Tips on Low-Light Indoor Photography


Daylight is a photographer's best friend. However, in indoor situations or low-light night events, natural light is limited. You can alter a variety of many camera settings to help increase your camera's ability to shoot in low-light situations, and you can also position yourself and your camera in ways that optimize the available light. If it comes down to it, manipulated flash can be an option.

Bump up the ISO

  • ISO is a film-speed measurement system; even a digital camera that doesn't use film has an ISO setting. The rule about film speed is that the faster the speed (or the higher the ISO number) the less light is necessary. A faster ISO will also let you capture movement better with less blur. However, although increasing film speed has advantages in low-light situations, these are counterbalanced by the increase in grain. Grain, sometimes referred to as "noise," is the visual appearance of small textural dots on an image. However, in the case of capturing an image in low light, most photographs accept grain as a preferable trade-off for an underexposed photograph.

Adjust the Aperture

  • The aperture is the camera's equivalent to your own eye's iris. The camera aperture regulates how much light enters the camera by expanding or retracting the aperture opening: The greater the opening, the more light is let in. In low-light situations, opening the aperture as wide as possible (that is, setting it to the lowest f-stop number) allows as much light as possible to enter the camera while not completely sacrificing the shutter speed. (Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open to expose the sensor to the light; the slower the shutter speed, the more light is allowed in.) However, a slower shutter speed also increases the possibility for blur due to movement. Opening the aperture as wide as possible allows for a faster shutter speed while also allowing for more light.

Using Flash

  • If all else fails, use your camera's flash component or an attachable flash when you're shooting indoors in low light. Flash lighting usually produces an undesirable effect in most photographs. However, if you find that flash is necessary, use a flash diffuser or flash cover to help soften the bright light. You can purchase flash diffusers and covers at photography equipment and supply stores. You can also make your own flash diffuser out of any white plastic, foam or thick matte material that will surround the flash and diffuse its light.

Steady the Camera

  • In most low-light situations, shooting at a slow shutter speed is unavoidable even with a high ISO and low f-stop. To offset a slow shutter speed, try using a tripod to steady the camera and eliminate additional movement you inadvertently cause when you hold the camera. (Even your pulse can cause enough movement to affect a photograph.) If a tripod isn't available, steady yourself against a wall or prop your arm on a table or chair. Anything you can do to increase the balance of your camera will help create sharpness and prevent blur.

Keep It RAW

  • If your digital camera supports RAW mode, Shooting in RAW rather than JPEG will allow for greater post-production manipulation of your images. That is, shooting in RAW will let you fix lighting problems with a photo-editing program more easily than you can if you shoot in a condensed format such as JPEG.

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