Low Light Photography Tips

Low light photography is not necessarily just night photography, as many people assume. There could be different amounts of light coming from various sources and whatever is less than daytime light outside, I consider low-light. 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. In this article, I will provide tips on how to take pictures in various low-light environments, whether indoors or outdoors.

Low Light Photography

NIKON D700 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 5/1, f/10.0

Three levels of low-light

Before we go any further, let’s first identify the varying levels of low-light and categorize them, so that we could refer to them in examples. Although it is very hard to categorize the amount of light, due to the fact that it is a long range of light between very bright and pitch black, just for the sake of making it easier to explain and refer to, I still decided to divide it into three categories:

  1. Visible: in daylight, when you happen to be in shadow areas behind buildings, under large trees or bridges.
  2. Low Light: after sunset, when you can still clearly see everything around you, but you can tell that it is getting dark or when you are indoors.
  3. Dark: at night, when you can only see the brightest objects.

I’m sure you have come across all of the above situations at some point of time with your camera and perhaps even found it challenging and frustrating to take pictures in those conditions. Let’s go through the above one at a time and see what you can do to take good pictures in all low light conditions.

1) Low light photography: Visible Conditions

Have you had a situation where you were in a shadow during the day and tried to take a picture? This was one of my frustrations when I bought my first DSLR, because I couldn’t understand why my pictures were coming out blurry. At times, the images on the rear LCD of the camera would look OK, but when I eventually viewed them on the computer screen, they would all be a little blurry. I had no idea why it was happening and really needed to find out why.

As I later found out, apparently, our eyes can see a much broader range of light, which is known as “dynamic range” in photography, than our cameras do. Therefore, even though you might think that there is plenty of light when you are in a shadow area, in fact, there might be inadequate light for the camera to effectively capture the image. Depending on your camera settings, there might be two consequences: a) you will have a blurry image and b) you might have a lot of noise in your image.

Low-Light Situation

NIKON D700 @ 24mm, ISO 800, 1/125, f/8.0

1.1) Shoot at higher shutter speeds to avoid blurry images

So, why do blurry images happen? The answer is in the camera shutter speed. If the shutter speed is too low, you will get camera shake and/or motion blur from moving subjects. To avoid camera shake, you should always try to shoot at faster shutter speeds. You might ask “what is a fast shutter speed?”. It depends on the focal length of your lens. If you are photographing a subject with a wide-angle lens between 10-24mm, you might get away with shutter speeds under 1/50th of a second, depending on your camera hand-holding technique. If you are using a telephoto lens longer than 100mm, I recommend applying the hand-holding rule to calculate your optimal shutter speed. For most day-to-day photography, a shutter speed of 1/200th-1/250th of a second should be fast enough to yield sharp results and avoid motion blur.

1.2) Decrease your aperture to the lowest number (f/stop)

But to shoot at fast shutter speeds such as 1/200th of a second means that you need to have plenty of light. In our situation, we don’t have enough light, so what do we do? The first thing you will need to try to do is decrease your lens aperture to the lowest number on the camera. Decreasing your aperture means more light will pass through the lens into the camera body, which will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds. In order to do that, you would have to either switch to “Aperture Priority” mode or manually override your aperture in whatever mode you are using. Then, start lowering your aperture till you get to the lowest number your camera will allow.

1.3) Use a faster lens

The lowest number depends on the speed of your lens. Most consumer zoom lenses are limited to f/3.5 for maximum aperture, while professional zoom lenses have an aperture of f/2.8 and some prime (fixed) lenses can go all the way to f/1.2. How will decreasing aperture affect your shutter speed? Let’s say you were shooting at f/8.0 aperture and 1/125th shutter speed. Decreasing aperture to f/5.6 will double your shutter speed to 1/250th of a second, while lowering it to f/4.0 will quadruple the shutter speed to 1/500th of a second, which is plenty to freeze motion. If you have a fast lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8, just keep in mind that decreasing the aperture to the lowest number will also decrease the depth of field, so you will have to make sure to acquire correct focus before you take a picture. If you shoot Nikon, I recommend getting one of the following prime lenses, depending on your budget: Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8D and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G (DX only). There is a similar selection for Canon Canon cameras: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S

