February 13, 2015 Inbal Voitiz

Tips for Shooting in Low Light

In the world of digital photography, lighting is the most important factor. When you have poor lighting it makes it difficult to achieve the results you had in mind. However, on the bright side, it invites you to discover more creative ways of solving this problem. Many people confuse low light with the nighttime. There are other possible conditions that can be described as low light. Differentiation between the two will provide an understanding of which tips to use.It doesn’t matter what you’re shooting, from moody scenes, to concert venues, there are various ways of making your camera work to its fullest capabilities. I will talk about various tips in relation to dealing with the low-light settings.It’s all about getting the best from your digital camera, despite the different conditions.

Types of low-light conditions

It needs to be specified that all conditions, except for daytime be considered low light.

When exposing your audience to different amounts of light, there are three main categories to be considered.

  1. When you are shooting in a shadow, during the day (Visible)
  2. When you have to make a shot after the sunset, the “golden hour” (low light)
  3. At night.

The complexity of each situation suggests various solutions. First of all I will talk about basic tips of how to deal with the low light conditions


One of the many tips for how to shoot under low light conditions is using your camera’s flash. It is the easiest and the most obvious solutions to your problem. Just put it on and allow everything else to be illuminated. On the other hand, some will say that this measure can do more harm than the low light itself. It reduces the field depth of the image, which in turn makes an object less attractive. So still not the best option.

However, there are a few tips that can help you to deal with the brightness of your flash. Softening it with a sheer white tissue can do this. This will lower the harshness. Moreover, you can put an external flash into so-called “‘hot shoe”, which will allow for the manipulation of the light.

Another good tip would be to purchase an off-camera flash. When placed correctly, it can provide an angled light and save the atmosphere of the setting.


An additional tip to consider is aperture. It is one of the most influential factors in digital photography. It does magic, by blurring the background or improving the focus.

It’s a hole in the lens that allows the light to go through the digital camera. It can also be compared to the human eye, or specifically a pupil.

In order to make good photos under low light, there is a need to decrease the lens aperture. In this case, you can switch to “Aperture Priority ” mode, or change it manually. Then lower it to the minimum possible f-number. Moreover, you may need to invest in 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is cheap and easy to find.


Low - light - iso

Photographer: Bokeh Burger Source: http://www.lightstalking.com/8-ways-to-reduce-noise-in-your-photographs/

Most cameras are capable of adopting their settings under any condition, even at night.  It automatically re-adjusts the lens aperture and reduces the shutter speed. However, the major consequence is that at some point, reduced shutter speed will make the camera move. This results in a shaking of the equipment and blurry photos.  It can become problematic once your shutter is at a speed of 1/30 sec or lower. In this case, you need to take certain measures to avoid it. In this case, a useful tip can be starting to use higher ISO.

What is ISO?

It’s can be compared to raising the sensor volume, making it more sensitive to different light conditions. ISO allows sharp photographs by using faster shutter speed. It’s great when you want to avoid using the flash, especially for indoor photos. You can set the necessary level of sensitivity on your digital camera by choosing “Auto ISO” or it can be re-adjusted manually.

However, there is a certain payoff involved here.  Using the ISO will result in increased noise in your photographs. Luckily, there are a variety of software programs, like “Noise Ninja” or “Neat Image” that can assist in sharpening your photos in a post-processing phase. Alternatively, using a tripod can stabilize your digital camera and it will allow you to get great photos under low ISO. Most cameras can take it up to ISO 800, whilst professional full-frames ones can reduce noise at ISO 3200 and higher.

However, sometimes noise can add some character to a photo. For example, try making it black and white. It will look good in some situations, adding a bit of drama.

Additional factors

low lighting

Photographer: Michael Shane Source: http://www.popphoto.com/gallery/how-to-shoot-dark?i=288551&s=2

According to experienced photographers, there are extra tips, to help you with shooting, that are less obvious.

For example for Michael Shane said, it’s about finding the  right angle. He usually tries to stay away from places that need deep depths of field. It’s understandable, because in photography it’s hard to work with the lowest possible aperture, without the tripod. For his picture of the shuttle, at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum he used f/2.8 aperture.

I hope this helps you out. Creating that perfect shot in low-lighting is never the easiest thing to do unless you know what you are doing. Good luck and add pics to the comments below with your low light shots!

By using JPG, you can surely save some space on your memory card. In the case where you have low light conditions it’s better to use RAW, since it’s more useful in post-processing. RAW files will provide you with greater editing flexibility.

Night Time

There are fewer solutions when you take pictures at night. In this case, one of the best tips can be to use the tripod and a flash. It’s a must for night shooting.

Explore the given opportunities

The greatest thing about shooting is that there are no limits. It’s about failing and trying again. Bad images can assist you on your learning path to becoming a more experienced photographer.

Moreover, It’s about knowing your camera and its capabilities well. One of the tips is to pre-test it, to identify the highest possible ISO. This will make you more confident about the results. Alternatively, you might consider buying a full-frame digital camera, which is more expensive.

Shooting under low light conditions is not always a problem. Sometimes the darkness may create a depth and a special mood for a photo. A photographer can use it to direct the audience’s attention to where he/she wants it to be. It invites you in with the opportunity to play with your creativity.



About the Author

Inbal Voitiz Inbal Voitiz is Co-Founder of LookAt, where she is focused on producing the tools for video professionals, so that brilliant, inspiring beautiful videos will come to life.