How to Shoot Low Light


Low light photography includes taking pictures in shaded areas during the day as well as shooting in the dark. While it may be difficult to take clear, focused pictures when you cant see much, there are a few things you can try with a DSLR or phone camera to make your photos turn out. Start by manually changing the settings on your camera so you get better exposure. If the pictures still dont turn out, try looking for special equipment to help your photos look clearer. When you take the pictures, be sure to get close to your subject and keep the camera steady. With some minor adjustments, your photographs will turn out great!


[Edit]Adjusting Your Settings

  1. Shoot in RAW format to help make images brighter when youre editing. Go into your cameras menu and look for the file format youre shooting in. Select the RAW option, which takes the picture without any quality degradation. When you take photos in RAW format, they may look flat at first, but you will be able to accentuate different tones and colors when you load them into editing software.[1]
    Shoot Low Light Step 1.jpg
    • You can usually only open RAW photos in editing software, but you will be able to make adjustments to color before exporting them to a different file format.
    • If you have a large memory card, you may set your camera to shoot in RAW and JPEG format so you can share the photos immediately if you want.
    • Most phones dont shoot in RAW format.
  2. Try the HDR camera mode if youre shooting from your phone. The high-dynamic range (HDR) setting takes multiple photos and combines them to get the truest colors and most details from your image. Open the camera app on your phone and look for the HDR switch near the top or bottom of your screen. Make sure its turned on before you start taking your photos, or else you wont notice a difference in the images.[2]
    Shoot Low Light Step 2.jpg
    • Many phones save an HDR and a non-HDR version of your photos so you can see the difference right away.
    • HDR photos will look blurry if you move or shift your phone while taking the picture.
  3. Set the lowest f-stop setting to increase the aperture size. Open your cameras menu and look for the section labeled f-stop or aperture. Look for the lowest number listed on the menu and select it with the OK button on your camera. Usually, the lowest setting will be somewhere between f/1.8f/3.5, but it will depend on the size of the lens youre using.[3]
    Shoot Low Light Step 3.jpg
    • The f-stop adjusts how much light goes through your camera lens, which will make your photos look brighter.
    • Reducing the f-stop will make things that further away look blurry. Take a few test pictures first so you know where the camera starts to lose focus.
  4. Use shutter speed matching the lens size to prevent blurry photos. Look at the lens youre using and check the focal length listed in millimeters. Open the camera settings and locate the section that lists a fraction or is labeled Shutter speed. Look for the fraction that has a denominator thats about the same as the lenss focal length.[4]
    Shoot Low Light Step 4.jpg
    • For example, if youre using a 30 mm focal length, use the 1/30 shutter speed to take your photos.
    • The shutter speed controls how fast the camera takes the picture and is listed as fractions of a second.
    • If you set the shutter speed any faster, the image may look too dark.
    • If you have a tripod and youre shooting stationary subject matter, you can use the longest shutter speed to let the most light into the sensor. However, if your subject is moving, they will look blurry with a longer shutter speed.
  5. Adjust the white balance settings to get natural-looking colors. Look for the white balance setting in the camera menu, which is usually listed as a number followed by the letter K. If youre shooting outside in a shaded area, try to keep the white balance between 6,4008,000 K. For indoor or night shoots, opt for a setting between 2,5005,000 K instead. Take a few test pictures to see if colors look natural and continue making adjustments as you need.[5]
    Shoot Low Light Step 5.jpg
    • White balance makes colors look more realistic based on the light temperature of the area youre shooting.
    • Use a light meter to find the correct color temperature of where youre shooting if you dont want to experiment with multiple settings.
    • If youre shooting in RAW format, you can also adjust the white balance in editing software so you dont have to worry about it before you take pictures.
  6. Increase your ISO setting to get more exposure. Look for the menu labeled ISO in the camera menu and click on it to access the options. Try turning the ISO up by 1 setting at a time before taking a test image to see how it affects the picture quality. Use the lowest ISO setting that allows you to see your subject matter without the image looking too grainy.[6]
    Shoot Low Light Step 6.jpg
    • The ISO digitally brightens your image when you take the picture, but it may make the picture look grainy if you use too high of a setting.
    • Avoid using a setting higher than 1,600 since your photos will have a lot of digital noise that you wont be able to get rid of while youre editing.