1.4) Use a lens with VR/IS technology

Does your lens have VR (Vibration Reduction) or IS (Image Stabilization)? If no, that’s too bad, because VR/IS truly does work! The latest “VR II” technology by Nikon can allow you to shoot up to 4 times slower when it comes to shutter speed without adding any blur to the picture (realistically, it’s more like 3 times) compared to non-VR lenses. So, let’s say that with a regular lens you need 1/250th of a second to get a sharp picture. With a VR/IS system, you could lower the shutter speed all the way to 1/30th of a second or more and still get the same sharp image! Many of the consumer zoom lenses such as Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II come with VR technology. While it is certainly nice to have VR in such versatile lenses, unfortunately, these lenses are also slower and not as sharp as prime lenses such as the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. Zoom lenses with a fixed aperture and VR/IS technology are professional, expensive lenses such as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II (read my Nikon 70-200mm VR II review) pictured below and are also great choices for low-light photography.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Review

1.5) Increase your camera ISO

What if you have already decreased your aperture to the lowest number and you are still getting slow shutter speeds? The answer then is to increase the camera ISO (sensor sensitivity), to make the sensor collect light faster. If you are shooting at ISO 100 and your camera is telling you that the shutter speed is 1/25th of a second, you will need to increase your ISO to 400 to get the shutter speed of 1/100th of a second. How did I calculate that? Basically, doubling your ISO doubles your shutter speed. So, increasing the camera ISO from 100 to 200, increases your shutter speed from 1/25th of a second to 1/50th of a second. Then, increasing it further more from 200 to 400 increases the shutter speed from 1/50th of a second to 1/100th of a second. Technically, the shutter speeds in the cameras a little different (1/30th, 1/60th and 1/125th of a second), but I used the above numbers to make it easier to understand. The main thing to remember, is that doubling ISO doubles your shutter speed.

Standing in the shadows

NIKON D700 @ 24mm, ISO 1600, 1/25, f/8.0

Be careful with increasing your ISO to a big number, as higher sensor sensitivity means that more grain/noise will appear in your images. Most modern cameras can handle noise levels up to ISO 800 pretty well, while top-of-the-line full frame professional cameras can produce very little noise even at ISO 3200 and above.

2) Low light photography: Low Light Conditions

Let’s now move on to a more complex situation, where the amount of light is quickly diminishing after sunset or you are shooting indoors in a poorly lit environment. Obviously, the first thing to try is to decrease your aperture and increase your ISO, as it says above. But then you get to the point where you are maxed out on the aperture and have already reached ISO 800 and you are still not able to get sharp photos. What do you do then?


NIKON D80 @ 52mm, ISO 200, 1/10, f/4.8

2.1) Stand closer to the light source

The closer you are to the light source, the more light there will be for your camera to use. Large windows are great sources of light, so open up those curtains and blinds and let the light get into the room. I forgot to bring the flashes when we were photographing the below group, so we quickly found a solution by opening up a large gate and letting lots of exterior light in.

Rocky Mountain Roller Girls

NIKON D700 @ 85mm, ISO 1600, 1/125, f/4.0

2.2) Stabilize yourself

That’s right – learn to stabilize yourself and hold your camera better. Use your left hand to support the camera by putting it with your palm facing up in between the camera lens and the camera body (or wherever the center of the weight is). Pull your elbows towards your body. If you can, sit down with your right knee on the ground and use your left leg as support by resting your left arm on it. Gently squeeze the shutter button and see if you can get a sharp image. Practice this and other techniques and you will be able to shoot at very low shutter speeds without introducing camera shake.

