Photography Tips (Main Image)

Cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D3X have completely changed the playing field when it comes to low light photography. In the earlier days photographers would have no way to change the ASA (ISO as it was called in those days) once they had loaded a film in their cameras. They were pretty much stuck with the film sensitivity until they changed it. That had a limiting effect on their creativity and it ensured that they were careful about their selection of film before heading out.

These days, digital photographers have a much easier time. They could change the ISO (light sensitivity of the sensor) just with the flick of a button. Cameras like the D800 comes with the added advantage of a greater dynamic range, allowing photographers to compose and make images that are closer to what they see with their naked eyes.

Yet, there are certain time-tested and useful tips that you need to know in order to nail good exposures in low light conditions. These are, in no way, alternatives to the ability of your camera to shoot in low light. Rather, these are complimentary to a high ISO capability.

Know your subject

Not all low light situations require the same camera settings. The most important thing to consider before making the exposure is your subject and to set your camera accordingly. E.g., if the scene is backlit expose for the subject while slightly underexposing the shot and use spot meter. If the background is interesting slightly underexposing the scene will not blow out the highlights because of the difference in illumination between the background and the subject. If you need a bit more exposure that can be added back when you post process the images.

If you are trying to photograph the Milk Way, you will need to use a high ISO number coupled with the fastest aperture that your lens permits to collect the maximum amount of light in a short period of time.

Use a Tripod

A tripod is an essential tool when shooting in low light. This is because in low light conditions you invariably need to use a slightly longer shutter speed. Carbon-fiber tripods are sturdy and yet lightweight and they are easier to transport, especially if you mostly shoot outdoors. Attempting to hand-hold an exposure with long shutter speed will induce image blur. Using a tripod gives you the leverage to use a long shutter speed without having to tinker with the ISO number. When using a tripod, shut-off the image stabilization feature of your lens / camera, else it will confront and try to stabilize a non-existing camera shake.

Use the Camera timer / shutter delay option

Camera Timer

All DSLR cameras have this feature and so does most Point & Shoots. Using shutter delay / camera timer function is useful when you are using a DSLR. This eradicates any camera shake if you are manually pressing the shutter release. The alternate option would be to use a remote trigger / cable release. You could also use the mirror lock-up feature. However, on the downside, you lose the phase detection auto-focusing feature on your camera.

Use the widest aperture your lens can shoot in

ISO, shutter speed and aperture value have a mutual relationship that we have learnt in the article on exposure triangle. Increasing the ISO has the same effect as using a larger aperture and or slower shutter speed. But at higher ISO little white or dark specs appears. This is the digital equivalent of noise that we are so accustomed to seeing in low light images shot with film.
As a matter of fact noise is omnipresent in all images where signals are converted into digital form and recorded onto the memory cards. In low conditions the quantity of noise simply overshadows the data that makes up the image. This happens because the camera is inherently trying to amplify the available light signal and in the process noise is also amplified.

Shoot in RAW

When in doubt regarding the correct exposure settings, shoot in Raw and underexpose the scene by about 1/3 to a full-stop. In fact when shooting landscapes and other scenes where you are invariably going to find it difficult to expose properly, because of the wide difference in illumination across the frame, RAW gives you the best opportunity to collect as much information that the sensor collects and retain that for post-processing.

If you shoot in JPEG your images are immediately processed from RAW to a compressed file and you lose the ability to tweak them later on without losing data. Remember, JPEG is not a loss-less format, RAW is. JPEG contains only about 8 bits of information where as RAW has 12 to 14 bits. Every time you open and edit a JPEG file you lose some amount of data. This does not happen with RAW.

RAW Image Recoverd Shoot

View more examples

If you use a higher ISO number RAW shooting enables you to eliminate that noise in post-processing using photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. You can alternatively choose not to post-process your images yourself and outsource the task to one of the experienced photo editing professionals on Phowd.

With RAW you are able to change the exposure, retrieve details from blown out highlights and shadows, sharpen the image, reduce noise, eliminate banding as well as use a specific color space as per your requirement. If you need to print the images RAW stores the highest amount of information which means better print quality when processed compared to camera created JPEGs.

Ben Novoselsky

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at Phowd.com
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

You may also like

Rajib Mukherjee January 19, 2015

Light Painting in Photography: An Introduction

Light painting is a very interesting technique in photography that predominantly uses artificial ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 7, 2014

Understanding the Basics of a Good Exposure

Exposure is the key concept that governs all forms of photography where light in some form or the ...

Ben Novoselsky August 12, 2016

About Flash Sync Speed Limitations and How to Work Around It

We often hear about flash sync speed and how we normally cannot use a flash to sync at extremely ...

