FMP Experiments – Shooting in Dark Spaces – How to do it?

At the start of this FMP, I said I wouldn’t write any more night time scenes because last year they were difficult to shoot, perform in and hard to get everyone in the same place so late. While writing the script I knew I was going to break that promise so now I’m going to talk about how to shoot in the dark.

There are two main factors you need to consider when it comes to shooting in a dark place; whether you have enough light, and the ISO (International Standards Organization) your camera is at.

If you are planning to shoot in the dark, you are going to need some sort of light source for your camera, and for the audience to know what is going on. Without any light, there won’t be any detail for your camera to pick out and consequently, no image will be shown. I’m using a torch as my light source which I used to demonstrate the ISO below. I’ll be using the light to show the important things in the scene while everything else is either black or hard to see.

I need to keep in mind that it might be confusing to some people as it’ll be hard to understand what is going. However, thinking about putting the audience in my main character’s shoes, he won’t be knowing what is going on so the viewer is as confused as he is. This might go down well or it might not but as an experiment to see if it works, it’ll be cool to see everyone’s opinions about it.

Now that I have my light source sorted, I now need to pick an ISO that will give me enough brightness to see what is going on. As you can see the gif above shows all the ISO’s my Canon 600D has and as the ISO gets higher, it increases the brightness. 100, 200, 400 and 800 ISO are where you want to stay without your image becoming too grainy and ugly.

I ended up using 800 ISO as I wanted to get as much light in my image as possible without having too much grain in the image. If I went 1600 ISO and above, I’d see more but then the image becomes too grainy and when it comes to colour grading and correction, it makes it look ugly. You could use grain to your advantage by using it as a style for your film, giving it an old-time film look which is what I’m going for but I’m not the type of person who likes the look of grain so if there is any, I will be removing it.

Shooting in the dark is harder than it sounds as you must take everything I’ve talked about here into consideration when it comes to making the best-looking image you can. I’ve finished my night shoot and I’m happy with what came out of it, there was a little bit of grain but I can easily fix it in After Effects.


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