Low Light Photography Tips

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Low light photography is something that we all must deal with as photographers. Whether you’re taking photos with a point and shoot during an evening out, shooting a wedding party or capturing a landscape at dusk it’s important to understand the basics of shooting with low light. Photography is all about light, low light photography is no different and it offers new challenges and opportunities for creativity. Here is a helpful infographic on the subject:

low light photography

Low Light Photography Infographic (Click for Larger Version)

Additional Low Light Photography Tips:

1. Crank up the ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera’s sensor is to the light that is reaching it. The additional noise that is generated by using a high ISO can be filtered out somewhat in post-processing. Sometimes the extra grain adds a little something special to the shot. Shooting in RAW format allows for the most flexibility in post-processing.

2. Use a larger aperture. The larger the aperture, the more light is entering the lens. Shooting at f/5.6 lets in more light than shooting at f/18 (remember, the lower the number, the larger the aperture).

3. Slow down the shutter speed. More light is captured the longer the shutter remains open. Keep in mind that a good “rule of thumb” for clear hand-held shots is no slower than 1/60th of a second. Use a tripod if you’re shooting at anything slower than that, though I have had success at slower hand-held shots using lenses with image stabilization.

4. If you do have to use a flash, try to avoid the on-camera pop-up. It tends to flatten the appearance of the image because the light is hitting the subject directly. Invest in an off-camera flash, angle light so that it is not directly in front of the subject, and use reflective surfaces and diffusers to soften the light. Strategically placed constant light (such as tungsten lamps using soft white bulbs) work excellently for providing additional ambient light without sacrificing the atmosphere of the setting.

5. Use your camera’s exposure compensation capabilities. The scale on many of today’s DSLR’s allow from -3 to +3 stops in 1/3 stop increments (my 7D is +/-5). Dial the exposure compensation to the positive side to purposefully “overexpose” the photograph.

Information provided courtesy of Snapsort and their article on Low Light Photography.

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7 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    I see some misleading info here. You recommend IS or VR lenses but fail to mention this is for hand-held shots only. When mounted to a tripod, the IS or VR should be TURNED OFF as all of the lens manufacturers recommend. And it should be made clear that IS/VR is only good for minimizing “camera shake” and will do nothing for “motion blur”.

  2. Dewan Demmer says:

    Helpful Thanks. I find shooting in the dark can be a change and this gives some helpful hints.

  3. francis says:

    actually.. it’s BOKEH not BOKAH.

  4. Sheryl says:

    How do you shoot a model walking down a catwalk with bright lights shining on the runway?

  5. Jack Bingham says:

    I have alot of problems shooting indoors in low light and in manual mode, I shoot with a 50D what can I do to make it easier. I have a Canon speedlite 430EX11 as well, any help would be greatly appreciated. Cheers Jack

  6. Rod Arroyo says:

    The proper grip, stance, and bracing against something solid – plus breathing out – is critical when you can’t use a tripod.

  7. Karl Baker says:

    Take a notepad with you also.. I always find making notes of what camera settings I used last time makes things a little easier

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