Ben Novoselsky May 11, 2015

Understanding Lens Vignetting

A technical term that you are likely to hear a lot is lens vignetting. Lens vignetting (sometimes ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 19, 2016

Choosing the Best Travel Photography Lens

A lot of amateur photographers find it difficult to zero in on the best travel photography lens for ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 6, 2016

Basic Real Estate Photo Tips

The following real estate photo tips will help you to get started as a professional photographer. ...

Ben Novoselsky July 28, 2016

Why Adjusting White Balance Can Lead to a Better Image

One of the challenges faced by photographers on a daily basis is adjusting white balance of their ...

Ben Novoselsky August 9, 2016

How to Use Backlighting to Isolate Your Subject

I love shooting with backlighting. Backlighting is one of those acquired tastes in photography that ...

Ben Novoselsky December 23, 2015

Outdoor Photography Beyond the Golden Hour

Landscape photographers love shooting during the golden hour of the day. They love the warm mushy ...

Ben Novoselsky August 21, 2014

Tips for Shooting Fireworks Photos

Every Independence Day, or even Memorial or Labor Day, it’s common — a given, even — to see ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 8, 2015

Great Images Come From Great Underlying Stories

I am a photographer who loves making photos of people and places. So every now and then I pack my ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 26, 2014

Don’t copy the masters’ style blindly, create your own style

Growing up as photographers one of the biggest source of guidance are the works created by already ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 22, 2015

What is Focus Stacking?

Landscape photographers are obsessed with the idea of sharp images. They use a multitude of methods ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 3, 2016

Getting Started in Low Light Photography

Introducing Low Light Photography
For those of you who primarily shoot with a smartphone or even a ...

Ben Novoselsky April 25, 2016

How do you tweak the Sunny 16 Rule in Photography?

You are out with your family on a bright sunlit day. The kind of day on which photographers prefer ...

Ben Novoselsky January 7, 2015

How editing your stock photography can lead to more sales

Before you can start selling your images on microstock websites you ought to know a few things ...

Ben Novoselsky September 17, 2015

About focal length and background distortion

You may have heard professionals talking about the right focal length and how choosing anything ...

Ben Novoselsky January 7, 2016

Product Photography Tips to Get Started

Apart from portraiture, product photography is one of those few genres which can provide a steady ...

Rajib Mukherjee December 21, 2015

Some creative uses of Depth of Field

The main shooting mode dial on your camera has the letter(s) A or Av (depending on the camera ...

Ben Novoselsky July 18, 2016

How to Work with Leading Lines in Your Photography

Leading lines are one of the most important aspects of photography. They have the power to draw a ...

Ben Novoselsky April 20, 2015

Low angle photography tips

One of the least used perspectives in photography is the low angle. I bet every photographer thinks ...

Ben Novoselsky May 2, 2016

How Does Hyperfocal Distance Affect Your Images?

Landscape photographers often use the terms focusing distance and hyperfocal distance in relation ...

Rajib Mukherjee May 1, 2015

Five features on your DSLR camera that you probably never use

Your camera comes with three handy metering systems. If you are using a Canon system camera yours ...

Ben Novoselsky October 6, 2016

Some Basic Food Photography Tips

If you are a genuine foodie it would be a natural transgression to want to shoot images of the ...

Rajib Mukherjee February 25, 2015

How to Make Your Backgrounds Blurred

Sometimes you may need to blur out the background of your images. Let’s say you are shooting ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 31, 2015

How to use the Panning mode in photography

Panning is the technique of going with the flow of a moving subject to make images. The movement of ...

Rajib Mukherjee November 26, 2015

Photographing a landmark at night

Often, when traveling through a foreign land we find ourselves in front of an iconic building or ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 9, 2016

Advantage Of Shooting Film In The Digital Age

Old But Not Obsolete
The dawn of digital sensor also brought in the demise of film. In many ways ...

Rajib Mukherjee July 23, 2015

Understanding ISO, the least understood of the three exposure parameters

If you look at the main aspects that govern exposure, you would obviously realize that there are ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 5, 2016

Five Ways You Can Use An External Flash In Outdoor Shooting

This article is meant for photographers who want to learn how to use an external flash in outdoor ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 10, 2014

An introduction to creating timelapse videos

Timelapse videos have become somewhat clichéd these days with an increasing number of photographers ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 17, 2016

How to Bounce an On-camera External Flash to Produce Better Images

Having purchased your first external flash you must be super-excited. You must be experimenting ...

Ben Novoselsky September 12, 2014

The Basic Rules of Photography and Common Mistakes

Everyone, even professionals, makes mistakes, although their mistakes are rare and usually caused ...

Rajib Mukherjee March 3, 2017

A Beginner’s Guide to Shoot Environmental Portraits

As a genre, environmental portraits are a challenge of sorts for most photographers. It is because ...

