Low light is one of the most common problems that people face when they use a camera. It is important that you should learn how to overcome this problem.
In this section, we are going to discuss some of the important points that you should keep in mind if you want to have a clear and great photo even in low light conditions.
First of all, you should never use flash unless absolutely necessary. You should try to avoid using flash whenever possible because it not only makes your photo look unnatural, but also it creates shadows on your subject which will make him or her appear unattractive. If you must use flash, then you should use it as a last resort. When you use flash, you should aim it at the ceiling or at the floor.
Tips For Low Light Shooting
What is low light ?
Although it is very hard to categorize the amount of light, due to the fact that it is a large range of light between bright and pitch black, just for the sake of making it easier to explain and refer to, I still decided to divide it into three categories:
- Visible: in daylight, when you happen to be in shadow areas behind buildings, under large trees or bridges.
- Low Light: after sunset, when you can still clearly see everything around you, but you can tell that it is getting dark or when you are indoors.
- Dark: at night, when you can only see the brightest objects.
The Best Camera Settings For Low Light Photography
Best Shutter Speed For Low Light
Photo taken at Djurhamn Bridge, Sweden at focal length 16mm – aperture ƒ/5.6 – shutter speed 80s – ISO 200 (Unsplash source)
Low light situations can be tricky for any photographer. Not only do you have to contend with the fact that it is dark, you also have to worry about camera shake. If your subject is moving around a lot, you could end up with a blurred shot. To combat this, you should use a slow shutter speed. However, if your subject is not moving and you use a really slow shutter speed, you could end up with a boring shot. To combat this, you should use a fast shutter speed.
But how fast should it be? Well, that depends on the light in the room. If you are using a flash, then you can use a faster shutter speed.
But, if you are using ambient light, then you should use a slower shutter speed.
Here’s why: Ambient light tends to be less intense than flash. As such, you will get a better exposure with ambient light at a slower shutter speed. And, of course, you will also get more blur from camera shake at a slower shutter speed.
Adjust Your ISO To Get The Right Exposure
You should consider is the ISO setting on your camera, this controls how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to light. A higher number means the sensor will be more able to pick up light and make an image, even in low light situations.
However, a higher ISO also has its downsides – it makes your photos grainy and often results in a lot of noise (unwanted “clicks” and “pops”).
If you use a tripod, experiment with different ISO to see what works best for you. If not, use the lowest ISO possible that lets you get a good exposure without too much noise.
Go For A Wide Aperture To Let More Light In
Aperture is the hole in the lens through which the light passes to reach the sensor. A wider aperture lets more light into the camera, allowing you to use shorter exposures without losing image quality.
Therefore, when you are shooting in low light situations, it is often a good idea to use a smaller aperture (numbers like “f/1.4” or “f/1.8…”) to let more light into the camera.Use Manual Focus
Manual focus is the only way to go when you are shooting in poor light.
Low light means your lens won’t have enough “oomph” to auto-focus, and if it does it will focus way off target.
You can’t risk this, so make sure your camera is set to manual focus every time you use it in low light. It lets you use any focal length without having to worry about whether or not your lens is able to cope with the low light
You Need A Tripod For Low Light Photography
When you are photographing events that are taking place late at night or very early in the morning, having a tripod will give you a significant advantage.
It allows you to use slower shutter speeds and therefore, get a sharper image.
In fact, for events that are happening after dark, a tripod will often be necessary to prevent camera shake from blurring the image.
How To Take Low Light Photos Without A Flash
The biggest challenge of low-light photography is not the lack of light, but the poor quality of light.
First of all, you should never use flash unless absolutely necessary. You should try to avoid using flash whenever possible because it not only makes your photo look unnatural, but also it creates shadows on your subject which will make him or her appear unattractive.
If you must use flash, then you should use it as a last resort. When you use flash, you should aim it at the ceiling or at the floor.
That’s why most low-light photographers use long exposures (up to 15 seconds or more), and sometimes they combine this with a flash.
However, there is another way which can be just as effective… but much less disruptive to the scene. All you need is a tripod, a cable release (preferably with remote control), and a slow shutter speed. You can then use available light to expose the image… and later, add a flash to freeze the action if needed.
