How Do I Take Sharp Photos With Low Light?

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    Using a tripod and, depending on the subject matter, a flash, will help you get sharp photos whether you're shooting in bright or low light. However, in practise, this is not always feasible. But this doesn't rule out the possibility of getting sharp shots without a tripod or flash.

    Shooting at shutter speeds no slower than the numerical equivalent of the focal length of the lens you were using was conventional wisdom before the advent of six-digit ISO ratings, four- and five-way image stabilisation, and advanced HDR technologies that allow capturing sharp, handheld photographs in any lighting conditions.

    You shouldn't use a shutter speed slower than 1/15th of a second when shooting with a 15mm lens, 1/50th of a second with a 50mm lens, and 1/500th of a second with a 500mm lens. Faster shutter speeds are preferable, but slow shutter speeds should be avoided unless you have a very steady hand or are otherwise braced.

    You can still get sharp results hand-holding at slower speeds, but you should take some precautions, such as bracing yourself against a sturdy surface like a pole, car roof, or side of a building, and exhaling slowly before gently pressing down on the shutter button. By letting out your breath, you calm your mind and body. To the contrary, if you take a deep breath in and hold it before pressing the shutter button, your body will be tense, which will increase your pulse and other body movements, making it more difficult to get a sharp picture.

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    If your camera has a high-speed burst mode, you should use it now because you have a better chance of getting a sharp shot if you take several frames in rapid succession rather than trying to judge the shot in a single frame.

    FAQs About Photography

    Types of Low Light


    This is where the shadows are during the day. Shade cast by tall structures or trees can be as much as two stops darker than the surrounding area.

    Low Light

    After sunset, areas may still be visible yet too dark to capture.


    This is when only the brightest objects are visible at night-time.

    How to Capture Great Photos in Low Light

    Photography in low light is a difficult art form to master. You'll need to learn how to use your camera in ways other than Auto.

    Use a Slow Shutter Speed for Low Light Photos

    So, how do you take pictures when there isn't a lot of light? The amount of light that enters the camera is controlled by the shutter speed. More light will reach the sensor at lower settings.

    However, without the use of a tripod, motion blur can also be produced by using a slow shutter speed. To that end, how does one take a clear picture in dim conditions? Setting the shutter speed to a fraction of the focal length is a good rule of thumb for taking short, blur-free images while shooting handheld.

    For a 30mm lens shot, the shutter speed would be set to 1/30 of a second. If you go any slower, blurring of the image will result. This rule applies only to full-frame cameras, so keep that in mind. When using a 30mm lens on a crop sensor, you'll need to increase your shutter speed to 1/45 from 1/30 to account for the sensor's crop factor.

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    Image Stabilisation Allows You to Drop Your Shutter Speed Down

    In low light situations, a shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/40 of a second may not be fast enough to get a properly exposed photo. Motion blur occurs at both fast and slow speeds.

    The question then becomes how to remedy this situation when shooting with a hand-held camera. It's because of something called "image stabilisation," which is the correct answer. Lenses that stabilise your camera are available from Nikon, Canon, and even third-party manufacturers. This feature is not present in all lenses, but it is standard on most standard lenses.

    Because of how effective image stabilisation is, it can provide up to 4.5 stops of compensation. This means you can take sharp pictures at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 of a second. This remarkable capability is optimised for daylight.

    Find Ways to Stabilise Your Camera Without a Tripod

    Several techniques can help you get sharp and well-exposed photos of a low-light scene even without a tripod.

    Camera stabilisation can be achieved in a couple of ways. The less camera shake you have by pulling it tight.

    Another option is to lean against a wall for support. You won't be able to afford even the slightest motion while shooting if you do this. However, you can prevent camera shake by placing it on a stable surface such as a table or ledge.

    As a rule, these methods shine in dim lighting.

    Use a Tripod for Shutter Speeds Lower Than 1/60

    How Do I Take Sharp Photos With Low Light?

    You can't completely eliminate blur when shooting handheld with the methods we showed you. A tremor in your hands is all it takes to ruin our shot. You should use a tripod if you don't want to take any chances. And don't forget to bring it along any time you want to do some low-light photography.

