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Low light Photography Tips

Want to have fun while shooting in a low light environment? Read on to find the best way to shoot in low light.

You might be facing difficulties with the basics of low light photography. This particular scenario has its challenges, but a few basic and new techniques can help you get through this challenge smoothly.

The spell towards perfect low light photography is just a good read away. All you need to know is how to maneuver outside the camera’s Auto Mode, some useful camera settings, a few gears to add on, and a couple of manageable techniques.

Different Low Light scenarios

Here are 3 different low light scenarios you might face while photographing outside a studio.


Day time. When the sun is up and there is enough luminance around your subject.

Low Light

During sunrise and sunset, dusk, dawn, etc. The permissibility of the visible area is there, but it’s quite dark to be shot. Higher ISOs and wider aperture settings can shoot clearer images under such circumstances.


This is basically night time. The whole world seems dark, except the moon, neon lights, and anything that glow. These, however, can make for the highlight of the photograph.

Basics of Slow Shutter-speed for Low Light shooting

The lower the shutter speed, the more light enters the camera. Just think of closing your eyes slowly, it increases the duration of what you see, right? It is the same with your camera since the shutter is more like the eyelids! Both the camera sensor and body sensors work similarly. But with a camera sensor, slower shutter speed results in motion blur. Your eye on the other hand is naturally equipped to deal with this trail of a fast-moving object. You might experience this sometimes if you look at a fast-moving object from a distance. A perfect example would be a shooting star.

There is a basic fraction rule for focal length and the speed of the shutter that can help you achieve a blur-free image. For example, the shutter speed of a photograph with a focal length at 30mm should be 1/30th of a second. Less than that, and the result will be a blurred image. But this rule is only applicable for cameras with full frame features. If the same lens is used on a crop sensor, the speed should be 1/45th of a second. This is to account for the sensor’s crop factor.

Lower the Shutter speed by Image Stabilization

Slower shutter speed than that of 1/30th or 1/40th will result in a photograph with significant motion blur in it, but sadly in a darker environment, this shutter speed might not provide the actual exposure needed. Hence, the solution to this is ‘image stabilization’.

Famous manufacturers and third-party manufacturers produce many lenses capable of decreasing camera shake. The effectiveness of this option is capable of compensating up to 4.5 stops. This allows shooting at 1/15th of a second or even lower, without any motion blur. In the visible light conditions, the results of this feature are best seen.

Equipment can play a huge role in how a picture comes out. Let's talk about that:

Lacking a Tripod

The camera can be quite stable if the strap is kept around the neck or even wrapped around the wrist, and this might lower the chances of a shaky image. Even leaning against the wall can cut out the merest movement while photographing. The best results might come if the camera can be placed on a flat surface, like a table, ensuring stability. Since these options are not always available, a tripod can come in handy.

When to use a Tripod

The perfect photograph may be ruined with just a small shake of the camera while handling free hand. Therefore, it’s better not to take risks. The tripod can be carried to any shooting scene where it might be needed.

Which lens should be used for Low Light shooting

Choosing a perfect lens is sensitive in terms of the maximum achievable aperture. The camera lens, as mentioned earlier, works like our eyes. The black hole we see in the middle of the eyeballs works as an aperture for our eyes. The lower the light a place has, the wider it opens.

Hence, while choosing the aperture setting, the widest possible aperture settings will help achieve better images in the dark. F/1.4 will let in four times more light than that of F/2.8. Most of the zoom lenses have a limit of F/3.5-F/5.6 at max. But if professional ones are available, you can reach up to F/2.8 and wider.

For basic photography, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ll is good enough to start with, as some other prime lenses can be expensive. The lower the value of the F, the wider the aperture and the faster the lens is. Therefore, you need a fast lens for better photographs in low light conditions.

To expose photographs faster and avoid motion blur, the lens can be set at f/1.8. This lets four times more light to enter through the lens than f/3.5. But the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field will be.

