Monthly Archives: January 2014

5 Tips For Low Light Photography

Taking pictures with very little light is a challenging, yet rewarding endeavor. This is one aspect of photography that does take some planning and knowledge of your camera.

Practice and planning are key to success.
Light Years
(Justin Kern not only used planning and practice, he used some very advanced techniques to get this final image. It is not one that many novices can accomplish, but it is worthy of our goals. “Shoot for the stars,” and you will eventually be able to do this.)

Here are 5 tips that may help you get a better picture.

1. Use a tripod. This is actually not just a tip, it is essential for low-light photography. When you are using shutter speeds of a second or more, it is impossible to hold your camera steady to get a sharp picture.

Of course, you can use a solid surface such as a retaining wall or a rock as a substitute tripod, but you will be limiting the flexibility you get with a tripod in that you are able to move your tripod, whereas a wall is pretty permanent.

low-light photography - use a tripodFor the photo of Garret Lake above, I was on my way to work when I was stopped dead by this scene. I did not have my tripod, so I placed my Canon Rebel on a fence post to take this picture.

Set the mode dial to Manual2. Shoot in Manual Mode. I know this is not for the first time shooter, but it is yet another reason for practicing before the big event. (If your situation gives you time, this is an excellent time to practice.) Many times the camera will not interpret the light the way you see it.

3. Include a foreground element for interest. In my picture of Garrett Lake above, notice how the foreground foliage adds interest to the picture. In the photo below, the photographer used some usually unattractive discarded tires. Try this technique, it will produce some really interesting results. Now, not every item adds interest, so experimenting is highly recommended.
Magenta at Dusk — Under the Pier

4. Use a timer or shutter release button. If your picture uses a slow shutter speed (which it will using low-light), just pressing the shutter button can cause camera shake and ruin your image. The “no-frill” solution to this is setting your camera on a timer. My Canon Rebel has a 2-sec or a 10-sec setting. I use the 2-sec timer – it is very effective in eliminating camera shake.

Alternatively, you can purchase a remote shutter button. The one I use has a short cord, and it costs only a few bucks. Wireless shutter release buttons are more expensive, but they give the photographer more flexibility.

5. Check your settings. I include this tip in almost all of my posts about learning to be a better photographer, because I don’t think I’m alone when I say this.. I have lost many shots because I did not check my settings before shooting.

My most common mistakes include leaving the 10-sec timer on and having the wrong ISO selected. Just sayin’.. check ’em (the settings).

Here are a few pretty nice photos demonstrating low-light photography.
Bridge Over Some Water
Cagiva
Nikon 200mm Low Light Test shot
Music and Lights

Some pictures are from Flickr.com. Attribution given in that images are linked to the original photos.

Now, it’s time to grab your camera and start shooting!