    Use a Fast Lens for Low Light Situations

    In order to achieve the largest possible aperture, the lens you use is crucial.

    If you need to take photos in low light, using the widest aperture possible is your best bet. Compared to an aperture of f/2.8, the amount of light available at an aperture of f/1.4 is four times as great. The maximum aperture of most standard kit zoom lenses is f/3.5-f/5.6. The maximum aperture of professional zoom lenses is typically f/2.8 or wider. Premier prime lenses tend to be quite pricey. If you're just starting out in photography, though, you can find affordable options like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II.

    There are many prime lenses that can go as wide as f/1.4, and even some of the most specialised ones can go as narrow as f/0.95. The faster a lens is, the wider its aperture (and the smaller its f-number).

    Go for a Wide Aperture to Let More Light In

    Your lens's aperture is the opening through which light enters the lens. A larger aperture lets in more light. Always keep in mind that the larger the aperture, the smaller the f-number.

    If you are still using the standard kit lens, which likely has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, then skipping this step is not a good idea. That value doesn't allow enough light in, so it won't work. Since its maximum aperture is about f/1.8, that cheap prime lens we discussed earlier is a good investment.

    A lens aperture of f/1.8 admits four times as much light as an aperture of f/3.5. In other words, you can take faster shots with less risk of blurring due to motion. A wide aperture will result in a shallow depth of field, so keep that in mind.

    So if you're taking photos of groups of people in dim environments, don't use f/1.4 or f/1.8. Doing so would make the background and some faces blurry. Instead, use a higher value such as f/8 to ensure sharpness. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever. 

    Adjust Your ISO to Get the Right Exposure

    When adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO alone fails to produce the desired results, ISO should be increased.

    Your camera's ISO setting determines how sensitive the sensor is to light. Taking pictures in low light will be easier if you increase this value.

    However, ISO is also difficult to control, as an increase in ISO results in an increase in digital noise in the image. Don't increase my ISO past 1600, as doing so will cause images to become unusable due to noise.

    Use a Large Sensor Camera to Capture More Light

    Your image is constructed from the data captured by the sensor. More obvious than ever is that the larger the sensor, the higher the quality and resolution.

    The smallest sensors are typically found in smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras. When compared to a full-frame sensor, the Micro Four Thirds is the next in line. And the one you'll find in most consumer DSLRs and mirrorless options is called an APS-C sensor. The full-frame sensor found in high-end cameras is the gold standard for photographers. Its 35mm focal length makes it roughly the same size as traditional 35mm film cameras.

    Which camera is the best one for taking pictures in dim conditions? A full-frame camera, such as the Canon 5D Mark IV, is the short answer. Its large sensor makes it simple to capture low-noise scenes. As a result, you can boost ISO without experiencing excessive digital noise.

    Shoot in Raw to Add More Exposure Stops

    If you want the most editing latitude, shoot in RAW format at all times. As a result, why is it important to shoot in RAW format when working with limited light? One of the most obvious is that it allows you to increase your exposure by two or three stops without sacrificing image quality in the file.

    AF Assist Will Help You Use Auto-Focus in Low-Lit Situations

    There's a chance that your camera won't be able to auto-focus properly if you're shooting in low light. It can be difficult for a camera to gauge distance when there is insufficient lighting.

    In a fortunate turn of events, the "AF assist" function is now standard on many digital cameras. The autofocus lamp is frequently in the frame of view. If it detects that it is too dark, it will activate to brighten the area. This option should be accessible from the camera's settings menu. It activates in low light situations when you press the shutter button halfway.

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    Zoom In While in Live View to Focus in the Dark

    When the subject is too far away, "AF Assist" may not be able to help you. A flashlight could be useful here for lighting up the scene and locking focus.

    To better see the subject's finer details, activate Live View and digitally zoom in on it. By following the on-screen reticle's focusing position, you can fine-tune the focus ring to bring the subject matter into focus. It's as simple as pressing the shutter button from here on out.

    Play with Flashlights to Create Colorful Effects

    No matter how steady you hold the camera, blur will still result from any motion in the subject. "Light painting" refers to the photographic technique of manipulating light sources.

