Top 4 Essential Techniques For Low Light Photography Ideas

Taking photos under low light conditions can be quite challenging. But some moments are just too good to let them slip away just like that without capturing them because of low light.

Adding extra light may not always be an option and can lead to blurry and grainy images in some situations.

Learn how to capture life as it happens using low light photography ideas as explained in this article. But before that Yo should know:

What is Low Light Photography?

Some people assume that low lighting photography is experienced during nighttime only.

However, there are different circumstances under which light is not as ambient as in the daytime and they include shadowed areas, theatres, after sunsets, and indoors, especially during winter.

Shooting under these conditions amounts to low-light photography.

If you have ever encountered either of these situations in your line of photography, you understand how challenging and frustrating it can be to take a clear photo.

Low Light Photography Tips

No need to turn down that corporate dinner event job or an after-sunset birthday photoshoot for the fear of grainy photos.

Shooting in low light is inevitable for photographers and we have gathered some helpful techniques from guided instructions to camera settings to improve your photography.

As you practice more on these tips, you’ll gain the confidence to shoot like a pro within no time.

01. Camera Settings for Low Lighting Photography

If you are a beginner, you might be tempted to use an external or camera flash to brighten the low light scene. But a flash can completely distort the appearance of your images.

With the right camera settings, you can capture natural scenes so effortlessly. Here are some low-light photography ideas to help you adjust the three exposure settings.

Aperture Settings 

When shooting under low light conditions, an aperture should be the first exposure setting to adjust. Aperture settings determine the size of a photo in a focus at a time and this is called depth of field.

A wide-open aperture will give you a shallow depth of field limiting the image in focus and vice versa.

Adjusting aperture settings is the easiest way to achieve a blurred background. In low light, the wider the aperture the better.

ISO Settings

Adjusting ISO settings determines how sensitive your sensors are to the incoming light. When ISO is increased, more light is allowed to the sensor and the more the light, the more the sensitivity and the brighter the photo.

However, a higher ISO increases grain in images which may be distractive making it hard to differentiate small details. Grain levels may differ at different ISO ranges depending on your camera.

To determine the level of grain in your camera, consider taking several photos with your lens cap on. The grain level will increase as you increase the ISO.

If you are experiencing distractive grains, consider using a wider F-stop and a slower shutter speed to cover up the low ISO.

Most digital cameras can effectively handle grain levels up to ISO 1600, while professional cameras produce a low level of grain even at ISO 1600 and above.

Shutter Speed Settings

Shutter speed determines whether an object is blurred or frozen in motion since it’s responsible for the amount of time your sensor is exposed to light.

When capturing a speeding object at a slow shutter speed, it will appear blurry but when a faster shutter speed is applied, the object will be frozen in time with all the details being clear.

Use a faster shutter speed to capture a moving object and a slow shutter speed when the object is still.

All these three, work together to give your images the right exposure. For you to capture sharp images, you must balance blur, grain, and the depth of field.

02. Shoot in RAW

The RAW file format is one of the best low-light photography ideas. Shooting under low light conditions means capturing extreme dark shadows and a RAW file is far much more flexible to edit than a JPEG file.

Though you can still capture a good image using a JPEG file, you will have limited editing options.

A RAW file allows you to make basic image adjustments, and correct exposure, color, and contrast without losing the quality of your image. Since most social media platforms and websites don’t acknowledge RAW files as a valid file format, you will have to convert them to JPEG before sharing them anywhere. It’s very easy and will only take you a few seconds.

Follow this link to more tips on low light photography:

03. Use a Tripod to Prevent Camera Shake

When using a slow shutter speed, a camera shake is inevitable. No matter how firm you consider yourself, a slight movement of your hands can lead to blurry images.

Having a tripod whenever you are shooting under low-light conditions can be very helpful since it will keep your camera at a standstill.

A tripod enables you to use those slower shutter speeds than you could handheld and still capture sharp images. You only need to identify a perfect spot for setting up and you are free to use any shutter speed you want.

04. Use Manual Focus

Autofocus depends on light to identify contrast in a scene hence, the lower the light the lower the contrast.

A wrong focus can ruin even the right exposure settings and as a result, you might need to adjust your focus under low light conditions to enhance accuracy and the only solution is to switch to Manual Focus.

Use Live view to zoom in on the image on your LCD or EVF screen. In this mode, you can magnify the scene for a better view of your image and you can adjust accordingly.

Look for a bright light source in your scene, anything that is clear enough to focus on.

If you can’t find any light source to focus on, try to use an external source of light such as your phone’s flashlight to illuminate parts of your scene.

Once you locate some focus points, adjust your focus manually until the scene appears sharp on your camera screen. You can now zoom out of live view and begin to capture images.

Double-check the images you have captured to confirm that they are indeed sharp.

