How to take Decent Photos in Low Light

Yesterday we had a photographer come by and take some product shots for a little feature in a print publication. I was a bit concerned about the lack of light at home, especially since it was a particularly gloomy day, but the photographer insisted that because he ‘was very clever’, the shots would be fine.
He was very nice and super clever, but I suspect the reason for nice bright photos in low light was a fancy camera that he knew how to use and a TRIPOD. (although he did use his flash for the portrait shots)
Not all of us can afford a fancy DSLR with a super duper lens, but if you haven’t used your camera on a manual setting now is the time, and a functional tripod can be picked up for $50-$100 and is really worth the investment.

So I’ll preface this with: I’m not a professional photographer, everything I have learnt has been from trial and error but this is what works for me.

So the tricks are:
Steady camera (tripod)
Long exposure
Low Aperture value
High ISO speed
Read your camera manual

As an example I took this photo above in a very dark room, 7pm on a rainy night with minimal natural light and no artificial light. I have not edited this photo in any way apart from cropping for composition.

It had a 4 sec exposure which is very long, so to minimise the camera shake I had the camera down on the bench. A tripod is ideal for long exposure times.
The ISO speed was 1600 and the aperture value 7.1

I adjusted these values manually with an Aperture Value (Av) preference setting. This means I set the aperture and the camera decides the speed.

Even if you only have a basic point and shoot digital camera, have a read of your manual, most will allow for some sort of manual setting adjustment.

Ok, have I confused you with Av’s and ISOs and gobbledygook? Do yourself a favour and read this excellent explanation of how a camera works, I guarantee that it will never shoot on an auto setting ever again.

So now it’s time to have some fun playing with your camera…


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