The New York Times' Gadgetwise blog features an interview with Harry Benson, the legendary Scottish photographer, who shared some tips on taking photos in low-light situations. It was also picked up by WIRED's Gadget Lab.
Harry Benson's tips are:
1. Use program (P) mode to get the best results and to capture detail.
2. Remain in the reasonable ISO range, and avoid setting it above 1000.
3. Use manual focus instead of autofocus in dark situations.
4. Avoid using flash which, in Benson's words, makes one lose a lot of humanity.
It's refreshing to read such advice, especially since i've come across many photographers who shudder at the thought of using the P setting on their cameras (or admit to it).
I frequently advise participants in my Photo~Expeditions to set their cameras on the P setting during the first couple of days of the trip, to compensate for the jet-lag fatigue, and for the sudden disorientation we all experience in a new unfamiliar environment, especially if it's at a bustling heart-pumping festival.
I have used, and will continue to use, the P setting on the occasions when I'm unable to achieve the look I seek from a particular scene . This may be because it's a fast moving situation or because it's a low-light, or because I'm too tired or distracted to think straight.
During my Land of the Druk Yul Photo~Expedition in October 2009, I and the participants agreed that the P setting on the DSLRs we carried didn't stand for Program at all, but for Professional.
So my advice is when you're not getting the exact result you seek from a particular scene for whatever reason, set your camera on P and let it rip. The photograph above is an example of this. It was made during a festival in Bhutan's Jakar Valley, and I had trouble getting the right exposure using a manual and Av setting, so I just resorted to P...and I got what I wanted. Elementary, isn't it?
Harry Benson's interview via The Click