How to Do Low Light Photography Without Flash

Illuminating people under low light conditions can be difficult and some photographers opt for a flashlight which may not always be necessary. Here are some helpful low-light photography ideas to light up your scenes naturally.

  • When shooting portraits under low light conditions, place your subject’s face close to a light source such as a phone screen, car headlights, streetlights, or any other available light source, and your work will become easier. You only need to position your subject near a source of light no matter how little. Shooting under a natural source of light allows you to use faster shutter speeds.

In a situation where there is no available natural light source, for example, a wild walk after sunset, you can have your subject face the horizon which most probably has a fair amount of light left.

  • When shooting objects such as the interior of a poorly lit room or a mountain at dusk, you can adjust to a slower shutter speed since the object is still, which will allow lighter in your camera. Adjusting your camera settings to brighten the exposure works better rather than using a flashlight to light up the scene.
  • In some shadowed areas, you might find that they remain completely dark even after adjusting your camera’s exposure settings. Consider using a headlamp to shed some light and add more details to your scene and it works much better than the harsh rays of a flashlight. When photographing people, they can wear a headlamp to light up their faces and shed some light on the rest of their bodies which is more ambient than a flashlight.

Is a 2.8 Aperture Good for Low Light?

A wider aperture creates more space for light to pass through your lens and so does a 2.8 aperture. Whether you are shooting in complete darkness or a dimly lit scene, 2.8 aperture will perfectly do the job.

Though there are many faster lenses than 2.8 aperture, it’s still wide enough to give you a shallow depth of field making it suitable for low light photography.

Since you need to brighten your exposure, by all means, a slightly slower shutter speed and a higher ISO perfectly blend with a 2.8 aperture to give you a perfect shoot.

Long Exposure low light photography Settings with Canon Camera

When you find yourself shooting in a low-light situation, it’s not the time to pack and leave. Rather it’s a time to prove your low light photography skills.

You can a new approach to your Canon camera settings and capture sharp images no matter how dark the scene is. Here are some of the best canon camera settings for low-light photography.

  • Mode: Manual
  • ISO: 1200 – 1800
  • Shutter Speed: 1’’ – 1/60
  • Aperture: F/2.8 and above
  • White Balance: AWB
  • Focus: Manual Focus (MF)
  • Image Type: RAW
  • Drive Mode: Single Shot
  • Tripod: Yes

What is the Best Camera for Low-Light Photography?

A good low-light camera enables you to capture high-quality images even in the darkest of scenes. Some cameras are better than others due to different features such as pixel count, sensor size, and design in different types of cameras.

You might find yourself compromising on some things such as video capabilities and shutter speed but when shooting under low light conditions, you won’t even require faster shutter speeds.

Whether you are looking for one of the best DSLRs, compact cameras, or mirrorless cameras, you will certainly find a camera under these categories that are fit for low-light shooting.

The general rule of thumb remains, that the bigger the sensor the better as it allows more light in the camera. But cameras with back-illuminated sensors perform even better.

Also, put into consideration that cameras with a smaller pixel count use larger individual pixels making them better for capturing more details under low light scenes.

Also, you can find an APS-C camera that can perfectly shoot under low light conditions only that you’ll have to consider the most important features in a camera.

APS-C cameras are more portable since they are lighter and small in size making them ideal for traveling. Here are some other qualities to consider when choosing a camera for low-light photography.

High ISO capabilities

A camera with a bigger ISO range functions better in a dimly lit scene as it enables you to shoot under high ISOs with the minimal grain on your image. Modern cameras minimize grain incredibly even at the highest range.


The lens you choose determines the amount of light that can be let in a camera based on the maximum aperture.

Cameras with the interchangeable lens are the best since they have a wide aperture of f/1.4 to f/2.8. Shooting under low lights means slower shutter speeds and you can use a tripod to reduce camera shake.

Image Stabilization

Modern mirrorless cameras have in-body image stabilization which helps in keeping smooth video footage and allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and still end up with sharp images.

While some lenses may come with stabilization on the led, stabilization on the camera is much better. However, both stabilizations will still work together to give you the sharpest images.

Remote Control Apps

Shooting landscape scenes can trigger a camera shake even when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Modern cameras allow you to control them right from your smartphone using remote control apps giving you a smooth shoot under low light conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best exposure for low light?

Choose a wider aperture since the wider the aperture the more the light gets in through the camera’s lens which makes your images more exposed.

How does low light affect a photo?

Under low light conditions, you may have set a higher level of ISO since the sensor is less sensitive. Hence, the camera image processor amplifies the digital signal to change how the sensor reacts and bring out details in the object that would have hardly been recorded.

How do you prevent grain in low-light photography?

One of the best techniques to reduce grain in low light photography is using large-aperture lenses and large aperture.

Final Words

With all these low-light photography ideas, you are equipped enough to shoot even in the darkest scenes.

Practice more under dimly lit scenes to improve your skills and for perfection. You have all that it takes to become the best low-light photographer.