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…


  • Melissa G says:

    OMG! I remember those toys from my childhood. That is taking me back.
    It's true that while digital cameras take the hard work out of photography, it still pays to fiddle with the settings if you want something exceptional.

  • Cassie says:

    i have been searching for those toys for ages!! ages!!! argh.

  • Little Shop of Handmade says:

    Thanks for the extra tips : ) I also find adjusting the white point settings on the camera help with dodgy lighting too.

  • fee @ chipper nelly says:

    yes, you've bamboozled (what a great word!) me with your clever photography jargon…gonna come back with a cup of tea and get to grips with this!
    fee x

  • Kellie at MiniMustHave says:

    Good tips Cintia! I do the dodgy rest-the-camera-on-anything-and-everything trick when needed. Should just go out and get myself a tripod. So much easier 😉

  • jet says:

    Greate advise, i haven’t found my tripod still after my badly moving, but i used most times now books and other high points to hold my camera steady. And it’s helping to change of the whitebalance as well.
    And editing with photoshop is helping too.
    thank you for this tute and many dutch hugs;-D

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