[Edit]Using Camera Equipment

  1. Get a prime lens instead of a zoom. A prime lens has a wider aperture that allows more light to go through the lens, so your images will appear brighter. Opt for a lens that has an aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 so it captures the most light. Make sure the lens you buy fits the brand and model for your camera since some lenses may not be compatible. Secure the lens to your camera and use it when you take low light photographs.[7]
    Shoot Low Light Step 7.jpg
    • You can buy prime lenses online or from specialty photography stores.
  2. Put the camera on a tripod if you want to take long-exposure shots. Screw the camera onto the tripod shoe, which is a small rectangular piece that attaches to the top of the tripod. Place the tripod on a flat, sturdy surface so it doesnt tip over when youre ready to set up your shot. After putting the camera on a tripod, you can set a longer shutter speed longer to allow more light to enter the lens.[8]
    Shoot Low Light Step 8.jpg
    • Moving objects will look blurry when you shoot them with a long shutter speed.
    • If you want something more portable, look for a monopod that only has 1 leg. You will have to hold the monopod steady while youre using it.
  3. Set up lights near your subject if youre able to. Get stand or clip lights that you can position near your subject to help illuminate them better so you dont have to make as many adjustments to your camera. Set the lights at a 45-degree angle to your subject so the light doesnt look as harsh, and try varying their distance from the subject to see how it changes. If you want to make the subject brighter, place the lights closer to your subject. For a darker composition, set the lights further away.[9]
    Shoot Low Light Step 9.jpg
    • You can use regular lamps if you arent able to afford photography lights.
    • Try positioning lights behind or to the side of your subject to make them look more dramatic.
  4. Use a remote shutter so the camera doesnt shake. Plug the remote shutter into the port on the back or side of the camera. Adjust all the camera settings first and make sure the subject youre shooting is in focus. Dont touch the shutter button on top of the camera, but instead click the remote shutter to take the picture. That way, you dont accidentally bump or shift the camera and make the photo blurry.[10]
    Shoot Low Light Step 10.jpg
    • You can buy remote shutters online or from photography stores.
    • Remote shutters work best if youre using a tripod.
    • If you dont have a remote shutter, you can also use the built-in timer on the camera so you dont have to press the button.
  5. Turn on the camera flash if you dont have any other options. You can either use the built-in flash or get an after-market flash kit made for your camera. Look for the flash setting on your camera, which is usually marked with an arrow shaped like a lightning bolt. Hold the shutter button down completely when you take the picture so the flash goes off as your camera captures the image.[11]
    Shoot Low Light Step 11.jpg
    • Camera flash can cause red-eye or overexpose details, making them more difficult to see.
    • If your camera flash makes the light too harsh, try holding a diffuser or a piece of tissue paper in front of it to make the light look softer.
    • Make sure camera flash is allowed wherever youre shooting before using it.

[Edit]Taking the Pictures

  1. Position the subject near a light source if youre able to. Look for light sources around the area where youre shooting and take a few test photos with your subject near them. If you want to make your photo look more moody, keep the lights behind or to the side of your subject to add accents. If you want to see the subject clearly, keep the light behind the camera so it illuminates them easily. That way, you wont have to adjust many settings to make the picture visible.[12]
    Shoot Low Light Step 12.jpg
    • Experiment with different light sources since you may like how they change the composition and look of your photos.
  2. Light your subject while you focus the camera if its too dark. Avoid manually focusing your camera since it can be difficult to tell if everything looks crisp. With the auto-focus feature turned on, shine a light at the subject youre shooting and let the camera adjust until it looks clear on the digital screen. Once you have everything in focus, turn off the flashlight before taking the picture.[13]
    Shoot Low Light Step 13.jpg
    • You dont need to use a flashlight if your camera already focuses on your subject.
  3. Get closer to the subject rather than zooming in. Zooming can cause the image to lose quality and create digital noise, so keep your lens as zoomed out as possible. If you have a hard time capturing your subject, take a few steps closer to them and try taking the photo again. Get close enough where you can clearly see them in the photograph, and readjust the settings if you need to.[14]
    Shoot Low Light Step 14.jpg
    • You can always crop the photo or make it smaller while youre editing.
  4. Brace the camera against something sturdy if you arent using a tripod. Keep your arms as close to your body as you can while you take the picture so the camera doesnt sway as much. If the picture still turns out blurry, try leaning against a pole, tree, or another sturdy object to keep the camera level. Try to take pictures after you exhale so the camera doesnt move while youre breathing.[15]
    Shoot Low Light Step 15.jpg


  • Read the instruction manual for your camera thoroughly so you know where to locate all of the settings.
  • If youre shooting pictures or video on your phone, look for a third-party camera app since they usually let you access more features and controls.


  • Dont use camera flash if the location youre shooting forbids it, such as a museum or concert.



Older Post Newer Post