Taking photos in poor light doesn’t just apply to taking photos at night. There are many situations where your eyes are able to adjust to lower light with ease, such as when you are inside a coffee shop or inside an apartment. However, a camera may have issues when trying to “see” what’s going on in a poorly lit room.
Taking photos in poor light is always hard, but using some simple tips, you can always find a way to take high quality photos even if the conditions are not so favorable.
Slowing down the shutter speed
If you understand how exposure works, you will be able to take better photos in all lighting conditions. A part of the exposure is the shutter speed. This is the period of time when the camera shutter stays open to take the image.
By having a faster shutter speed, you will heavily increase the chances of getting a sharper image. However this should only be used when you have good lightning conditions. When using a faster shutter speed its harder for light to reach the sensor.
However, in poor light conditions its best to have a slower shutter speed and adjust other exposure parameters, in order to make the image sharper.
Using a wider aperture
Another element of exposure is the aperture. In order to help your camera gather more light, you will need to open up the aperture of the lens to the widest value. If you are using a DSLR camera, most of the kit lenses will stop close to f/3.5.However, if you are doing a lot of poor light photography, you should consider getting a lens that comes with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or f/1.8.
If you are a newbie in photography, you should use the aperture-priority mode if your camera has it available. After that, select the smallest f-number your lens can reach.
HINT: Keep in mind that you don’t have any control of the aperture of the lens on your smartphone. Usually, smartphones come with cameras that have fixed apertures, so the only thing that you can do is to adjust the shutter speed and ISO.
The ISO value is how sensitive your camera is to light. By setting the ISO value to 100, it means that the sensor will not be very sensitive to light. In other words, you will need to use a low value when you have proper light.
However, when you have poor light, you will need to bring up the ISO to somewhere between 800 and 1600 to make sure that the sensor is gathering enough light for a good exposure.
Usually, when you increase the ISO on your camera, you will notice that noise is introduced into the picture. This usually appears as a grain or speckles across the picture. However, newer DSLRs or cameras, with larger image sensors have a higher threshold before the noise starts to appear. However, no matter what camera you use, there are many solutions available on the internet to reduce the noise, such as Neat Image, Photo Ninja etc.
Sometimes a flash can ruin a good photo that was taken in poor light conditions. However, when using a DSLR, you can always use an external flash unit to “bounce” the light off a ceiling or wall in order to make the light look natural.
Usually, autofocus will struggle to find the right subject to lock onto when taking pictures in poor light conditions. This is why you will need to use manual focus and check the photos right after taking them, to make sure that the focus is placed in the right spot.
We suggest you use a monopod or tripod to make sure that everything is stable while the shutter is open. If you don’t have a monopod or tripod, we suggest you turn on image stabilization (on the lens or in the camera body) or find a stable surface to rest the camera on top while taking photos.
Shooting in raw
A raw image is the photo that was taken by the camera before any processing is applied to it. It captures a lot more details than the JPEG files that are processed in-camera. JPEG photos also lock in parameters such as sharpening, lens corrections and white balance.
When shooting raw images with your camera, you will have a lot more stuff that you can edit on them. This is very useful for photos that were taken in poor light. Unfortunately, not many smartphones come with the ability to capture raw images.
Using these tips will help you take great photos in poor light conditions. Please test them out and tell us if you’ve obtained better pictures by using them.