Mastering Low Light Photography

Low light photography is one of the most challenging aspects of photography. Not only do we struggle to find the right setting, but it can be hard to compose a shot accurately when the subject is moving. Once the subject has started moving, that’s when we need the most knowledge on this subject.

Let’s take a look at how low light photography can transform from a disappointing experience into a delighted one.

Low light photography tip number 1
Always study your lighting first, before you begin adjusting the settings. As light is everything, it is important to first look at the light around you. How much light do you have? What tone or hue is the light? Does the light change in intensity or colour, such as a Ferris wheel against a night sky?

Low light photography tip number 2
If you can’t use flash, then look at other ways you can increase more light into the sensor. ISO is a great way to get more light onto the sensor without using flash. Many times I’ve been hired to photograph music bands at night, with nothing but stage light. It’s a very hard situation to be in, especially if there is soft music and light used to reflect the mood and atmosphere. The lighting crew or stage manager will often turn the lights down to enhance the mood. Unfortunately for photographers, we struggle to master low light photography when this occurs.

Low light photography tip number 3
Use a fast lens. A fast lens means that you are able to get a fast shutter speed. And a fast shutter speed means you can widen the aperture to let the light in. It’s a funny thing to refer to a lens by use of the shutter speed. I always thought it might be more suited call it a wide aperture lens. It might make a bit more sense, but for the purposes of your education, we’ll stick to the official title.

A fast lens is everything in low light photography. A lens that may widen to F1.8 is considered a fast lens. A lens such as this is ideal for low light photography such as the example I gave you because you can capture the stage lighting, and be able to use a relatively good, suitable shutter. With a fast lens in low light photography, you don’t always have to increase the iso. You can keep it at a medium range.

You can see that low light photography is a very important aspect of photography. Low light photography does include sunsets and city night shots too. Most photography involves low light of some kind benefit from a fast lens or a high iso. Then, once mastered, low light photography can give you may year’s of happiness in your shooting.


About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (17)

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  1. Lucy says:

    Amy you spell color wrong, there is no “u” in color.

    • Hi Lucy,

      No. I didn’t spell colour wrong, because I am not an American, I am an Australian. Where I come from, there is a “u” in colour.


      • Mark says:

        Proper english colour is spelled colour… simple…

        who cares anyway if you can read it and understand it, then let it be universal….

        i had to get my bit in, i hate grammer police..

        (i don’t really hate them, more laugh at them, hate is so strong in this crazy world)

    • karen says:

      really Lucy all you get out of the article is you spelled colour wrong???? petty don’t you think

    • Sam Austin says:

      Damn Yanks!

      They still think in gallons and inches.

      They are the ones who can’t spell honour, valour, even with spellcheck…

      A proud Canuck ….

      PS our beer has far superior flavour…

      • Hi Sam! Love your country, two of our closest friends are Canucks. They get our subtle sense of humour.

        • Sam Austin says:

          Hi Admin: Oddly enough 2 (or more) of my closest friends are Canucks! PS Love your country as well. Lifelong dream of visiting one day. Sigh! If only it was next door like our American friends. Literally I live just a few minutes from the US border and I love the American folks. They are eager to help when I was in trouble (drove transport all across US and Canada).

          But the issue here was low light photography and I’m still coming to grips with my new Canon EOS T3i ( A 60d I think you call down under, or a KISS?) Anyways After many years of successful very long exposure times (several minutes) all done automatically with my old Fuji S9100, I failed dismally with Canon. First, I found out that lacking a shutter release socket, I’ll need to resort to the self-time or buy an electronic remote or cable. Secondly the autofocus went haywire looking though the dark nite (US spelling) sky so I had to of course set the lens to MF. Now the biggest shock of all, my brand new Canon doesn’t fare any better tahn any of my many analog cameras concerning auto shutter spped and can only count out a mere 30 seconds!. I started to tremble thinking I boughta useless camera until I breathed some relief and found the BULB setting!

          So I guess I had answered my own question. The Canon Eos T3i is just a dumb ol’ kit when it comes to low-light. And I’m thankful for it … at least i understand what to do. Now all I need is to find a depth-of-field table for that 18-55 IS lens (not bad, but more plastic than a Tupperware party)

          Any ideas where I could find a depth-of-field table for this lens? I have my handy mini pocketbook Kodak Photo guide that I bought 40 years ago. It has all sorts of info like guessing exposure by bracketing, colur filters, gray card, etc..

          Oh yes, forgot to mention that I would also manully set ISO to a reasonable value 200-400 for those moonlight shots, tripod of course and a can of bug repellent.

          Sam Austin (a former trucker, photographer and a fair musician who loves to play Waltzin Matilda)

          • Hiya Sam,

            The best thing to do, if you are looking for gear, is to go to the manufactures website. Then, once you have done that, come back to me and I’ll show you how to use it.


  2. Daniel Yemi says:

    amy I use small lens camera for now and lightining is my major problem. hwo can I manage it. I shot a photograph yesterday and it wasn’t sharp. tell what to do and if I have to buy a new camera, what type is best?

    • Daniel, thanks for your comment. The best thing I can do is refer you to my ebooks, they’ll teach you how to master lighting, get stunning photos in all sorts of good and bad lighting conditions. I’ve got 9 ebooks in total and bundled them up into an easy-to-afford package. Go to my website and check it out. Email me anytime.

  3. karan says:

    we are not here to talk about the spell of colour ,,,,we are here to read about photography sply the low light ,,,soo stop this nonsense,,,and any one here plz tell me something more about that

  4. jack says:

    wow…you explaint it deeply…. informative content.. this is another tutorial about low light photography

    there a picture there so its visually easy to understand

  5. Mike says:

    Hi Amy

    I live in Alaska and I have a Canon T1i. I love the camera and it takes great photos as far as I am concerned but I feel that I am not using the camera to its full potential and getting the clearest and crisp pictures that I know I can with it. I am also going to be shooting many many pics of the northern lights and have went out and gotten the remote and tripod for shooting them. Do you have some suggestions for me?
    I am looking into possibly getting some of my work published and need some pointers.
    Thank you.

    • Dear Mike,

      Thank you for your question. What a wonderful place to live for doing photography. I hear Alaska is a terrific scenic environment. When you say that you are not using your camera to its” full potential” do you mean that you are having difficulty with the settings? Or do you mean that you are unsure about how to use the camera in general?
      I think a tripod and a Remote shutter release cable are great places to start. However you can go one further. I would encourage you to think about using a prime lens. Prime lenses are fantastic for things like landscape and wide angle photography.

      In case you are unfamiliar with what prime lens actually means, it means a fixed focal length. In a nutshell a prime lens means you can’t zoom. It stays in one position. The up side to this is that prime lenses tend to be a lot sharper than zoom lenses. Canon have a fantastic 1.8 mm prime lens that I have used before with absolute joy! It is so sharp and crystal clear that I think anyone using this lens could take great photos.

      I would encourage you to look at a variety of different lenses that have fixed focal length. You can get them at different apertures as well, not just 1.8. The fastest lens I have ever used with Canon is 1.2 mm. That was unbelievable! I could shoot in near-to-darkness and still get pretty clear images.

      I would be very happy to critique any of your photos if you need me to. Just send me an e-mail and I’ll be more than happy to do it.


  6. Mike says:

    and if you could please shoot me an email sometime thank you.

  7. Sharon says:

    you are just extremely excellent. I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is actually a tremendous web site.

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