One of the major leap forward with digital photography has been the advancements in low light handling, both in terms of noise level and auto focussing accuracy and speed. So, numbers like ISO6400 is very common and hugely expands the creative boundaries of “available light” photography. I define “available light” as lighting that is already available in your given environment. This can be anything from natural sun light, light from a street lamp and even headlamps from a passing vehicle.
Film in Low Lighting
How does film photography fair in low light? Not fantastic by today’s standards. In fact, the fastest film you can currently find are the Ilford Delta 3200 and Kodak TMAX 3200, both black & whites and in my practical experience, should not be pushed beyond the ISO3,200 threshold (unless you’re shooting in medium or large format).
Low lighting doesn’t mean no lighting
That is not to say film is an absolute no go in low lighting situations. You just be need to be smart about it. Low lighting doesn’t mean no lighting. There’s always an available source of light that you can take advantage of. My rule of thumb is that I don’t add additional light to change how the scene was originally lit. I just work my way around it.
Here are some of my film works in low lighting situations, some are quite extreme by analogue film standards.