Low Light Photography Tutorial: Part 1

Do you know that shooting in low light conditions can result in beautiful photographs? However, it also presents lots of technical challenges to overcome as a photographer. Before heading into the tips for better results when shooting in low light conditions, let’s focus on its main issues.

The main issues with low light photography are as follows:

  • It might not be possible to use a shutter speed fast enough to hand hold your camera without creating camera shake.
  • If you use a high ISO, your photos can be very noisy.
  • Shooting at a wider aperture might not give you the depth-of-field you need to get enough of the subject in focus.
  • Your pictures might be underexposed and lack shadow precision.
  • There might be difficulty for your lens to focus in low light.

Low Light Photography Tutorial 2

However, working with a tripod can reduce some of these technical difficulties. There are situations where shooting handheld is usually a necessity, like street photography or in places where a tripod may be prohibited (as a restaurant or museum).

You know what?!!! …

There are ways to take control of your camera to ensure you get the most out of these challenging situations. Here are a few tips for better results when shooting in low light conditions:

  • Use a Prime Lens

Low Light Photography Tutorial

One cannot deny that zoom lenses are  quite convenient, but the choice of a prime over a zoom lens can ensure that your images will be much sharper.

Zoom lenses are made with extra glass elements that move in order to zoom. More elements within the lens causes lens diffraction, this is a term in optical physics that reduces the quality of an image. Lens diffraction is the reason a generic prime lens can often be sharper than a  zoom counterpart.

  • Use Shutter Priority

Low Light Photography Tutorial 1

Many professionals will tell you that the best way to get great photos is to shoot in Manual Mode. Sometimes this is not the case. In low light photography, shooting in shutter priority mode will help you take better control of your camera.  Shutter Priority Mode enables you to set the ISO and shutter speed while the camera will calculate the best aperture for the lighting conditions in which you are working. There is need for the shutter speed to be fast enough to prevent camera shake. Settings vary as this depends on focal length and the size of your camera’s sensor.

Some cameras handle high ISO settings better than others, but the vast majority of DSLRs (and mirrorless cameras) these days have good ISO potentials. At least good enough to give you a decent base file for post-processing. Photoshop and Lightroom can fix noise effectively.

However, you can find software programs that can fix noises effectively like Dfine from DxO’s Nik Collection.  This software measures selected areas of your image for noise and adjusts it automatically. It is also possible to take control and selectively increase and decrease noise reduction intensity and type in different parts of the image.

I advise doing an ISO test before beginning to shoot in low light to determine how far you can push it with your camera. Do a few image test through your post-processing program of choice and analyze the results. If there is  need to do a lot of noise reduction, the images might end up looking too artificial.

Be sure to check out the second part of my article on How to work around low lighting in digital photography for complete knowledge on taking excellent pictures in low light conditions.


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