2.3) Push your ISO to a higher number

What is better, a blurry image or a sharp image with more noise? I prefer the latter. Push your ISO to a higher number and take a shot. See if the level of noise is acceptable to you. There are plenty of noise-removal programs out there such as Noise Ninja that can help you clean up an image. Try them out and see if the final result after post-processing is good enough for your needs. Although I personally try to stay below ISO 800, sometimes I push mine to ISO 1600 or even 3200, when needed. On my full-frame Nikon D700 body, I can push up ISO to 6400 every once in a while.

2.4) Shoot in RAW mode and slightly underexpose

I personally always shoot in RAW, because I can recover some detail from a picture if I overexpose or underexpose it. With a JPEG image, you have very limited options to recover an image. In some cases, I intentionally underexpose an image by using the exposure compensation button, which increases camera shutter speed. I typically allow 1-1.5 stops of negative exposure compensation…anything above that might not allow me to recover the details I need. Try it – it really works! Some photographers give advice to bracket exposures, but I personally prefer to use exposure compensation instead.

Sunset Gazebo

NIKON D300 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 1/5, f/5.0

2.5) Be careful about autofocus

In low-light environments, the camera might start to lose its autofocus capabilities. That’s what happens when there is not enough light – the camera cannot differentiate between objects anymore, just like if you were to point it at a plain white wall. Many DSLR cameras are equipped with an “AF assist” light in front of the camera that lights up just like a flashlight when there is not enough light to illuminate the subject. If you have such functionality, definitely turn it on in dim environments. On Nikon DSLRs, switch your camera from continuous mode (“C”) to single (“S”) mode to turn on this feature. When you focus on a subject, make sure that it looks sharp in the viewfinder. If it is blurry, try to re-acquire focus by half-pressing the shutter/autofocus button. In many cases you won’t be able to tell if the camera was able to focus correctly on the subject until you take the picture. In that case, make sure to zoom in and check for sharpness of the image on the rear LCD of the camera.

2.6) Use a full-frame camera

A full frame sensor is expensive, but very helpful in low-light situations. The Nikon D700 (FX/Full Frame) has approximately the same amount of noise at ISO 3200 as the Nikon D300 (DX/Cropped sensor) at ISO 800. It truly does make a huge difference in low-light environments. During my last trip to Vegas, I shot many of the images at night hand-held with the D700. If I had a DX sensor, I would have needed a tripod to get similar images, because I was already pushing the low-light capability of the D700 at that point.

Fireworks 1

NIKON D700 @ 95mm, ISO 200, 3/1, f/20.0

2.7) Use a monopod or a tripod

And last, but not least, try using a monopod or a tripod that will really help with keeping your gear still. A monopod is helpful in some situations, but I personally prefer using a tripod for most of my low-light photography. With a tripod, you could set your ISO to the lowest number to decrease the amount of noise and shoot at very slow shutter speeds. Obviously, slow shutter speeds mean that you would get a lot of motion blur in your images, but in some cases it is not a problem and sometimes it even looks cool! Make sure to use a sturdy tripod, not one of those cheap plastic ones.

3) Low light photography: Dark Conditions

In poorly lit environments and at night, many of the above tips are useless, because you have no light to work with.

3.1) Use a tripod

Hand-held photography is simply impossible at night (unless you want to create a really bad-looking effect of motion blur). A good, sturdy tripod is a must for night photography, because you deal with very slow shutter speeds and every vibration matters. It is best to use a remote control or a cable release system with your camera in those situations, but if you do not have one, try using your camera timer. It is not as good of a solution as remote control, because you still have to press the shutter button, which temporarily vibrates the setup. Just use a longer time period for your timer and you should be good to go.

3.2) Use a flashlight for light painting

If your subject is too dark, use a flash light to add some light to it. Light painting is pretty cool and you can get some really nice shots by painting with the light, especially if you use different colors.

