Taking photographs in low light environments has always been a challenge for photographers. This is because photography is basically dependent on light for capturing good photos, and lesser light may adversely affect the overall quality.
But that should not deter you – take a look at the work of Peterborough photographer Emma Joy for some excellent examples of great photography and what can be achieved. With proper knowledge and skills, some great photographs can still be shot in these conditions. Here are some tips to guide you.
1 – Avoid using flash as much as possible
A bright or noisy flash can be irritating and could even ruin important moments. Also, the flash just isn’t necessary at times. A flash can freeze fast action, and it’s a good substitute for faster shutter speeds when capturing movement in low light. The bright light and the harsh shadows a flash creates, though, flatten the subject and background. Little or no flash can capture more of the contrasts between lighter and darker parts of the room, adding depth and dimension to the photo.
When you do need a flash in low light, diffuse the light for best results. This breaks up the hard edges and shadows for a more natural effect. There’s no need for a major equipment purchase for this, either. For starters, when you’re indoors, you can point the flash upward where light can bounce off the ceiling rather than other objects in the room or you can double-fold a facial tissue to place over the flash, simulating a lamp shade for it.
2 – Increase the ISO settings
ISO is a measurement of how sensitive the image is to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light the image is, but your photos are also likely to have more noise which pertains to the image’s grainy output. You can try with pushing the ISO to its highest setting, taking a couple of shots, and seeing how it works. Then, you can lower the ISO gradually until you get the photo quality and lighting effects that you want.
3- Stabilize your camera
It’s important that you hold the camera steady when doing low light photography, as low light camera settings mean the shutter will open wider and stay open longer, making it prone to be negatively affected by unstable hands. And while many digital cameras today have a stabilization feature that corrects for small movements, this stabilization is limited though and less effective in dim conditions.
As an alternative, consider mounting your camera on a stable surface. It could be a desk, a chair, or better a tripod or monopod. The tripod lets you set up a shot in advance, and it offers a consistent position for the camera when taking multiple photos. The monopod gives you the stable base you need during each shot along with the freedom to move or rotate between shots.
4 – Raise the aperture, lower the f-stop
Aperture refers to the size of the lens opening that allows the camera to take in more or less light to compose the photo measured in f-stops. For low-light conditions, you’ll want to aim for smaller f-stop numbers like f/4. If you plan to do a lot of low light photography, consider purchasing a lens known for having a wide maximum aperture like f/1.4 and f/2.0. Downside though is that the wider the lens opening, the smaller the portion of the image that’s in focus. It may be fine if you have a single subject, but when you have multiple objects in the shot at different distances from the camera, you’ll have to choose which objects you most want in focus for the shot and sacrifice the rest.
It is also important to constantly practice doing low light photography. Take as many low light photos as possible and check the quality. As time goes on, you will be able to master capturing images even in low light conditions.