So you just bought a new camera. Maybe you’re shooting an indoor basketball game your kid is playing in. Maybe you find yourself in front of a stage in a dark concert venue, wishing you could get a shot of your favorite musician. It’s no secret that the human eye can see better in dimly lit situations than a camera sensor can. If you’ve attempted any photography in less than perfect lighting scenarios, I’m sure you’re aware of this.
But how do you get not only a usable shot, but a beautiful one in these situations?
Save up for the good glass. If you’ve been into a camera store or even browsed the internet, you’ll see that there is so much variety and a vast price range when it comes to camera lenses. Lenses with the potential to have a very wide aperture (i.e. f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8) can sometimes cost more than other lenses, especially if they can also zoom, but are extremely worth it if you find yourself consistently shooting in settings lacking enough light.
Invest in lighting. Lighting can be very overwhelming to a novice photographer. The truth of the matter is that most pop-up on-camera flashes have a very small range of effect. They’re also incredibly difficult to modify and control. I personally recommend some type of speedlight for a smaller, more portable lighting option. Whether you’re using Promaster, Nissin, or Godox, off-camera flashes are much easier to control to get a more professional looking outcome. There are plenty of different types of flash modifiers you could use with any speedlight. MagMod makes my personal favorite flash modifications for their ease of use and portability.
Tripods and slow shutter speeds: a love story. So slow shutter speed may not be the answer for every situation, such as (but not limited to): concerts, dimly lit portraiture, and indoor sports. When a subject is moving, or even has potential to move, slow shutter speed isn’t really going to benefit you. If you’re taking nighttime landscape photos, however, a long exposure while having your camera set up on a tripod is absolutely your answer.
Bump up your ISO, but know your limits. High ISO is invaluable to lowlight photography. It’s important to know how high might be too high for your specific camera. High ISO can lead to very noisy images, but some cameras can handle the higher ISO a bit better than others. For example, cameras with full frame sensors will perform this task better than cameras with cropped sensors.Take some test shots and if you find that an ISO of 3200 is the highest you can go and feel comfortable with the amount of grain it gives your image, stop there.
Use that exposure compensation! Exposure compensation can be your last ditch effort to get the light you’re looking for. While it can only give about an average of 3 stops of light, it can still be better than nothing!
Shooting in low light can absolutely be a struggle, but it’s usually well-worth it! If you find yourself shooting in less-than-ideal lighting conditions frequently, it might be time to upgrade some equipment. Hopefully if you’ve struggled with lighting in the past, anyone one, or a combination, of these tips can be helpful!