Light Painting

NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 200, 30/1, f/6.3

3.3) Use manual focus

When it is too dark, autofocus will not function. If your subject is close, try to use your “AF Assist” light in the camera to get good focus. If your subject is further away, try using a flashlight to illuminate your subject and allow your camera to focus. If your subject is far away or you do not have a flashlight, you will need to manually focus on your subject. Most of the time, setting your lens to “infinity” focus works great, but in some cases you will have to try to take a picture, then adjust the focus as needed. Once you acquire focus, make sure to turn off autofocus so that the camera does not attempt to focus again. Obviously, do not move your tripod after focus is acquired.

3.4) Practice, practice and practice!

I don’t have to say much here – just practice as much as you can and you will get better in no time!

Low-light photography is a lot of fun and you should definitely play and experiment with your camera in different lighting conditions. If you learn how to take pictures in low light, you will have an opportunity to take some amazing pictures that have a different feel to them compared to everyday pictures in daylight :)

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!


  1. 1) Abhinav
    January 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    really nice write up for beginners .Will definitely forward your article instead of teaching to beginners myself :)

    • January 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      Abhinav, thank you for your feedback! Please let me know if you have any questions :)

  2. 2) Clipping Path
    February 10, 2010 at 1:48 am

    wow… I really like it.. sigh, i ‘m dying for a VII lens.. :((

  3. 3) Dennis
    April 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Hi Nasim, I have tried night shots using 35mm f/1.8G. It is a landscape shot with river reflecting street lamps. I do it handheld, aperture mode, f1.8, shutter 1/5sec, ISO 1600. Strangely despite a dark black sky, the shot came out reddish sky and the center focus point have some reflected light that shouldn’t be there. I tried to shoot other night shots on sky, it appeared to have this reflected light. The pattern is random, depends on what I shoot. I don’t understand why. Do I have to take out the UV filter attached on it? I have read thru this tips, but couldn’t understand what causes. Yours look sharp!

    • April 2, 2010 at 1:56 am


      First of all, are you shooting on a tripod? You are very close to the threshold of hand-holding at 1/5th of a second with 35mm focal length on a DX body. I would first check and make sure that you do not have camera shake.

      As far as reddish sky, it all depends on what white balance your camera chooses and if some light is getting reflected, causing the reddish color. The reflected light you are seeing is most likely lens flare/ghosting, which happens when you have bright sources of light entering the lens. Can you email me a sample image? I will let you know exactly what’s going on…

      • 3.1.1) Peter Nguyen
        May 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm

        Hi Dennis. U can hand-held stable a camera at 1/5s? I salute you, ur must have a iron hand!

        anw shooting landscape at wide open (such at f1.8) isn’t a good idea though, better get a tripod for night landscape.

        The reflected light might because of your filter. I don’t know how good ur UV filter is, the multi-coated one could minimize it, but if it was me, i will remove my UV filter.

        Just my 2cent opinion.

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          May 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

          Peter, I agree with everything you have said above.

  4. 4) monish
    May 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    hi nasim,
    In 2.1 you said:”The closer you are to the light source, the more light there will be for your camera to use”.
    I though its the amount of light reflected back to the camera from the subject that counts not the incident light. request pls clarify.

    • May 9, 2010 at 8:31 am

      Monish, you are right, it IS the light reflected back to the camera from the subject that counts. What I meant to say in my sentence, is quite simple – let’s say there is a large window in a room. If you put your subject close to the large window, you will have plenty of light on your subject. If you move the subject further away from the window, the amount of light will quickly decrease. This works the same way as camera flash: the closer you place the light source, the less flash power you need.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. May 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Very detailed article. I’m greatly appreciated ur efforts in writing those tuts. The purposely underexposure method is really considerable.

