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Filmmaking Guide: Tips to improve video quality in low-light conditions

The main problem you’ll encounter when shooting a video in low light is the underexposure it causes your recorded footage. When your shooting location lacks light , you don’t always have the capacity to bring professional or even amateur lighting equipment to help you out. However, it is still possible to find ways to improve the quality of videos shot in low-light conditions. Although they won’t necessarily provide you with the same image quality as shooting with ample light, they can still make your videos a notch more presentable than those not taking such tips into consideration.

Adjust the Camera Settings and Use a Camera Program Meant for Low Light

Nowadays, even mobile phone cameras are equipped with options that can suit your basic shooting requirements. For the benefit of amateur users, these typically include automatic settings and programs such as “Landscape,” “Sports,” “Indoor,” or “Low Light.” Choose the right program that best fits your situation so the camera adjusts its shooting properties to the needs of your location.

For cameras with more technical options and manual settings, it is crucial to know the basics of videography and lighting in order to capture the best-looking videos in low light. Choose a lower ISO setting (ideally ISO 100 or 200). The adjustment should go hand in hand with other manual settings on your camera, particularly aperture and shutter speed. Even low-end handycams usually have options to alter exposure settings. In a poorly lit location, make sure you adjust your settings to make underexposed footage look brighter onscreen.

Use Quality Lens Without Any Filter

If your camera can accommodate detachable lenses, it is always best to use high-quality lenses to acquire better footage. Avoid zooming in or using telephoto lenses, as they require more light to properly expose your shot. If your camera is only equipped with a fixed lens, you can at least safely clean it so there are no marks — like finger prints or dust — on it when you start shooting.

Remove any lens filters, as these lower the quality of video the camera can capture, particularly when you don’t have enough light source. Aside from reducing the lens’ ability to shoot sharper videos, this also requires more light for you to better expose your shot.

Keep Your Shots as Still as Possible

When shooting in low light, the camera generally needs to increase its shutter speed and enlarge its aperture settings. This is the case even when you are using automatic programs or settings where the camera makes the decisions instead of you manually fixing the settings. Since the need for more light to pass through the lens to better expose the image requires a slower shutter speed (a primary cause of ghosting effect) and a larger aperture (a primary cause of shallower depth of field, which in turn makes the image less clear), keeping both your subject and your camera as still as possible can result in better video quality.

Using a tripod is ideal when shooting in low light. If you don’t have a tripod with you, place the camera somewhere steady and secure. If you’re shooting handheld, minimize the motion of your hand and wrist to capture sharper video footage.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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