background will appear blurred.

Once again these are two excellent automated settings but their major disadvantage is that they choose the Multi-Pattern metering mode, when for portraiture it’s sometimes desirable to use Spot metering to ensure that flesh tones are correctly exposed. That said the E900 seems to make a good job of metering flesh tones in both Portrait and Night Portrait Modes.

Using Flash with Other Modes

The flash may be fired in all modes except Natural Light and Movie. Three flash modes are selectable from a paddle on the back of the camera. Auto Flash fires whenever the light falls below a certain level. This level will depend upon the aperture set and the camera sensitivity [ISO] setting. In practice this is perhaps one of the least useful automated settings on any camera. As a photographer you will want to know for certain if the flash is to fire, or not. Far better then to use the Forced Flash, or Red-Eye-Reduction settings. These will always fire the flash, once it has been popped up, regardless of the lighting.

In Auto Mode, Portrait Mode, Night Portrait Mode, or Action Mode, it isn’t possible to select your metering options. But Program Mode, Aperture Priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode, and Full Manual Mode all allow you to choose how the camera will assess the lighting for a scene.

The use of flash in Program Mode, Aperture Priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode, and Full Manual Mode will be covered in a future article.

Low Light Pictures Without Flash

It isn’t always necessary to fire your camera’s flash in order to take a good low light photograph, indeed often a picture can be ruined because the flash has cast harsh shadows upon what you visualized as a subtle pastel scene. Henri Cartier-Bresson in conversation with Eve Arnold became quite disappointed when his modern Leica Compact fired a burst of flash when he was attempting to photograph her. “It, [the Leica], thinks there isn’t enough light”, said Eve Arnold. Cartier-Bresson scoffed dismissively, “There’s enough light”. Turning to the rest of people in the room Eve Arnold she remarked; “If he doesn’t know then who does?”

The key to taking low light photographs without flash is to find ways of holding the camera steady. Using a fast sensitivity [ISO] setting may also help. The Fuji FinePix® E900 is nicely contoured and is easy to grip. Its generous 800 ISO setting coupled with a fast f2.5 – f5.6 zoom lens allows hand held photographs in most situations. It’s always best to brace yourself against a wall, or table if there’s one available. The exception to this is when you want to be more experimental and perhaps merge with the action, for example in a night club or perhaps if working as a war correspondent, when you wish to deliberately blur the image. Robert Capa’s photographs of the D-Day landing were all blurred low-light images but syndicated throughout the world. The style has since been copied many times by those wishing to photograph action scenes.

Some digital compact cameras offer image stabilization. This means that the camera shakes but the electrics in the camera work hard to minimise any blurring. This is an interesting development in camera technology and a necessary one for cameras that provide a limited range of ISO settings, or a wide range of settings but with only the lower settings being usable due to high noise levels at over ISO 200. The Fuji Finepix® E900 might benefit from such technology, but its ISO 400 and ISO 800 settings are so good that it really isn’t necessary.

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Sidebar

The Best Compact Digital Camera in Europe 2006 – FinePix F30

The Technical Camera Press Association, [Europe] voted the Fujifilm FinePix® F30 the best digital compact camera for 2006.

The Fujifilm FinePix® F30 is the world’s first digital compact camera to deliver ISO 3200 sensitivity at full resolution. This means that it can give sharp images, even at nighttime, or with fast-moving subjects. Users are able to produce sharp images with minimal noise, no subject blurring and atmospheric lighting in dark conditions. In addition, the Fujifilm FinePix® F30 has 15 new scene modes from underwater, beach and snow, to sunset, party and fireworks. These make it easier than ever for users to experiment with photography in a range of different lighting conditions.

End Sidebar

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Using A Tripod

A tripod is a professional tool frequently used by amateurs in order to boost their egos. It is helpful in the studio when photographing static objects, or in the field when photographing landscapes, or wedding groups. Using a tripod undoubtedly improves the quality of images but really is only necessary if your photographs are going to be radically enlarged.

In my experience small table-top tripods have very little usefulness. In restaurants good pictures may frequently be obtained by standing the camera upon a wine, or beer, glass for support whilst taking care not to drop the camera in the drink.

A tripod is helpful when taking photographs which requre exposures of one second, or more. You can get away with placing the camera upon a firm surface such as a wall, or heavy table. When these aren’t available you may regret following my advice and not carrying a firm tripod that can be adjusted to point the camera in any direction.

The Fuji FinePix E900® will make exposures of up to 15 seconds duration in Manual Mode. For all other modes ¼ of a second is the longest exposure that can be made.

When making long exposures with the Fuji FinePix® E900 simply align your camera correctly on your tripod so that the subject is framed as you wish on the LCD monitor, [or optical viewfinder]. Set the delayed action to either two, or ten seconds. Carefully press the shutter without moving your camera from its position.

 

More About Low Light Photography And The Fuji FinePix® E900

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