Kelsey Fox June 29, 2014

6 Tips for Shooting in Harsh Light

Whether they dabble in photography or shoot with the pros, most photographers know that there is no ...

Ben Novoselsky August 19, 2016

Why You Should Invest in a Tripod

There are probably a hundred reasons why you should invest in a tripod. I am not going to detail ...

Rajib Mukherjee March 21, 2016

Lighting techniques for shooting in studio environment

A studio setup allows you to be creative in ways you could never ever manage without lights. There ...

Ben Novoselsky October 27, 2014

7 Silly Mistakes I Made as an Amateur Photographer

1. Leaving the lens cap on

Amateurs are guilty of making some of the most cardinal of mistakes. ...

Rajib Mukherjee March 22, 2016

How to Photograph Christmas Lights

Watching the Diwali lights come on one by one, at each house in our colony I couldn’t stop thinking ...

Rajib Mukherjee August 30, 2016

Introducing Canon Dual Pixel RAW Technology

Last week, the much awaited Canon 5D Mark IV made its debut. The rumor mills have been abuzz for ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 25, 2014

Photography inspiration: How to keep shooting images

As an amateur we see images taken by photographers like Eric Kim or Jeremy Cowart or Chase Jarvis ...

Ben Novoselsky November 13, 2015

Shooting Wide Panorama of Cities

Even with a wide angle lens you need to realize that there is no way that you can shoot a wide ...

Ben Novoselsky August 6, 2014

Auto Exposure Bracketing: Everything You Wanted to Know


Multiple camera shots with different expose combined in HDR photo
by sumitrodda


If you are just starting out in digital photography, you have probably never heard about auto exposure bracketing (AEB). If you are an enthusiast photographer, probably you have heard about this but never quite mastered the concept to use it with confidence. Regardless of your expertise in digital photography this article can help you master an extremely important feature of your DSLR, i.e.; auto exposure bracketing (AEB).

Читать дальше...

Rajib Mukherjee August 6, 2016

Essential Tips to Improve your Photography

If you have recently migrated from a compact point & shoot to a DSLR you no doubt will be very ...

Rajib Mukherjee April 23, 2015

Benefits of joining a photography class

Digital photography is a vast field of specialized knowledge. Well, even if not many ...

Rajib Mukherjee October 6, 2014

Everyday photography ideas

I wrote a detailed article on the topic of photographic inspiration recently. The aim was to keep ...

Ben Novoselsky April 6, 2017

Correct Framing in Portrait Photography

Framing is an integral part of the whole process of image making. Be it landscapes, or portraits or ...

Ben Novoselsky March 25, 2015

The Use of Diagonal Lines in Photography Composition

We often read about the creative uses of lines in photography. The horizon line is one such oft ...

Rajib Mukherjee September 11, 2016

An Introduction to Hyper-lapse

What is a Hyper-lapse?
Hyper-lapse is one of those cool photography techniques which uses a ...

Ben Novoselsky July 14, 2015

Five Natural Light Shooting Tips

You may have heard, nature and natural light photographers often say this – you must head out at ...

Kelsey Fox December 18, 2014

How Properly Holding Your Camera Can Lead to Better Photos

The way you hold your camera is almost as important as choosing the right kind of camera to shoot ...

Popular posts

Rajib Mukherjee 1210

7 Tips to Shooting Great Portrait Photographs

Portrait photography is like a bread and butter thing for professional photographers. No matter ...

Kelsey Fox 808

8 Unique Ideas for Wedding Photos

A new spouse, a new last name, and photos - the three must-have takeaways of any wedding. Though ...

Rajib Mukherjee 633

How to Get Started in Wedding Photography – Part 2

Compositions are everything in wedding photography; at least when you are not shooting candid ...

Ben Novoselsky 618

5 Useful Tips for Making Great Images in Low Light

Cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D3X have completely changed the playing field when ...

Ben Novoselsky 618

Portrait Photography Lighting Tips

Portrait photography, especially when we talk about studio portrait photography, as a genre, is ...

Kelsey Fox 618

Low Light and the Wildlife Photographer: How to Take a Photo an Editor Can Work With

Wildlife photographers are faced with a unique set of challenges. Not only do they often have to ...

Ben Novoselsky 618

4 Methods to Get White Balance of Your Images Correct

Image before white balance correction

Are you plagued with the problem of strange color casts ...

Savannah Eaddy 618

Tutorial: How to Smooth Skin in Photoshop

In this tutorial I will show you how to use different filters in photoshop to smooth out skin and ...

Ben Novoselsky 618

The Use of Diagonal Lines in Photography Composition

We often read about the creative uses of lines in photography. The horizon line is one such oft ...