  6. 6) monish
    May 9, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Nasim, thnx for yr reply :)

    • May 10, 2010 at 1:43 am

      You are most welcome! Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  7. 7) viktorija
    October 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this information. I’ve been searching internet for very long time, as i am self tought photographer, and this is the most helpfull information so far. Thank you so much again! :)

  8. 8) melanie
    November 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Thank you for this valuable information. I found you through your review of the Nikon 85mm 1.4d vs g. I just bought the D lens and was photographing a family in front of a Christmas tree. I was not happy with the results, as I believe I did not have enough light on the subjects. Do you think it is possible to take a great portrait with the bokeh of the lights without the use of flash indoors with this lens?

    • December 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm

      Melanie, if you are taking pictures in a very dark environment and the lights are brighter than your subject’s faces, then the only choice is flash…

      Have you seen my article on flash photography that I posted yesterday yet?

  9. 9) jagdish
    December 23, 2010 at 4:35 am

    hello Nasim Sir, I am planning to buy my 1st DSLR ( may be Nikon D3100 but not sure). and my budget is around AU$1000. i love to photography , specially my take photos to my daughter. can u suggest me a camera which is satisfied protrait, micro ,landscape,family photography( entry- mid level) best for me.

    and suppose if i choose Nikon D3100 than what accessories(speciallly lens for children/protrait and landscape photography) i had to buy at the same time?

    thanks .

  10. 10) Suresh Kumar Krishnan
    January 15, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Dear Nasim,

    I have Nikon D90 with 18-55 and 55-200 twin lens kit. i tried few of your tips to take indoor low light photographs.. it came really well. Thanks for that. Could you please tell me how to take a moving subject in low light. when i tried to increase shutter speed i couldn’t get desired result. Trying flash gave me over exposed subject and darken background.

    • February 21, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      Suresh, photographing moving subjects in low light is not easy – you will have to use flash for that. Try this – increase your ISO to 800-1600 and then use flash and see how the image comes out. The background was dark, because your shutter speed was probably too fast.

  11. 11) Tyler Dunsmore
    March 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Great post! I used the information here and one or two other sources to get some great night shots outside the local school library. I used a Canon A590 (PAS/PNS) with the manual setting and tried to balance out the ISO with the shutter speed and aperture and had better success than I had planned. Thanks for the tips.

  12. 12) Saif
    March 18, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Thanks for the lovely post.Its really helpful.I am just starting out into DSLR photography ..I am planning to get D3100.Would you recommend 35mm 1.8G prime lens to go along with the kit lens.

  13. April 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Excellent article with good advice on using a tripod to avoid motion blur. But what if you don’t have a tripod? A common technique is to use a solid object like a pole or wall that you can steady the camera against. This sort of works but it’s hard to brace a camera body firmly on an object. There is a product called HandlePod that solves the problem with a camera mount on a handle that you can hold against anything solid. Light hand pressure is all it takes to stabilize a camera on any firm surface. It provides tripod-like stability with very little weight or bulk. It works using any convenient solid object and just your hand to hold it in place.

  14. 14) Caitlin
    August 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Hey there,

    This was an amazing thing for me. Opened a whole spectrum! Still, I wonder if there are better lenses for the low light kind of work I want to try (Concert photography). I want something crisp and clean and saturated with stage light only. What would you suggest for that? Any thoughts? :)

    • October 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      Caitlin, the biggest issue I find when photographing concerts (and I have done a couple), is focus accuracy. While prime lenses seem to be the answer, many of the Nikon prime lenses are worse in AF speed and accuracy than the expensive pro zooms. For example, if AF is critical and I have fast movements, I would rather shoot with the Nikon 24-70mm or Nikon 70-200mm lenses than with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G. I would obviously shoot at f/2.8 in those situations…

  15. 15) Sumit
    October 18, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Hi, Nasim,

    I am having Sony H50 (15x optical) surely cant expect results as DSLR, however need your valuable tips in getting best results for taking low light & my baby photos from this camera , which I am unable to get so far…

    • October 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Sumit, this website is filled with many articles. Read and learn. And I do not know anything about your camera either. As you can see from articles and the content here, this website is primarily targeted at DSLR owners.