How Do I Expose for Low Light Photography?
The first step is to reduce your usual exposure by a stop or two. This means if you are using a 1/250 second speed window then reduce it to 1/125 second or even slower.This will allow more light into the camera.
Next, take a reading from your histogram (the graph that shows the tonal distribution of your image). If it looks like the right side of the graph (with more pixels) is cut off, then increase the exposure another stop.
Keep taking readings and increasing exposures until you get a good looking histogram.
Best Lens For Low Light Photography
The lens is one of the most important parts of any camera. It is the component that determines how much light can get to the sensor, and thus affects your ability to take great photos in low light.
However, if you are going to take photos in low light situations often, then you should consider getting a lens with a larger aperture (bigger number). This will let in more light, and thus allow you to use a lower ISO setting (the sensitivity of your sensor to light) and thus take photos with less noise.
Lenses with bigger maximum apertures are usually much more expensive than the kit lens. However, they are worth it, because they will give you much better low light performance.
Use Image Stabilization
Most of the time, image stabilization will be turned off on your camera. This is a bad idea. Not only does it give you more latitude for hand-holding your camera, but also, it gives you more latitude for getting the exact exposure you need.
If you know how to use exposure compensation, you can make this feature work for you. If not, just leave your IS on and keep shooting. The resulting images will be sharper and less likely to have camera shake.
Take Advantage Of Available Light Sources
The light in your photos will depend mainly on two things: the quality of the light available where you are shooting, and the quality of the camera/lens combination you are using.
If you are in a well-lit room, it will be easy to get great-looking photos. However, if the only light you have is what is coming from outside your window, then you are going to have to make the most of what you have.
Use your knowledge of available light to your advantage :
+ If you are shooting at sunset, use the orangey-reds of the light to warm up your subjects.
+ If you are shooting at sunrise, use the gentle pink of the light to give your subjects a little life.
+ If you are indoors at night, use the street lamps outside your window to add a little extra “halo” light to your subject.
Use A Large Sensor Camera To Capture More Light
A large sensor camera has a larger surface area, which means it can gather more light. This translates to better photos in low light situations.
It also allows you to use faster shutter speeds which lets in more light. A large sensor camera will also have a higher ISO rating, which means you can use a smaller aperture (bigger f-stop value) which lets in more light.
A larger sensor camera is not always necessary, but it is often helpful.
Shoot In Raw To Add More Exposure Stops
If you shoot in jpeg, the camera will decide what is “interesting” for you to capture. If you shoot in raw, you have more control and can decide yourself what to capture.
This is especially useful if your subject is moving around a lot or there is a lot of action going on, because you can then decide to capture only the parts of your subject that are interesting to you.
Most people are amazed at how much better low light images come out when you shoot in raw, and they are right! It really is a quantum leap.
Editing For Low Light Photography
Low-light situations can be very difficult to edit. It is often necessary to use a tripod and increase ISO to 800 or even 3,200. This will result in a lot of noise (grain) in your images.
You should try to reduce this noise in post-processing as much as possible. A good starting point is to use the “Highlights” and “Shadows” adjustment layers in Photoshop or Lightroom.
Read More About Low Lighting Photography
It is crucial for any photographer to understand how to deal with low light situations. Not only does it produce much more dramatic images, it also gives the photographer more creative options.
Therefore, you should read a lot to improve your knowledge, as well as practice continuous shooting will help you a lot.
Practice A Lot
The most important thing you can do if you want to learn how to take good photos in low light situations is to practice a lot.
You need to be able to recognize when you are in a low light situation and then to know what settings to use to get a good exposure.
The best way to do this is to take thousands and thousands of photos with the wrong settings and then, when you finally take a photo that is correctly exposed, you will instantly know what settings to use.
Low light photography is very useful for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that it is useful for taking photos at night or in dark places. In this kind of photography, you need to adjust the settings of your camera in order to take the best photos possible.
This can be a long and tedious process so it is important to have a good understanding of what you are doing. We hope that after this lesson you will be able to take some amazing photos using low light techniques