A bright perspective on low light photography.
We caught up with Nige Levanterman, a low light photographer specialising in capturing the energy of colourful cityscapes. By mastering long exposure and contrasting bright lights, Nige creates dynamic, illuminated stories.
Let’s get to know you Nige - where does your passion for photography come from?
When I started a new job in London I wanted to explore and get to know the city so I used photography to learn about the area. That’s when I started capturing images on my mobile phone. However, I wanted to try low light photography and long exposure, and I basically hit the limit with a mobile. So I upgraded to a DSLR.
I didn’t have any formal training – I learnt the basics from YouTube tutorials and followed my gut instinct. I just practiced, taught myself and developed to where I am today.
What fascinates you about low light shoots?
I love capturing movement and the contrast of bright lights in nighttime shoots. So I try to bring scenes to life with the energy of traffic, people and colours.
Nige, you like to use long exposure – can you take us through how you do this?
It’s paramount to find a decent place to stand. Your spot needs to be a good angle that’s safely away from traffic - as well as sturdy because any movement will blur your shot. If you’re shooting famous or iconic places then you’ll also need to consider crowds that could interrupt you.
When it comes to capturing the photo, place the camera on a tripod, use a lens with the smallest aperture possible and focus to a mid-point in the photo. Next, switch to manual and use a slow shutter speed (5-30 seconds) for a longer exposure.
For photographers just starting out with long exposure, I recommend using the ‘Aperture Priority’ setting because the camera does half the work. So, in this instance, start off at aperture F14 with your ISO set to 100 and use shutter priority. Your camera will decide the length of exposure, and as long as it’s less than 30 seconds, you’ll get a decent result.
What Canon kit do you use to capture your low light photos?
I’ve got three at the moment. I have the Canon EOS 5DS R, which I use for time-lapsing because the 50 MP photos convert to 8k video. I also have the Canon EOS 5D IV and the new Canon EOS R. In terms of lenses I’d recommend using a F2.8 - they capture much sharper shots at night because they perform really well in low light. Also with a F2.8 lens, or even a F1.4 lens, you can capture decent handheld long exposed photos.
You use a lot of after-effects. What advice do you have for someone starting out with image editing?
The first mistake that everyone makes, myself included, is to over-saturate. Avoid this in post-editing and keep your photo looking realistic.
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast way to pick up editing skills. So, if you’ve never used editing suites before then spend time playing around with them. YouTube has a wealth of free tutorials that are great for all levels.
The ultimate key is to find your own style – take inspiration from others but steer clear of copying them.
Where are your favourite places to shoot at night – and why?
I’m drawn to places that are lively with lots of people, traffic and lights. This is why I love the festive season. The decorative lights, the bustle of markets and various pop-ups make this time of year perfect for low light photography.
Do you have 3 top tips for getting to grips with low light photography?
Invest in a good tripod. To achieve a crisp shot you’ll need your camera to be completely still - if there’s any blur in your photo it’ll be from accidental movement.
Once you’ve picked your subject switch to manual focus – this will stop it trying to focus on other moving elements in the frame, like people walking or cars driving past. To do this pick a focus point, half press the trigger and flick your lens into manual.
Find your way in basic low light photography and then invest in your lenses. A new lens will completely change your style and help you develop. I had around four lenses before upgrading from my first DSLR.
What’s next for your photography, Nige?
I’m always exploring new ideas. I set out to be different - that’s why I’ve shot a lot of iconic buildings in my own way. So I suppose I aim to be constantly moving forward, keeping up with the times and the demands of social media.
Written by Sasha Newbury