How to Shoot in Low Light

I love light and airy images.

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Sometimes the weather doesn’t provide glorious sunlight like the one above.  Womp womp.  (That’s the sound of the wrong answer in those old game shows – haha!)

Maybe it’s foggy with no sun.

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Or it’s evening.

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Sometimes my shoot is indoors, and most venues don’t have glass ceilings like this one.

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In fact, some places will be dark, like really dark.  Think small apartment in the city with one window.

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Or an indoor market packed with people on a rainy day.

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Or in a dark corridor of gum.  Okay, that’s just gross.

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I took most of these example photos during my trip to Seattle a few months ago.  This is how the photography tip came to mind…

We went inside Chihuly, an art museum of glass installations, and the only lights were ones carefully positioned towards the artwork — so it was very dark.

I watched visitors photograph the gorgeous delicate glass…with flash.  They’d look at their photo at the back of their cameras with disapproval and take the same shot again.  I wished I could’ve said something, but it wasn’t my place.  So I closed my mouth and popped my eyeballs back into head, and decided to put this tip together instead.  LOL

This tip is simple and can even help phone camera photos!

*A SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON*

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EXPLANATION

Image A = AUTOMATIC.  In low light, your camera will detect it is dark, so when it is in Auto, it will want to brighten the image to what it thinks the exposure should be on a regularly lit day.  By doing so, it can trigger the flash or reduce the sharpness of your photo by slowing down your shutter to attempt to let in more light.  The result = a photo I’d delete.

Image B = No flash and PARTIAL AUTO (ie, shutter-priority or aperture-priority).  I let my camera guide me to what it thought was “proper exposure” for the art installation without the use of flash.  The result was pretty good.  However, if I look closer at the image, I can see some detail of the glass was lost.

Image C = MANUAL, no flash, and slight UNDER-exposure.  To capture the most detail in the glass work and the true shade of the artwork’s color, I under-exposed the image by 1 or 2 stops.  The result is a more dramatic, striking image.

 

LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY TIP

Start by taking your camera off Auto, so you have more control of the settings.  [If you're using your phone, you can turn off your flash.]

When there is low light, consider underexposing your image to get your desired result.  You can do that by changing one of the elements in the exposure triangle — such as, decreasing your aperture (increasing your f/) or increasing your shutter speed.  If you want a refresher, here is an article I wrote many moons ago (with cool drawings from my daughter):  Understand Exposure in Under 10 Minutes.

[You can even do this on your phone!  When you have the image you want to photograph, using your iPhone, touch the screen, and then carefully move your finger in a downward motion on the screen to lower the exposure.  Other smart phones work similarly and also allow for some manual setting changes.]

 

Want more tips about light?  Here are a couple more:  Low Light+No Time and Editing with Different Light Sources.

If this tip helped even 1 person, I’d be thrilled!  xo, annie

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the tip about underexposing! I’m going to give that a try.

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