Make better low light photos

Ballet Dancer


Low light tips – shot while the temperatures reach 109 degrees

There are 4 things you need to make great photos in low light, practice, practice, practice or get lucky… I’m going to give you a few tips to taking photos in low light, most of them you most likely already know. However, you will never take great low light photos unless you actually put yourself in position to have to take them.

With that said, let me give you a few things to practice:

Let’s start with you and me, it is so important that we learn to hold a camera steady, that we train ourselves to hold it steady. Are your feet about shoulder width apart? They should be, if they are together then you have less stability, think tripod (legs apart) verses monopod (legs together).

Next, how are you holding your camera? Are both hands holding the camera body? Try holding the body of the camera with one hand and supporting the lens with the other, this will make a huge difference!

Another favorite way for me to hold my camera is to use a method learned from Joe McNally, looks a little crazy and feels strange at first but it works!

Let’s move on to ISO, there is no reason anymore to be shooting in low light at ISO 200. Our cameras are now so good that when the lights go down even a little we can slip to ISO 800 and above without any lose of image quality. I’ll take a little grain over a blurry picture any day! I always encourage those in my workshops to go home and shoot a series of the same photo from their lowest to highest ISO setting and then tell me when your photos are too noisy to use. Don’t forget to not over think ISO, are you shooting billboards? I can right now shoot a photo at ISO 3600 and print it to 11 X 14 and will never hear, “that’s really noisy”…

A wide aperture is great and very helpful but remember with wide apertures come shallow depth of field! This why I mentioned ISO first. If you are shooting a single object or a couple of people are close to the same plane then by all means, open that lens wide! Otherwise, careful with the aperture being too wide because most of your photo will be out of focus…

Shutter speed is next on the list, yes you can slow your shutter to get amazing results, however, slow shutter speed can produce blurry photos. To avoid burry photos start back at tip number one, learn to hold your camera. Better yet, use a tripod! Don’t forget that just because it looks good on your camera’s LCD screen doesn’t mean it’s sharp.

Lastly, make sure you shoot in RAW. When you shoot in RAW your camera records a wide exposure range, when you capture in JPG your camera makes a decision on what it thinks the correct exposure is and throws away all that additional information that could help save a shot. Another way RAW helps is that it keeps your luminance channel separate (luminance determines the lightness and darkness of your image) and JPG compresses it into RGB.

So let’s go back to the beginning, most of what I’ve written is not new to you except that you will never learn things in photography by reading only, YOU MUST GO OUT AND PRACTICE!

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