  16. 16) Dianlianda
    October 27, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Hey there,

    Im currently using Nikon D90 camera. Im looking for a lens to take full body shots and half body shots with a nice bokeh background. Please advise me as to which lens is recommended for D90.

    • October 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Dianlianda, you are asking for a lens that can do both wide-angles and portraits. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to put over $1K USD, there is no lens that can do that and create beautiful bokeh. My suggestion is to try the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, which is a very affordable lens that you should be able to use for both, as long as you have space to move around.

  17. 17) Olcay AYDIN
    November 9, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Mr. Mansurov,
    I have a nikon 18-55 mm kit lense. I am not satisfied with its performance in low light or- i dont know to shoot in low light.- I have an intention to replace it with Tamron 17-50 VC. Is it worth to replace it with Tammy? i need your advice. Thanks in advance.

  18. 18) Simona
    November 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

    A good article by Frank Düpman about Low light and wrong gear is here:


  19. 19) Christine
    November 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Hello Mr. Mansurov,

    Your website is so informative and easy to understand… thank you for taking the time to put all this information together. I’m new to photography… my husband bought me the Nikon d3100 last year and I haven’t put it down since…hahahaha. I had a question about external flashes and if you suggest I get one and if so what is the major differences between external and built in flash? Thank you!!

  20. 20) Arthur Gabriel
    November 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Greeting Nasim!Finally built up the courage and invested on a nikon d3100 a couple of weeks ago! this is my “testing the waters” camera, but so far it’s exceeded my expectations by miles. your website is awesome! on a different note, i can’t get good pictures with nice looking bokeh with my kit lens (as expected), and im planning to get either the 50mm 1.8g af-s or 35mm 1.8g af-s. which do you suggest do i get?also, im thinking of selling my kit lens, and getting another lens (aside from the prime lenses i just mentioned). Which do you think should i get?=)
    Thanks so much for helping us with your website, it’s a well of knowledge and it’s permanently in my favorites =) hope to hear from you!=)

  21. 21) Terry
    November 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the photography tips, thanks for sharing. The photographs are stunning. I especially loved the one look up at the tree tops. I have done a few ones like that , but your looks awesome!


  22. 22) Ingrid
    November 28, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Great!! Thanks! First time on your site, and have a lot of reading to do!!
    Thank you so much for sharing all of this!

  23. 23) Les
    December 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    First of all thanks for your site. Very informative.
    I came across a youtube video that Active D lighting should be turned off to reduce noise for low light photography. So I tried it at a music recital recently and sure enough it was cleaner than before but it seemed a little 2D’ish. Seemed flat. I posted a question on Nikon and they said “..We do recommend you turn OFF active D Lighting if conditions already require high ISO’s”. I used their free software ViewNX 2 and adjusted some settings till I got back what I thought looked like a sharper picture. If I remember correctly the ISO of the shots I took were 3200 or 6400. So basically leave the settting to auto until you do some low light, high ISO shooting. What are your thoughts on this?


  24. 24) Sagar Microsystem
    January 8, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Hi, I am from Varanasi and I am new to photography with Nikon D3100 DSLR. My Prob. is when I do indoor hall photography and yellow lights are present my photos are not crisp, clear and always looks like shaky pl. suggest some camera programing to start with. -Thanks.

