Outdoor Photography in Poor Light

For the photographer living and working in the UK, winter is not always a bagful of snow pictures, frosty dawns and wintry sunsets. A lot of the days are dull, dreary, damp and not very bright.

Not the sort of conditions to encourage photographers to get outdoors and take pictures – but don’t be put off. All you have to do is change your thinking and tactics a little and you can still produce great photographs outdoors.

Yesterday I was out and about with a student on a one-to-one Photography Course. It was a gloomy day to say the least, but we headed off in the old Landrover to a place where there are streams, woodland and some old buildings.

Now I have a passion for photographing old derelict building, and the broken-down summer house in the picture below is just up my street. It is situated in what is now overgrown woodland – and there’s not a lot of light there on a good day. Yesterday when my student and I photographed the building it was very nearly dark.

Winter photography on dull day

A good tripod is essential when photographing this sort of subject on a dull winter's day. Photograph: Philip Dunn

Number 1 essential in these conditions: a good tripod and remote release.

Using our tripods, we were able to keep the ISO settings low and use really slow shutter speeds – look at the shooting details below…

  • Camera: Nikon D700
  • Lens: Nikon 70-200 f/2.8
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/4sec
  • Aperture: f13
In dull, wintry conditions, it appears that the colour of a subject is diluted – so use this to your advantage. Don’t even try to go for brilliant saturated colours. You may even find that the black and white, monochrome, approach is best.

The fact is that if these very dull conditions were ideal for photographing the moving water of the stream, and within a very short time, my student had a firm understanding of how to create that lovely flowing water effect in her pictures. I have writing a couple of posts in the past about how to photograph moving water, so you might want to check these out.

The photograph below was also taken yesterday.

No, the subject is not a stop-you-in-your-tracks eye-popper, but as an exercise in photographing moving water, it really did the business for my student yesterday and helped build her confidence that this type of image was well within her capabilities.

Photograph Moving Water

It does not matter how dull the light is when photographing moving water - you just need a good tripod. Photograph Philip Dunn

Again, just look at the shooting details – notice that slow shutter speed. That is what creates the lovely flowing effect of moving water.

  • Camera: Nikon D700
  • Lens: Nikon 28-70 f/2.8
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 2 sec
  • Aperture: f22
  • So don’t be put off when the weather is not sparkling bright – get out there with your camera and enjoy taking pictures.

    You just need to adjust the way you think and see in order to get the most out of the dull conditions.

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