Is flash important for street photography at night?

Article Dedication

in Honor of 

Matthew Brady & Les Krims

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From the Leica forum…

haljaberi writes:

I really need your help in this one, as I don’t like to go for larger ISO values for street photography. I do 80% of my street photography at day and rest at evening. I received my M4-P yesterday and I am going to use it for B/W exclusively. Majority of the time, I will be taking pic at low light situation using my 28mm Summilux or 90mm Pre-ASPH Summicron lenses.

I tried to research for resources related to this topic and majority of them are discussing larger ISO value, which I don’t desire at this current stage, kindly I like to know your opinion,

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My Reply…

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know the Leica forum banned me a few years ago. As such, I will add my 2 cents here on night options for street photography.

If you want to do candid street work then you have to be able to do good available light photography. Sometimes you cannot get a useable shot with available light, so you have to use flash. If you are doing posed street portraits then flash is a good tool to shed some proverbial light on the subject.

I do a  tremendous amount of night / low light street photography.  I am in agreement with nixing the high ISO’s. I generally try to stick around 2500 ISO as a max. But if I have to, I will go to 3200 ISO if it is important to get the shot.

I work and live on a very low budget. I don’t have state of the art cams. All my gear is outdated and about 5 to 6 years old as the newest, with some of my digital cams going back to over 14 years. Maybe the newest cams can do high ISO levels with good results, but my gear does not. So this post is about using older gear for night shooting. If you have the latest gear then you will be way ahead of me with your results.

When it comes to night / low light street photography you only have a few choices.

Available Light Film / High ISO

Available Light Digital / High ISO

White Light Flash

Infrared Flash

Electric Lighting

Tripod Shots

Weegee Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection m

My first choice for night street photography is for available light shots. Next is a mix of available light with fill white flash. Sometimes there is not enough available light, so it is mostly flash. If I need to stay low key it is IR flash aka ‘blackout’ flash. Whatever I choose, I can work seamlessly between all styles.

Here are some samples of night / low light shots I’ve done using a variety of these techniques, with the exception of tripod photos, which I do not do.

52   img038-view print   V3  MR

Vintage 1970’s, film, high ISO, available light, pushed. (Candid)

36   img183-V8  MR

Vintage 1970’s, film with white light flash.

Makes Me Grateful for My Bed Copyright 1971 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Vintage 1970’s, film, available light / keyhole effect. (Candid)

De Wallen Selection Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed man’s head 4.5 stops and girl 2 stops. (Candid)

DSCF Sample No PP mr

Same image –  not pushed.

Selection BMG 3 copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash (Candid)

Bikers' Mardi Gras copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. lr

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

Piercing Darkness 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C v14

Digital, infrared flash (Candid)

Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

sad-buskers-nyc-2016-daniel-d-teoli-jr

Digital, infrared flash, pushed. (Candid)

Washington Momument copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available light, high ISO, handheld.

'Dirty Dancing' Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr V6

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

Untitiled no.1 copyright 1971 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Vintage 1970’s, film, high ISO, available light. (Candid)

Bikers' Mardi Gras Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash.

17Whoop-Whoop 23 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash, pushed. (Candid)

27 De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

25 De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

26 De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

22  De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

43 DSCF4252 V14 mr

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

12  img033-2-2 SPOT  MR

Vintage 1970’s, film, high ISO, available light, pushed. (Candid)

DSCF1030-6 (2) m

Digital, high ISO, available light. (Candid)

Bikers Mardi Gras #20  Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, white light flash.

little-dicky-lucky-chops-2016-daniel-d-teoli-jr-m

Digital, high ISO, available light, pushed. (Candid)

De Wallen copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli jr.

Digital, high ISO, available light, handheld.

Bikers Mardi Gras #18  Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

39 De Wallen Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, high ISO, available light. (Candid)

37Whoop-Whoop 111 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

22Whoop-Whoop 123 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr (4)

Digital, high ISO, available light. (Candid)

32Whoop-Whoop 13 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

35Whoop-Whoop 71 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

23.2Whoop-Whoop 111 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr (5)

Digital, white light flash.

3Whoop-Whoop 31 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid…but caught!)

