I love shooting low light photography and I actually prefer it often. Low light lends itself so well to capturing raw emotion and human connection. Moody images that are full of shadows, beautiful grain and rich tones that I personally adore.
The medium can be daunting at first and there is a learning curve but once trained you’ll be able to work within those small pockets of light to achieve wondrous results.
Table to Contents
What is low light photography?
When first learning how to be a photographer you are on a desperate search for the most perfect, beautiful, soft lighting situautions.
But the reality is that you don’t always have perfect lighting and that is why embracing low light is going to be crucial for growth.
Low light photography is the ability to use any light you have to beautifully capture your subject.
If you’ve been avoiding low light, I urge you to consider giving it a try. I’ve learned to embrace it and I’m often overjoyed with some of the stunning outcomes that have resulted.
You may have a few questions about shooting with low light.
How Dramatic Natural Light Can Inspire Your Photography
What is the best ISO setting for low light photography?
This is a common question many photographers face. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as telling you the exact settings to use since each lighting situation is different and requires different settings. The best thing to keep in mind is making sure that your subject is properly exposed.
The biggest mistake photographers make with their camera settings for low light is not raising their ISO high enough. Many people are taught early on that raising your ISO increases the noise in the photo and therefore you shouldn’t raise it.
However, an underexposed photo will cause lots of noise in your photo as well. Use your ISO when needed, that is what it is there for.
What shutter speed is best for low light photography?
This question also depends on your subject. Are you shooting a still life shot, or a moving subject?
After setting your aperture and your ISO then you might also need to adjust your shutter speed.
Keep your shutter speed above 1/125. If you need to, raise your ISO but don’t go belown 1/125 or your photo will likely be blurry because of motion blur.
How do I Take Sharp Photos with Low Light?
To take a sharp photo using low light you have to make sure your are properly exposing your subject.
Using manual mode you will adjust your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed until your light meter is close to zero. This will make sure your subject is exposed correctly.
Lastly keep your shutter speed above 1/125 and don’t be afraid to raise your ISO.
Read a little more on How to Master Manual Mode for New Photographers
Top 5 Reasons to Embrace Low Light Photography
1. Low Light Creates Mood
Low light and mood go together like pancakes and syrup. I like to use side lighting to my advantage and even under expose slightly to push that moodiness even further. Don’t be afraid to up your ISO when shooting indoors.
Read more: 5 Ways to Enhance Mood and Atmosphere
2. Embrace the Grain
Once I started embracing a little grain, the world of low light photography unlocked and enabled so much more creative freedom. Shooting in lower light will naturally add some grain to the final result. I encourage you to welcome it with open arms!
When I first began in photography, most everything I read suggested keeping your ISO as low as possible to reduce all grain.
Fast forward to today and I shoot in the style that speaks to me. I absolutely love grain in my black and white images and will sometimes even add a bit more in post processing.
There is a rawness to images that contain some grain that I gravitate towards and the end result will often add emphasis to connection between my subjects.
3. Add Variety to Your Images
Learning to work in low light will dramatically open up your shooting availability.
This holds especially true if you live in the northern regions where it begins getting dark at 4:30pm this time of year! What a boon it is to no longer be at the mercy of perfect lighting conditions.
Even when the conditions seems untenable I’ll take a second look to seek out those little pockets of light. One ray breaking in through the curtains can produce the most beautiful and subtle effect.
See more about how to shoot using indoor natural light.
4. Opportunity to Learn
Learning to see light and then capture it in a beautiful way is a vital skill for a photographer. Pushing myself to “see” light and work within varied light conditions helped develop my proficiency as a photographer quite rapidly.
If you’re struggling with shooting in lower light conditions, I implore you to try some new techniques and continue practicing. Study the light in a familiar environment like your home and shoot as much as possible while comparing your results. It takes practice, but the juice is worth the squeeze!
5. Creative Freedom
Learning to shoot in low light conditions really helped me unlock my creative freedom and ultimately land on the style that I adore the most. Lower light can be used to convey mood and add levels of depth to your work.
Another favorite low light photography opportunity is to shoot sunset silhouettes. I love getting to be creative with the light that you have whatever it looks like.
Read more: 9 Ways to Find Your Creative Confidence
Have you tried shooting low light photography yet? If you’re struggling to put your personal creative mark on your images, low light photography may be worth the try!
Discover More Low Light Photography Tips:
–Low Light Photography Tips
–How to Take Amazing Photos in the Winter
–Shooting With Available Light
–Easy Steps to Create a Starburst Photography Effect Day or Night
This was such a wonderful post, Hollie!
I’m always afraid of shooting in low light especially indoors but got to learn few tricks and tips from Courtney and today from you through this post. I am super excited to try indoor photography this winter in low lights.
Thank you for the motivation.
this photo was fabulous. could you please tell me with what kind of lenz you took (f ) this photo?
This is an excellent post which has come at a great time. Since it’s been getting darker (English guy here) I spend my days looking at the camera on my desk gathering more dust by the day. I feel no inspiration to shoot with the low, miserable light.
Like you mention, I need to learn to embrace it. I have been collecting a few vintage “knick knacks” and should really try to photograph those in low light and push my boundaries a little.
On the image of the plant/herb in point 3, there is a lot of what looks like dust in the air. Was this natural or added in post? I really love the effect!
Your pictures are amazing. I love the artsy feel of them and the way your subjects are featured. The textures are rich and warm. Thank you for sharing your gift.
This tip is amazing. Tried it out and was wowed with what i can do with low light.
Your picture is awesome. As you mention, I need to learn to hug it. I have been collecting a few vintage knick-knacks and should in seek of fact attempt to photograph those in low fresh and shove my boundaries a tiny.
Globally Photo Editing Service Provider in Bangladesh
I love your work! You capture things so perfectly :) Have a great 2019!!
Low light photography is a true art. Well done!
Love the low light work. Just a bit of a shame my clients don’t always like it, would like to do more.
very nice..thank you for sharing.
Lighting limitations require slower shutter speeds. Through slower shutter speed it will become to capture unintentional blur. And also with the help of right equipment and techniques it becomes easy to capture the right images.
Such spectacular photographs are these. I thought that photography in low light would lead poor photograph, but no I was wrong after seeing this blog. I had realized that how wrong i was about this concept. The tips which you have mentioned on your blog in every particular situation are really helpful for anyone to capture amazing photograph in dim light.
Thanks for sharing this blog to all of us.