Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Window light coming in from the front

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz

Of course, daylight from the sun is a type of natural light. Same as light coming from the moon, stars, a candle, fireplace, or fireflies. Ambient light is the opposite of flash and is a constant light that stays on continuously for a time. It might also be referred to as Available Light. Artificial ambient light can be the incandescent bulbs that light your house or the light that automatically comes on to illuminate your the interior of your fridge when you open it. The natural light photogs can get a little something out of this. Anyone can take a photo in the daylight when all the settings are done in either Full Auto or “P”-mode. Just let the camera do all the work and you’re good to go. However, to bring back that passion, try this: work with ambient light in the darker settings and use any available light that you can come up with. I’ve used light from a cell phone held close to a model’s face. I’ve used the moon on a 8 second exposure.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley

But here are a few things you’re gonna need in order to get busy with this concept. In the last post, I set you up with flash and triggers for under $200. In this case, I’m gonna stay in that same neighborhood. I’ll begin with a good tripod. I’ve worked with several new and aspiring photogs who make a dubious mistake in my opinion. And when I say, “in my opinion”, it’s just that. I’m not quoting law and regulations. It’s my perspective that when I see someone spend a grand or more on a good camera and then shop for a $25 tripod, I’m just gonna say no. When I worked at B&C Camera, usually the cheapest I get them out of the door with is a $160 Promaster system that will take care of their support and stabilization needs. You simply don’t trust a thousand dollars on twenty dollar legs. Just don’t do it.
Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Strip of light coming through window light from the front

I use Promaster tripods myself! I travel the world with a smaller, lightweight carbon fiber system that handles all my needs. Its strong and more compact to travel with. Back home in the U.S., I use a bigger, but medium sized Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Tripod with Ball Head Q2 carbon fiber unit that is the most beautiful system out there. Aesthetics usually don’t count, but I fell in love with this thing a few years back and it’s gorgeous as well as strong. Good sturdy legs are key. Next is having a ball head that can support the weight of your camera when it’s tilted vertical. I like mine to be extra strong in this regard. When a camera is tilted vertically, it’s actually off of the tripod’s center of gravity. I never use the extended neck on these tripods for that very reason, as sometimes the vertical perspective is necessary.

“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.”
~ John Berger

You can definitely pick up a used tripod system somewhere. There are super easy to test out and confirm it’s serviceability prior to you trusting it with your camera out in the field. If you can get a good one for cheap, go for it. I like mine new and simply won’t go for a used support system. That’s just me. Every manufacturer will make tripods of various qualities, sizes, max weights, and different price points. Carbon fiber will usually run you double what an aluminum will cost. I like carbon fiber a lot. Find what suits you best in the budget you choose.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Early morning eight-second exposure

The next most important item is going to be a cable release or remote shutter release system that plugs into your camera and allows you to actuate the shutter release without having to touch the camera itself and thus causing camera shake. Promaster makes several for just about every camera system and when I do my one-on-one trainings, I’ll generally have my students pick up one for $20 to $30, depending on what cameras system they have.
Next all you need is a still subject and the proficiency to shoot them giving the lighting challenges and/or low light limitations of your camera. If you have any of the Sony A7S models, then you don’t really have any camera low light limitations. If you’re working with a camera with ISO deficiencies, then yes, you’ll have to work within that. But generally speaking, you’ll be on a tripod, so ISO 100 will usually suffice. I say generally, because if you’re doing astro work, then max ISO is where you’ll be. In either case doing a portrait in single-sourced low light can be both fun and challenging, but it’s sure to pay off with some good work.

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Outdoor lamp post shining in through side window

You can easily get started by using the obvious sources of light around you. The lamp on your light stand; the light coming off the TV or computer monitor, an overhead patio light. Get creative with it. Try using the refrigerator light, a match, a headlamp, a night light. You can even play with different LED lights you might find in the toy section or automotive departments. Experiment! That’s the main aim here. Experimentation and just play. Use a lowest ISO setting on your camera unless you are NOT using a tripod. In which case you want to use the lowest ISO you can get away with. Target an ISO that will allow for a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second, but cheat a little if you can. Go to 1/30th or even 1/15th and get some interesting blur. Have your model be as still as possible, but only move her head from one side to the other with a 2 second shutter. If you are not using a model and are doing night time/low light landscape, well, look to see if the wind is blowing the trees or tall grass and let that determine what your shutter should be. Just go out there and shoot and see what happens. Have some fun with this!

Art Model, Jenny Anne Rose ©2019 Terrell Neasley