    If you've ever wanted to photograph lightning bolts, here's how:

    • Using a slow shutter speed and a device mounted on a tripod (between 2 to 30 seconds).
    • Stand in front of the camera and use the self-timer or remote to snap the picture.
    • Start making patterns with your flashlight movements once you hear the click.

    Use Flash to Freeze Images

    Remember that fast shutter speeds freeze motion while slow ones cause motion blur? But how does flash play into this?

    You can use fast shutter speeds thanks to the flash's powerful beam. That means you can take clear photos in low light with a shutter speed of only 1/250 of a second. The use of a flash, however, does not permit reverting to ISO 100. You'll end up with a blurry image and less discernible background if you do that.

    When using your camera's pop-up flash, you may end up with less-than-desirable results. Even so, it is still a reliable method for stopping action. Use a wall or ceiling to reflect the light from an external flash for the best results. A diffuser, however, can soften the light and make it more manageable.

    Motion Blur

    How Do I Take Sharp Photos With Low Light?

    When shooting in dim conditions, motion blur is typically to blame. Movement on the part of either the subject or the photographer will be captured by the sensor and result in blurred images if the shutter is open for an extended period of time. This can occur if the subject moves too much while the shutter is open, or if the camera moves too much while the shutter is open.

    However, motion blur isn't always a bad thing and is frequently employed to emphasise a subject's velocity, action, or motion. To illustrate the motion of playing the guitar, for instance, a slight blur of the hand is preferable to a sharply focused image because it conveys more of the story being told. However, when a blurry image is expected, it is both disappointing and impossible to fix in post-processing. Therefore, achieving optimal results in-camera is essential for producing sharp images in low light.

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    Here are a few ways to help reduce motion blur in low light situations.

    Shoot in Manual Mode

    When shooting in auto mode, the camera will choose an appropriate shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for you. As a result of the motion and shaking, the camera is unsure of how the final image will turn out. Therefore, mastering the camera's controls is essential for producing sharp photos.

    You can use either the Aperture or Shutter Priority modes, but we find that full Manual mode gives me the most leeway with my shots. As you'll see, adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is essential for achieving the best possible sharpness in low light.

    Adjust the shutter speed for moving subjects

    If you're taking a picture in dim conditions, you'll want to make sure that enough light reaches the camera's sensor to produce a good exposure. There is a delicate balance between blurring and freezing motion in photographs caused by using too fast or too slow of a shutter speed. Shoot in Shutter Priority or Manual to have full control over your shutter speed.

    What is the best shutter speed to use in low light?

    What you need to know is that it is dependent on the circumstances and the lens's focal length. Because of the additional care required when shooting with a longer focal length, I'll discuss this issue in the section on camera shake below.

    When shooting handheld at focal lengths under 85mm, you should aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/60s and preferably 1/120s for semi-static subjects like people sitting at a table or standing in place for a portrait. In most cases, sharp images can be obtained from any position within that range.

    You may need to increase the shutter speed from 1/200s to 1/400s if the subjects are running, dancing, or even just laughing and swaying a lot.

    Open the aperture

    The exposure will be lengthened by widening the lens's aperture. If the aperture is opened by one stop, two stops of light will enter the camera. For instance, if you shoot at f/2.8 instead of f/4, twice as much light will enter the camera. Therefore, in most low-light situations, we will use a wide-open aperture.

    When shooting in low light, we set the aperture to its widest possible setting before deciding on the shutter speed, since I know I will almost always need the maximum aperture.

    Raise the ISO

    If your aperture is wide open (or as wide as it can be without the depth of field becoming too shallow) and you still have a portion of the scene that is blurry, you may need to increase the ISO.

    While it's true that increasing the ISO will result in a noisier picture, most modern cameras can capture usable pictures at ISO 1600 or higher. Additionally, some noise in the image is preferable to blurred vision due to a too-slow shutter speed. Increase the camera's ISO if doing so eliminates motion blur.


    Like everything else, practice makes perfect. By understanding the various lighting conditions, you will see what is possible and where the limitations lie. Taking photos in low light conditions is one of the most exciting areas you can cover.  If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.