We have covered some of the techniques for shooting in low light, so let’s go through the process of capturing a night or low-light scene for maximum image quality (Figure 8.7). The first thing to consider is that in order to shoot in low light with a low ISO, you will need to use shutter speeds that are longer than you could possibly hand-hold (longer than 1/15 of a second). This will require the use of a tripod or stable surface for you to place your camera on. For maximum quality, the ISO should be low, somewhere below 400. The long exposure noise reduction should be turned on to minimize the effects of exposing for longer durations.
Once you have noise reduction turned on, set your camera to Aperture Priority (A) mode. This way, you can concentrate on the aperture that you believe is most appropriate and let the camera determine the best shutter speed. If it is too dark for the autofocus to function properly, try manually focusing. Finally, consider using a cable release to activate the shutter. If you don’t have one, use either the Self-timer mode or Exposure Delay mode. Once you shoot the image, you may notice some lag time before it is displayed on the rear LCD. This is due to the noise reduction process, which can take anywhere from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds, depending on the length of the exposure.
The basic idea behind the term flash synchronization (flash sync for short) is that when you take a photograph using the flash, the camera needs to ensure that the shutter is fully open at the time that the flash goes off. This is not an issue if you are using a long shutter speed such as 1/15 of a second but does become more critical for fast shutter speeds. To ensure that the flash and shutter are synchronized so that the flash is going off while the shutter is open, the D7000 implements a top sync speed of 1/250 of a second. This means that when you are using the flash, you will not be able to have your shutter speed be any faster than 1/250. If you did use a faster shutter speed, the shutter would actually start closing before the flash fired, which would cause a black area to appear in the frame where the light from the flash was blocked by the shutter.
If you purchased your camera with the Vibration Reduction (VR) lens or if you have the kit lens, you already own a great tool to squeeze two stops of exposure out of your camera when shooting without a tripod. Typically, the average person can hand-hold his camera down to about 1/60 of a second before blurriness results due to hand shake. Even if you have pipes as big as Mr. T’s you need to use this feature. As the length of the lens is increased (or zoomed), the ability to hand-hold at slow shutter speeds (1/60 and slower) and still get sharp images is further reduced (Figure 8.3).
Hands off to sharper images
Whether you are shooting with a tripod or even resting your camera on a wall, you can increase the sharpness of your pictures by taking your hands out of the equation. Whenever you use your finger to depress the shutter release button, you are increasing the chances that there will be a little bit of shake in your image. To eliminate this possibility, try setting your camera up to use the Self-timer or Exposure Delay mode (Figure 8.4).
To turn on the Self-timer simply press the release dial lock and rotate the release dial to Self-timer (A).
Press the Menu button to find the Custom Setting menu. Highlight and select C Timers/AE Lock, then press OK (B).
Select C3 Self-timer and click OK. I generally choose 2S (2 seconds) to cut down on time between exposures (C).
Exposure Delay mode—This is a landscape photographer’s dream. It’s a great feature to activate if you don’t have a remote or cable release for your camera. We all know that movement is bad when taking long exposures. This feature delays the shutter for one second after the shutter release button has been pressed. But what makes it even cooler is that it only works when your camera is in Mirror Lock-up. I love this feature because otherwise I would need to use a self-timer, but the problem with a self-timer is that it’s designed around getting people in front of the camera, so the shortest delay is still longer than I need when taking landscape shots. Exposure Delay is better than using the timer because there isn’t such a long delay, but it achieves the same function as a cable release.