Light is essential in photography. The word “photography” comes from Greek and can be translated as “drawing with light.” The human eye is wonderful, as it is capable of adjusting itself to the amount of light available – even in very low light you are able to see something after a while. What may seem like plenty of light for you is not necessarily enough for the camera.
So what should you keep in mind when it comes to taking photos in low light conditions?
Use a tripod. The tripod is a great invention that helps you keep your camera still, thus enabling you to use longer shutter speeds without setting your camera’s ISO higher and without compromising the quality of the image. Keep in mind that shutter speeds longer than 1/60 sec require some sort of tripod or a surface on which to support the camera to make sure that the camera is not shaking while taking the picture. Keep in mind that a tripod is often more useful when photographing still objects.
Take pictures in RAW format. RAW format images capture more information and enable you to edit the photos more effectively later on, including enhancing the lighting of the photo digitally. A RAW file is larger in size than others, so make sure your memory card/storage can accommodate the number of photographs you plan to take.
Use a higher ISO. This means that when using a higher ISO setting (400 and up) the camera’s digital sensor is more sensitive to light and is thus able to capture more information in poor light conditions. Do keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the more digital noise the photo has.
Use a larger aperture. The larger the aperture, the more light is available for capturing the image. Keep in mind that a larger aperture (aperture f4 is larger than f8, etc.) means less depth of field, or that the depth of focus in the image is smaller.
Focus manually. It can sometimes be challenging for the camera to focus in low light conditions, so you may need to focus manually. The autofocus function can also have difficulties focusing on small objects, etc., so it is best to use manual mode when possible to help achieve the best results.
Image stabilization offered by the camera or the lens may be of help!
If absolutely necessary, use a flash. Make sure you choose an appropriate setting so that the flash is not overpowering and does not “wash out” or overexpose any areas of the image. It is very important to keep in mind that it is prohibited to use a flash in museums!
Reflectors can help to brighten up shadows and even out the overall lighting on a subject.
Finally – keep your hand steady, keep your mind cool and take many pictures, varying the exposure and the focal point.Most importantly, enjoy the process and keep experimenting until you are happy with the results!