  25. 25) Stephen Islip
    January 24, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Dear Nasim,
    I find you’re article very useful and helpful I will definately take you’re tips into consideration as am wanting to specialise in ambient light photography.
    My question to you is more of what am I doing wrong.
    In august last year (2011), I went to my cousins wedding to do some wedding photography but the location we were at in my head provided beautiful lighting for the photography my ambient light career path.
    Whilst going round taking photo’s of light sources with out flash (technical experiments I like to call it.) I took a picture of some landscape that had no lighting at all. Now being the novice I am, My usual technique was to leave the camera in fully automatic (except the focus….it didn’t really like me much for trying in auto) and turning the flash gun off. My camera was on a tripod and I pressed the shutter down. When it eventually came up and displayed the picture, I was actually shocked to find that instead of a shadowy landscape photo, it looked like I took the photo at the crack of dawn, all be it abit blurry but that’s because I didn’t focus it in properly…I know the mistake there. What I don’t understand is how when it is absolutely pitch black dark and the only reason I personally could see was because my eyes had become adjusted to the darkness, the photo came out as if day break was happening?
    Is this just the way of the camera, or is it that cameras can see much more lighting than the human eye can, or is this because I actually am doing something wrong? And if it is something I’m doing wrong can you tell me how to counteract this to get a bit more of a night time effect?
    Many thanks.
    Steve :)

  26. 26) Anjum
    February 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Dear Nasim,

    You are just too good. The way you explained is so nice and in simple language.. I’m learning a lot from your articles.


  27. 27) lyle
    March 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I just got into the hobby and i really find the tips here useful and informative specially with the settings. i love landscape, still and portraiture photography and knowledge of how to capture these in low light as well really helps.

  28. March 27, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Dear Nasim, thank’s for a great suggestions and for a perfect web site in general… I’ve one question: making photos in kind of “tunnels” for example road in a forest under the trees from both sides, or like your photo just above from very down to top of the trees…what is the right focusing point to have a sharp front/back objects (I do completly understand that large Aperture in this case presenting Deep field is mandatory). Bu tin general, what os your focusing point in this case, closes object…f.e. closest tree…middle object, far object??? Thank you in advance

  29. 29) imblaire
    April 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

    i’m currently using the canon 550d with 18-55mm lens + wide angle lens. the problem is, when i shoot indoor, the noises r too obvious. i’v tried using flash, but the outcomes didnt achieve my satisfaction . help me. thanx

  30. 30) Pauline
    April 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I have read many articles and last night tried every setting known to mankind. I have a Nikon D3100. It doesn’t matter what I do or try, my indoor photos come out orange. Any suggestions would be well received. Thanks.

  31. 31) Ryan
    April 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Does these techniques work on let’s say I’m taking photos of the Vegas strip, what setting would you recommend if I shoot at nightime in Vegas.

  32. 32) monmi das
    April 28, 2012 at 2:42 am

    hi, m monmi here. read your articles and m very impressed about d low light photography. i ve nikkon d3100 and i m interested in portraits and night photography. its indeed a great pleasure to get certain information which i wasnt aware. anyway, thanx a lot. i believe night photography is very tough and i mostly take photographs of events during night. so looking forward to more tips from u regarding my subject. THANKS

  33. 33) Jitter
    April 29, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Hi there. Awesome article on Low Light Photography. Just a question – I have a Nikon D5100 with kit lens Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G2ED. How do i set this at Infinity?

  34. 34) Abhishek
    June 7, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Awesome……….very well explained, step by step. One thing mentioned very important is capturing in RAW. even though snap size is very huge in RAW. RAW captures all the details which jpeg can not. exposure and small mistakes can be corrected in software. More you practice better snap you can get. Thank you for such a nice article.

  35. 35) Arish
    October 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Your website has always been a source of inspiration for amateur photographers like me. Keep writing!!!

  36. 36) Damien S. McLean
    November 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    With the fireworks captured on a tripod, what were your camera settings?


    Damien McLean

  37. 37) Sreeraj
    December 2, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    The writeups are so simple, informative which has helped a lot of us to understand what photography is all about. In fact reading you post has started giving me some sense on what those controls are on my camera. Reading the comments, I assume it may not be a problem sharing pic with you and asking some suggestions.
    BTW the snaps you have shared in your site are inspirations.