There might be situations while taking group photos in low lighting conditions, where I would recommend that you don’t use f/1.4 or f/1.8 settings as this would result in blurring the background and a few of the faces along with it. Rather, a higher number like f/8 can be used for a sharper image.

Perfect exposure with correct ISO

ISO is another option to play with if you want to capture a perfect exposure. The camera’s sensitivity is controlled by ISO. The higher the value, the better pictures that come out in low light conditions. But this option is also sensitive on its own, as the higher the value of the ISO, the more digital noise or dust your picture will have. It is suggested not to raise the ISO above 1600 to avoid creating haziness and retain background usability.

Capturing more light with a large sensor camera

The sensor is what takes the data to produce the photograph. It goes without saying that the bigger the sensor, the superior the quality and resolution will be. Smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras ordinarily have the smallest sensors. The following in line is the Micro Four-Thirds, named after its estimate as compared to a full sensor. The foremost common one is called the APS-C, which can be found in most DSLRs and mirrorless choices. At the best of the line is the full-frame sensor, which is interior proficient cameras. At 35mm, it’s more or less the same measure as 35mm film cameras.

The best camera for low light photography would be a camera with full frame, for example, the Canon 5D Mark lV. The photographs captured by its sensor size produce less noise, and as a result, the ISO value can be increased without worrying about digital noise.

Which format of Image is best for shooting

Images are preferred to be shot RAW, as it keeps the window more open for editing purposes. When shooting in a low light environment, it is easier to add 2/3 stops or more to the exposure, and the quality of the file stays the same.

How AF-assist helps for low light shooting

Shooting in low lighting may result in the camera failing to auto-focus. Thankfully, any modern digital camera has an “AF assist” feature. AF helps light-up the scene if it’s way too dark. This highlight can be activated on the camera’s menu. It'll naturally turn on after its half-pressed on the shutter.

Focusing on the Dark using the zoom

The “AF Assist” may not work in a few circumstances, particularly if the subject is shot from a distance. In this case, an electric lamp may offer assistance in lighting up the scene for a focus lock. Using the screen as the director, turn the center ring physically until the primary point of interest is sharp. Now all you've got to do is press the shutter and bingo!

Fun with Flashlights

When the camera is steady, any motion before the focal point will have an obscure effect. According to photography, the utilization of light is called light painting. The in-built flash system further allows you to play with light, just like a painter does with different paint colors. Place your gadget on a tripod and select a moderate shutter speed (between 2 to 30 seconds). Get in front of the camera and press the shutter using a remote or a self-timer. Once you hear the tap, begin moving the electric lamp around to form patterns. This will give you an idea of how you can direct light to make use of consequential shadows.

Freezing images using Flash

Slow shutter speeds cause motion blur, whereas fast shutter speeds freeze motion. So, where does streak fit in this scenario? The light that a flash produces is sufficient to let you shoot with fast shutter speeds. This means that using 1/250th of a second, even if it’s dark, can give you sharp pictures. But just because a flash is used doesn’t mean that the ISO can be brought down to 100. On the off chance that you are not using a flash but a higher ISO instead, you will lose details in your photograph.

I like to use an ISO setting of 400 to shoot in the dark as it gives a satisfactory blend of grain and detail. All cameras are diverse, so play around to see what works best. The pop-up flash on the camera generally produces unflattering results. Nonetheless, it still works well for freeze motion. If an external flash is used, it’s best to bounce the light off of a surface, and a diffuser can be used to reduce the harshness.


Even after all the above tricks and techniques, the most important aspect of learning is via practice. The understanding of the sense of lighting condition on a shooting site is essential. Low light photography can be fun and adventurous. This exploration can open up many new experiences and opportunities. Night-life photography can be an amazing skill to impress people with. Besides, once you enter the world of photography, you will face multiple circumstances where you have to make do with shooting in low light. A skill set to tackle the situation will not go to waste.

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