Winter is coming! Which means less light.
One way to deal with the dim winter light is to process images in black and white. And for the first few weeks of my sneaky mobile 365, which I’ve been doing this year, that’s exactly what I did. (The Pan-F filter in Filmborn is my favourite for the job, in case you were wondering.)
But there’s another way to deal with low-light situations, or the lack of light generally, and that’s to use the Slow Shutter Cam app, like I did for the image at the top of this post. (Slow Shutter Cam is iOS only, but there are a bunch of similar apps for Android.) As its name suggests, this app acts like a slow shutter on a proper camera, but it works on your smartphone. And it’s much easier to use, because it lets you preview the slow-shutter effect, and only hit the shutter (as it were) when you are happy with the image. This makes it much less hit-and-miss than using an actual slow shutter on a digital camera. (And let’s not even mention using a slow shutter on a film camera, which is a total lottery, because you have no idea how things will come out. Though this picture, taken with my Leica M6, worked well!)
Before you start shooting with this app, it’s worth taking a close look at the settings. For a start, on the viewfinder screen, you can choose between W for a wide angle or T for more of a telephoto lens. But to access most of the settings you have to tap the gearwheel symbol on that main screen. There you have a choice of capture modes (motion blur, light trail or low light); how blurry you want your images; your shutter speed; and the effective ISO.
Once you’ve figured out the settings you prefer, you can start shooting. It’s a good idea to steady or anchor your hand in some way if you are taking a very long exposure, perhaps by leaning on something. Depending on how fast things are moving in the scene you are shooting, you may need to tweak the settings a couple of times to get the right amount of motion blur. One situation when I often like to use this app is when I’m at a restaurant, to capture the movement and chaos in the kitchen.
I also like to use it when visiting an art gallery. It’s a good way to show people moving around and examining the art, but without showing their actual faces.
Once you’re shooting, you also have the option of stacking images on top of another, which can be a cool effect in some situations. I used it to take this picture of runners in the London Marathon.
As you can see, slow-shutter images often look good when processed in black and white. But sometimes it seems wrong to get rid of the colour! When we were in India a few weeks ago, I took an overhead image of a religious procession in the narrow streets of Bundi. It was dark, so it made sense to use a slow shutter. But it also seemed like the right way to capture the exuberance and energy of the occasion.
As the days get shorter and the nights draw in, it’s a good opportunity to experiment with slow shutter speeds. The Slow Shutter Cam app makes it easy to get good results without too much messing around.