5 Low Light Photography Tips


Raise your ISO high and shout, "Let there be more light!"

Even some of the most basic digital cameras available today have adjustable settings for adapting to lighting conditions. You could leave the camera in an automatic mode, which works best for most casual photographers. But if you're serious about controlling your photos, get to know the manual settings for your camera. When it comes to low light photography, the setting you'll want to pay the most attention to is your ISO.

In film photography, the ISO is a measurement of how sensitive the film is to light. You've probably seen this when shopping for film, with values like 200, 400, 800 and so forth. The higher numbers indicate that the film is more sensitive to light, but your photos are also likely to be more grainy. In digital photography, though, ISO measures the sensitivity of the sensor used to draw in the light that creates the digital image. A digital camera controls the ISO rather than relying on the film. In short, for lower lighting conditions, you'll want to stick with lower numbers for film ISO, but choose higher numbers for digital ISO. But it's not as simple as selecting a setting and snapping away.

When adjusting your digital camera's ISO for low light, you can start by pushing the ISO to its highest setting, taking a couple of shots, and seeing how it works. Then, you can lower the ISO gradually until you get the photo quality and lighting effects that you want.

When using a high ISO, be aware of increased noise in the photo. Noise is photographers' way of describing tiny bright and dark color variations that can make parts of the photo look dusty or grainy. Photographers often use post-processing tools to reduce noise in digital photos. However, these these tools can't make up for any loss in detail caused by noise, such as intricate textures in furniture or clothing.

To reduce noise while keeping your ISO high, you'll want to ensure the camera's as stable as possible. Let's look at that in our next tip.