shooting in low light sample
picture made by Emmanuel Bobbie ( ) under low light conditions.

I am faced with the critical problem of which aspect of photography to start my new feature with … got it!

Low light   (inspired by my dim room).

Tip– Low Light photography is not necessarily just night photography, as we tend to assume.
You know light is essential in picture creation, right?
But what do you do when faced with a low light situation?
Traditionally, hobbyists and professionals pick a choice from these three options;

  • Increase your exposure
  • Increase your ISO setting
  • Add additional light

Uh… for the benefit of my beginner readers let’s do a bit of catching up.
What exactly is low light?  My answer- you have the perfect moment and you seem ready to capture away but there’s a downer. You have little light to make your picture with … and oh! The sun’s down or you are indoors and the lights aren’t that bright. Bummer huh?  describes low light as indoors photography without much ambient light (as in many of our homes) as well as the light that is barely visible to our eyes at night, is also considered to be low-light. .
Now, to our three options, like all of your other life decisions, each of these three have their merits and demerits. Wanna have a look at them?

Increase your exposure

The benefit to increasing the exposure is that it is a viable solution in just about any circumstance. The negative side to this solution is that it has limits. At a certain point you must support
the camera or your image will become blurred by camera shake. Also, at wide apertures you will have a shallow depth of field.

at wide apertures you will have a shallow depth of field
image from

There are two ways to increase exposure:

  1. You open up your aperture (f/stop). F/stops range from small numbers like f/1.7 to large numbers like f/32. The smaller the number the more light is passed through to the imaging device.


  1. You increase the amount of time that the shutter remains open. Shutter speeds can range from as fast as 1/5000th of a second to hours.

Let’s talk about f/stops:
In low light you want your f/stop number to be small, so your aperture opening is large.

Increase your ISO setting

Raising the ISO on your camera is beneficial in that it gives you the freedom to move around and allows you to continue shooting without the encumbrance of additional lighting equipment or a tripod.
The downside to raising your ISO is that beyond a certain point your image quality will begin to suffer.
For those of you that aren’t sure what ISO  is, it is a numerical Scale that indicates the sensitivity of your imaging device/ Your ISO simply means the amount of sensitivity of light falling on your sensor. For example take traditional photography as a comparison to digital photography. Traditional photography ISO will be film sensitivity. (ISO in traditional terms works with film speed as well.)
If you were shooting film, the typical film ISO ratings are 100,200, 400, 800 and 3200
On digital cameras the ISO is set electronically and the sensitivity of the imaging sensor is adjusted. Typical ISO settings on a digital camera are anything from 100 to 6400.
Tip– For consistent image quality, set your ISO manually; don’t let the camera set it for you automatically.
Digital cameras adjust the ISO automatically if you put them in full automatic mode.
For this reason, I recommend you stick with shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, or manual mode.
I also recommend using an ISO of 100 – 400. In some instances you might go as high as 800 and it’s not cool going higher than ISO 800 unless-

  1. You have a professional level digital camera.
  2. You wish to degrade image quality for creative purposes.

Raising the ISO reduces image quality due to increased noise (digital) or enlarged grain (film).
If the photographic situation requires you to be mobile, work quickly, and you don’t want to carry extra equipment such as a flash, tripod or monopod, your first option is to raise your ISO.
Tip– For desperate situations, you could try these:
1. Increase ISO as high as is necessary.
2. Shoot RAW if possible.
3. Use aperture-priority with the lowest f-stop on the fastest lens you have (f1.8 or lower if you can).
4. Use various forms of noise reduction to help on the grain/noise front (in the editing process).
And although a fast lens can be very expensive, there are affordable primes out there, like the Canon f1.8 50mm

canon 50mm f/s 1.8
canon 50mm f/s 1.8

which is in the ranges of 500- 650 cedis, or the  canon f/s 1.8 85mm
canon f/s 1.8 85mm
canon f/s 1.2 85mm

that is just over  2000 cedis.

That extra stop or two can seriously make the difference in low light / no flash photography.

Add additional light

A white bounce card can  be good for up to about 1-5 feet if you’re indoors, you could strategically place some household lamps near the subject also.
The benefit of adding additional light is it allows you to keep your ISO setting low. It also allows you to manipulate the lighting on your subject by manipulating the direction of the added light.
The downside is that you must carry extra equipment and extra batteries, and its usefulness is limited by your surrounding area and your distance to the subject. It might also slow you down as you must set the lights before shooting your picture.
Tip– Remember to take a test shot before capturing your subject if you have the time and oh! You can increase the exposure whilst editing (don’t make it a habit though). 
Do not just read this without trying it out at least. Got questions? Do ask  ( but you could consult the internet too (YES! It has almost all the answers to your photography questions) and please don’t  restrict your creativity.
And always remember: Do everything in moderation.

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