10Whoop-Whoop 41 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

Freemont Street no.2 Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. lr

Digital, white light fill flash.

Hollywood Blvd Selfie- infrared flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

GOTJ 57 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

Homeless Couple Hollywood Blvd infrared flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

PD Hollywood infrared flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

NYE Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

BMG 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash.

Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 41 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

GOTJ project 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid…but caught!)

Mike Busey 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available stage light / handheld flashlight for butt crack (Candid)

Twenty-Six Roadkills artists' book no.12 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, available light, car headlights, high ISO.

20Whoop-Whoop 81 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

28 De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available ight, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

Homage to Weegee copyright 1974 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Vintage 1970’s film, white light flash (Candid…scanned from reject work print. Original lost in a flood.)

DSCF1085 6.75 x 7.25 m

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (A titty-pro on the prowl!…Candid)

Bikers Mardi Gras #22  Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, available light / poss fill flash…can’t remember? (Candid)

Finding Love at the Bikers Mardi Gras  Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, white light flash.

Bikers Mardi Gras #19  Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

DSCF1406- V3 m

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

DSCF100-2

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

29 De Wallen Artists'  Book Copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr.

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Blue lights says the girl has a penis!…Candid)

30Whoop-Whoop 16 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

Juggalos Project Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available light, high ISO, pushed. (Candid)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

Pole Dancer copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

LAS copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, white light flash. (Candid)

Santa Monica copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.mr

Digital, white light flash.

Washington Monument copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available light, high ISO. (Handheld)

Homage to Mssrs Weegee &amp; Yoshiyuki copyright 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - c

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid…yep candid, that is what skill and IR flash can do!)

PD copyright Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - c

The approach for the previous ‘tag team’ photo.

PD 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

PD 2015 Daniel Teoli Jr. mr - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

PD Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr- Co

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

PD 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - Copy

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

BMG Project Infrared Flash  2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - Copy

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash  2015 Daniel D Teoli Jr. mr - Copy

Digital, infrared flash. (Getting a little pissy!)

Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

Piercing Darkness Infrared flash 7 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

Piercing Darkness 88 Infrared Flash Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - Copy

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

PD 41 Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr C

Digital, infrared flash.

Transwoman &amp; Friend 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. hr

Digital, infrared flash (Candid, indoors in the dark.)

nyc-infrared-flash-photo-daniel-d-teoli-jr-m

Digital, infrared flash. (Candid)

Fourth of July 2013 CV Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Digital, available light. (Handheld)

With regards to tripods…I seldom, if have ever used one.  As a documentary / street photographer, I take pride in my technique to be able to get the shot handheld and on the fly.

In the Shadow of City Hall V25 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Photo taken out of the windshield of my car while I was driving.

42 sex tool no. 1 Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr..  mr

Digital, LED light (Handheld)

Even on the rare occasion I try a studio shot..it is handheld. To put it simply…I hate tripods! In an emergency I may rest up against a car, building or lay on the ground. But when it comes to carrying around a tripod…that is for the street portraitist or the anal landscapers and star trail photogs…it is NOT good practice for a candid street photog.

A trick you can do for sticking with lower ISO’s is to ‘push’ your digital image. You can make tests to see if you prefer a lower ISO pushed 1 or 2 stops or if you prefer higher ISO values and not pushing the image.

If you are shooting lenses wide open, make sure you do resolution tests before you put the lens into night duty. A few of my lenses show poor resolution wide open. As such, I do not use them for available light night shooting. A lens must have acceptable sharpness at full aperture for me to include it in my night kit.

Even wide open, sometimes the best you can do is to use high ISO AND push the image. It all depends on the circumstances. When the image starts to fall apart that is when I lose interest.

Just be careful not to sign your name to garbage. If the image is not salvageable just accept that you missed the shot and move on. Only a very desperate photog, with nothing good in their portfolio, clings to shit like it is gold…dump your shit!

Further reading:

https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/a-photographer-is-defined-from-their-body-of-work-be-careful-what-goes-into-it/

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Selection The Bohemians D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C (2)

Selection from Gone Girls artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. / Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection

A complete listing of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/artists-books-by-daniel-d-teoli-jr-2/

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De Wallen Graffiti 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.