Low-light Photography: Tips for Taking Great Photos in Dark Spaces

Low-light Photography: Tips for Taking Great Photos in Dark Spaces

If you’ve ever had a camera at hand, you know that taking a perfect photo borders on the miraculous. You’ll almost always find some flaw, let alone taking a photo in darkness.

For beginners, it can be black magic, impossible to master. But sometimes, despite facing unfavourable conditions, you must capture this special moment. Whether it’s at home, in the city centre or the middle of nowhere, you can take excellent photos, even with limited light. It just needs a little more work, time, and persistence, but it’s certainly feasible.

Today, digital cameras have many vital functions, thanks to which your snapshots can be as beautiful as the views from postcards. Are you ready to learn some useful things to improve your photography skills? Then, stay focused and make the most of this article, or if you’re taking this activity more seriously, visit the Photography Course website to expand your knowledge even more with free courses and training. Thanks to Patrick Hendry for the cover photo.

Prepare Equipment

camera equipment

Photo: Vladimir Proskurovskiy

You don’t usually make a photoshoot out of the blue. In most cases, it’s pre-planned, which means that you should be prepared for different circumstances, especially if it’s taken outside. You can’t predict either weather or light conditions. Therefore, the best you can do is always prepare the right tools, which will make low-light photography much easier. What are they? The attributes of every serious photographer, like a tripod, flash, and your fastest lens, as well as a light source, which will lighten your object.

Prevent the Camera from Shaking

Another obstacle you may come across while taking a photo in dark spaces is the camera shake. Why does it shake more when there’s less light? Because it slows down shutter speeds, which in consequence can create camera swinging. In this situation, all you can do is use a tripod, which allows you to get a sharp shot. To improve your shot even more, you can use a remote release or a self-timer. But before taking any photo, make sure if your tripod isn’t limiting the perspective and make all necessary corrections so you could take good quality photos.

Set the Right Shutter Speed

Once you set a tripod, it’s time to use a proper manual mode. That will allow you to set the right shutter speed for your snapshot. In the case of using a tripod, when your object is motionless, you can use slower shutter speed. It’s also good to shine a torch on your subject so that you can focus properly.

However, if you don’t have a tripod and you want to freeze action, you should set higher shutter speed. Otherwise, your photos will be too blurry. Using this function, you’ll adjust the shutter speed to the level you need, which will help you while selecting other settings.

Choose the Proper ISO Setting

You should also know that shooting in low light, you can’t find perfect balance. There’s always either the noise from a high ISO setting or the blur from a slower shutter speed. But if you were to choose one of these things, always opt for the first one. Why? Because noise can still be reduced to some extent in Photoshop whereas sharpness can’t be fixed. Any post-processing tool won’t remedy that.

When it comes to proper ISO setting, it’s also a debatable question. Most cameras perform great at high ISOs when others may create grainy images. To choose the best ISO setting, take a few shots at each of them and compare their quality, ideally on your computer. Then draw attention to colour noise, splotches, unusual colours, and the visibility of details, and you should be ready to pick the right ISO for your camera.

Use the Right Aperture

Moreover, to provide as much light as you can to your photo, you should ideally use a wide aperture or a low f-number. Unfortunately, not all lenses are created equal regarding aperture. Some of them have a maximum aperture of around f/3.6, whereas others can have f/1.8. That’s why always try to choose the fastest lens you have, and they should do the job.

Don’t Fear the Flash

camera with external flash

Photo: Tom Pumford

The final tip for you concerns the flash. Many people are afraid of using this setting, claiming it doesn’t give a good impression. But that’s not true as long as you can use it right. The best thing is to adjust the flash with a manual mode. Do you fear the bright “flash look”? Even having a pop-up flash, you can significantly eliminate it to half power.

To master this setting, indeed, requires some time and practice. It’s always good to focus on any existing light source because the flash itself can’t add the light to your photo. Using it isn’t equal to having bright snapshots without any black background. Only by understanding how it works will you be able to take great pictures even in the darkest spaces.

Low-light photography is, no two ways about it, much more challenging than taking a photo in full light. But it can have tremendous effects, a thousand times better than a regular snapshot taken during the day, which usually lacks the note of the mystery found at night.

Author Bio

Special thanks Daria Skutecka for contributing this article! Daria is completing a Master of English Studies and works as a copywriter.

Except for studies and work, she is passionate about two things: writing and photography. She spends every minute on developing herself and combining her passions. She doesn’t part with her pen and camera, looking for inspiration in the world and people, especially during travels that she loves so much. From every trip, Daria always comes back enriched in new experiences, which she describes on her blog, full of excellent photos. She particularly enjoys landscape and architectural photography, but you’ll see her taking an occasional selfie with friends as well. Her greatest dream is to visit the United States and write a book one day. As she says, “the sky is no longer the limit.” Thus, she tries to seize the day and live her life to the fullest.

Enthusiastic, friendly, and open-minded, she’s always hungry for new adventures. So, most probably, you’ll find her scribbling something on a piece of paper or capturing the moment with the camera.

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