14 Tricks for Shooting in Low Light

We all know the saying that a photo is worth 1000 words. For the most part it is true, yet a photography can fail to express what you wish if not taken correctly. That is why we wanted to present an article on shooting in low light that should provide some useful tricks for all photography aficionados.

Before we begin presenting our tips there is one thing worth mentioning. One of the most important elements of photography is light. This notion most surely has been heard by readers countless times before. However, the importance of this statement cannot be exagerated.

But this must not act as a deterent when comes to shooting in low light. Instead it should make us reconsider our position. By making use of the proper techniques we could achieve high-quality photos in low light conditions.

shooting in low light

1. Orientation

It is important to know that the quality of the image will be, in no less extent, provided by the orientation in respect to the sun or the moon.

Bringing along a compass can aid in this matter. Keep in mind to observe the light path and to let yourself guided by it. This, of course, applies if you are shooting outdoors.

2. Constrictions

In low light conditions you will have to use lengthier exposures. This in turn will mean that you have to compress time into a single frame. As a result, any camera movement must be rendered to zero. A resilient tripod and a shutter will allow you to reduce camera shake.

3. Prepare yourself for Different Weather Conditions

If it is not pouring outside this might be an excellent opportunity to take some really interesting photos. However, rain shouldn’t discourage you from shooting. Just make sure you protect the camera. If a few drops reach your lens, shoot like that. This will add a dramatic effect to your final product.

4. Raw Photos

Try to shoot raw. This will allow you to adjust white balance levels during the post-processing phase. Work with a large batch of raw images and select the best one.

shooting in low light

5. Experiment with Light

In the event in which you are shooting indoors, a good idea would be to play with light sources. Try to think outside the box and go beyond ambiental light. Include different arrays of light sources. These can range from lamps and candles all the way to torches and chandeliers.

6. Proper Dress Code

Yes, you read correctly. The reason why this is a tip is that it can influence the effect of the final product. For example, if a photo is taken in a low light situation where the model has a dark outfit, the dramatic effect will be less impressive. Consider choosing pale or white outfits that can effectively reflect available light, whether it is ambient light or an experimental light source.

7. Reflectors

A reflector can be a great addition in any low light environment. It can take that very small amount of light and aim it at the image’s subject. This allows the focus point of the photo to stand out even more against its dark surroundings.

8. HDR Images

When trying to shoot portraits without a dark background a good ideea might be that of using HDR. It works by taking shots with more exposures and bringing them together into the image. Therefore, an even distribution of shadows and highlights is createddue to the combination of shorter and longer exposures. It does wonders when there are dark areas in the frame while taking shots of high contrast situations.

The camera has to be set to auto-bracketing mode. You will also require a tripod. Later on, the exposures can be combined in programs such as Photomatix or Photoshop.

9. Black and White

Who doesn’t like a dramatic black and white photo?  If you are shooting outdoors and the colour is fading switch to the black and white option. Make use of Live View mode first to preview the surroundings while having the picture style set in monochrome. This will give you a sense of what the final product will look like.

10. ND Filters

When trying to withhold details in the foreground ND filters are a great addition. If your aim is to increase the dramatic effect in low light shooting, not having to resort to them is also an option. This will enhance silhouette foreground features.

11. Composite Landscapes

Shooting at lower shutter speeds can increase darker areas. By using both shutter speeds and different aperture settings, the depth of field will increase, despite the lens’ capabilities. Suffice to say, experimenting is the keyword here.

12. Taking Time

By rushing into things the final imagery might not have the same desired level of detail. Consider having to take a picture of a sunset. If you wait right until the sun drops right on top of the horizon line the picture will have an added dramatic effect. This time of day is also referred to as “The Golden Hour“.


13. Underexposure

The key concept of shooting landscapes in low light is to embrace the darkness that permeates while the last rays of light make their way onto the planet’s surface.

By doing so you allow the image to retain its natural feel as opposed to the HDR imagery granted by digital technology. Therefore, you should constrain yourself from using fill-flash and allow the highlights to maintain their natural feeling. Some areas will remain underexposed, but the end product will have an added bonus in the dramatic effect department.

14. Freedom of Movement

Quite a number of people will argue that a tripod is a must when taking outdoor shots of landscapes in particular. Nevertheless that might not apply to everyone. Indeed, if you are planning on shooting at long exposures, then having a tripod will come in handy. Unfortunately this will limit the freedom of movement while finding new exciting angles to shoot from.

In all honesty these 14 Tricks of Shooting in Low Light are but a few. There is much more to say, but this should get you started. Any photography aficionado out there would greatly benefit from them when having to shoot landscapes or portraits, both indoors and outdoors. It is our belief that they will unlock a door for further experimentation.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

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