Shooting in Low Light

I spend more than half my year shooting photography for the horror and haunted attraction industry. The luxuries of studio space and lighting aren’t available options. The vast majority of my time is spent ducking into shadows, following customers and shooting my performers in the act of scaring.

Working fast and efficiently in this environment forces me to utilize the available attraction lighting. The lack of strobes and expensive dedicated lighting has helped me develop my personal style. It’s this style that consistently lands me my photo assignments.

Here is a quick look at a typical night of shooting. I depend on my Nikon D800 and iPhone6. Both cameras have their place in my workflow. I like being able to immediately post to social media or live stream from my iPhone and I love the responsiveness and fast glass options for my Nikon.

Once I’m armed with my gear of choice, I’ll enter the haunted attraction while it’s busy with customers. I wear all black and have blacked out my camera strap. I don’t want to be seen by the customers. Almost always, I’ll hang back and then follow a group into the haunt. This allows me to stay out of the way and still grab the shots of the performers.

By using an 200mm, 85mm or 16mm, I can easily frame my shots. I push for portraits and action. If I get stuck moving and need to hide before the next group, I’ll duck under a table, hide behind a piece of furniture or at worst, snap a shot of the customers and look like an idiot.

When the light just isn’t enough and I don’t want to push the ISO, I’ll use a LED bank of lights with one hand and fire with the other. It’s quick, easy and doesn’t distract from the performance.

The hand held LED lights are an invaluable tool. I highly recommend them. In fact, if the attraction is having a slow night, I’ll take a lighting tech or volunteer with me and we will shoot with one or two LED’s to pull the actor out of the background. This always helps to create a more dynamic shot.

-If you like this sort of article, please let me know. I post tons of shots on Instagram ( @FuManKirk ) and love sharing what I’ve learned along the way.

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