Video Essentials

Nighttime Video Shooting with a DSLR Camera: Video 101

The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

One of the major perks of using a DSLR is the ability to shoot in low light. This is possible because the sensor on your DSLR is a lot larger and sensitive than sensors on most camcorders. And it uses magic.

When you go out to shoot at dusk, twilight, or in a dark bar with friends, there are a few key things you should know that will help your videos look as stellar as possible.

  • Use lenses with low f-stops — The lower the f-stop, the wider your aperture will be meaning the more light will hit your sensor. Need a recap on what these terms mean? Check our handy Glossary.
  • Choose a white balance that will stay true to the look the light is giving you — dusk can give you some nice bluish tints that really indicate that it’s dusk. If your white balance is off a little, it will give your image a different color tint and may look a little weird. Of course, you may like that weird look, so it’s up to you.
  • Bump up your ISO — if you have a full frame camera, you can push it up to around 3200 ISO without your image being super super grainy. With a cropped sensor, you can push it up to about 1600 ISO. If you bump your ISO to these respective settings and you still can’t get a good image, you call always go higher, but your image will become more grainy. I recommend experimenting a little and go out at night and shoot video with different high ISOs to see the difference.

Now for some inspiration! Check out what our buddy, Vincent Laforet, was able to do just using ambient light and a Canon 1D Mark IV.

Ready for more? Learn how to set the pace while editing or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.


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  1. The great thing about night shooting is you can have a constant aperture and fix you shutter speed as the light doesn’t change like shooting in the day.

    Posted by James - United By Photography | January 23, 2012, 1:21 am
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