How to Take Photos in Low Light Without Your Regular Tripod

Do you ever find yourself strolling around a city near evening looking for the perfect shots, only to find that you’ve left your tripod behind? Maybe it was too big and bulky to lug around, or perhaps you knew you were going to explore a “no-professionals without paperwork” zone, one where just the sight of a tripod could cause the police to pounce. Yet shooting in low light requires longer exposures, shots that are just about impossible to get sharp without a tripod. So what to do? This video tutorial has some ideas:

To be honest, you’ve probably thought of most (if not all) of these ideas at one point, especially increasing ISO and opening up the aperture. But not everyone will have thought of the myriads of things that can substitute for a tripod.

The most obvious thing is to use your backpack as Hoey does in this clip, but you can also simply set your camera on a flat surface and use stones or cardboard to tilt your lens up. You can also fill up a plastic bag with sand. You can even carry a little bean bag around with you if you wanted (although at the point you might as well invest in a GorillaPod). The point is, in most situations all you need is a bit of creativity to find the stability you need.

And if there’s nothing around? You might be surprised, but stabilizing your posture can go a long way towards stabilizing your images. The most obvious thing to do is to lean up against something, but if nothing’s at hand, shooting with the right posture and breathing can make a difference. Keeping your elbows in and against your body or kneeling down and resting on your knees can reduce camera shake. Also, just like with sharp-shooting, we’re at our most relaxed at the end of an exhale. So if you must hold your camera while taking shots, pull your elbows in and hit the button and the end of an out-breath. (This also works for target shooting.)

Use Your Bag as a Tripod

Use a backpack as a tripod.

In the end, the GorillaPod is actually an amazing little device that can bring a lot of versatility to your shooting (as well as fit nicely into a small backpack). Just be careful with which one you get; it really is important to make sure it can handle the combined weight of your camera and lens.

Here Gavin Hoey is shooting with an Olympus EM1—a mirrorless camera that’s smaller and lighter than a standard DSLR. He’s also using an Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 Pro lens, which is a pretty light lens as far as lenses go. Even so, if you can find the right mini-tripod for you, it can lighten up your load (and it even looks goofy enough that you might get away with not being taken as a “serious” photographer).

The moral to the story is if you don’t want to bring your big tripod with you, take your small one…well, mostly.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips for tripod-free shots?

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One Comment

  1. BIPIN B GUPTA says:

    Low Light Shooting
    There are a few more things on e can do. Set your camera to TAv mode. Then use the front & rear wheels to set the aperture and shutter speed. The camera will choose the appropriate ISO automatically.
    This is possible as the sensors in current DSLRs are amazingly capable because of their High Dynamic Range. Of course I will not go below 1/30 sec due to blurr.
    I can push my Pentax K-5 IIs to ISO 6400 with just the hint of noise in the photo.
    Then use RAW. Do not worry about some under exposure as you can “pull” it up in PP for tghat perfect exposure.
    I can go upto (8) EVs on my Pentax K-5 IIs without noticing perceptible artifacts. In fact a photo that has turned out dark silhouette type can be PPd to a perfectly exposed shot.
    Use the fastest lens you have: a F1.4 or 1.8 Prime or a F2.8 Zoom.
    Others.

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