    Thank you,

  38. 38) Kelly
    December 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I have a D90 with a Tamron 75-300. My child was in a Christmas program today and I was trying to take pics across the gym and they were all dark and some were blurry. My flash was on, is there anything I can do in those situations to take a clear pic. I could see perfectly fine through the eyeview, and it looked like they were close up. When I took the picture, they did not look as close and it was very dark. I tried to change to manual and then it didn’t take at all, the pics were all blurry and it took a second for the shutter to go off and take the pic. Can you help me?!

  39. 39) juliet
    December 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    The article is great and i m sure it’ll help me lots as i m a beginner with Nikon D3100. Would like to ask one question however. I tried to capture a lighting earthen lamp in a dark room but the results were not good. What shoul be the best settings to take a pic of camp fire/lighting matchstick or a lighted candle in dark?
    Please post ur comments and answer to my query.

  40. January 11, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Thanks about your time to write this..

  41. 41) Caroline Hamlyn
    January 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I have just bought a Nikon d 5100. I am going to Sweden in march hopefully to see the northern lights, is the 18-55 lens that came with the camera suitable or should I buy a wide angle telephoto? If so which one? And which settings would I use to get the best shots? Thanks.

  42. 42) Caroline Hamlyn
    January 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    have just bought a Nikon d 5100. I am going to Sweden in march hopefully to see the northern lights, is the 18-55 lens that came with the camera suitable or should I buy a wide angle telephoto? If so which one? And which settings would I use to get the best shots? Thanks.

  43. 43) SAMIT SUBBA
    January 28, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I just came across your article regarding the basics terms used in photography and these are very helpful to me, as I am a novice in the field of photography. Moreover, I bought myself a Canon 600D with 18-55 Is lens recently and trying my hands in taking some nighttime photography (esp. low-light condition), but the pictures taken in low light are not as not clear as I have desired with enhanced ISO value and faster shutter speed with aperture fully open preferably in AV mode, TV mode (for moving vehicle, etc.), and manual mode…..I used all these modes while taking the pics but something is going wrong and i dont know where it is. Could you help me solving these issues and explain me the protocol at length for low-light photography with 18-55 mm IS lens…..Thanks and would be expecting a good input on this…Take care.

  44. 44) Ahmed Fraz
    February 1, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Dear Nasim Sahib
    The way you have explained most important and basic concepts can make any one fall in love with photography – BRAVO

  45. 45) Gurpreet
    March 10, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I am trying to click a portrait of someone sitting beside Lamp Shade in Dark room. But I am not able to achieve desired result. sometimes, my subject is over exposed and sometimes underexposed. Please help me with settings.

  46. 46) Rajib
    March 28, 2013 at 9:51 am


    Always love to read your articles. So informative. I have one question for you.
    What should be the ideal White balance temperature (kelvin value range) for night-time indoor photography or at a wedding party? I use a Nikon D800 with a 50mm/1.8G most of the time. Sometime pictures come too yellow or too blue… Not able to find the perfect setting. I will really appreciate if you can guide me on this?


  47. 47) Ateeq
    April 12, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Dear Nasim Mansurov,

    That is very informative i want to learn more from you as i am beginner, is it possible that i can take lesson from you .

  48. 48) SAIF
    April 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Very very useful article. I am an enthusiastic photographer. Just upgraded to Nikon D800! It certainly work really well in low light.
    take care

  49. 49) sujesh
    May 17, 2013 at 5:12 am

    Was really nice article to sharp our photography brain.

    thank you

  50. 50) Arnold
    May 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Hi Nasim, Just read your article & found it extremely helpful. I have just got myself a DSLR (Canon 600D) and trying out a little photography. Is there any other websites of yours where i can read on learning photography. I like shooting landscapes however am getting a tide confused with aperture, shutter speed settings.


  51. 51) Teri
    June 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I have currently a Nikon D7000. I have only 2 lenses the Nikkor 18-55 mm 3.5 to 5.6 g and the Nikkor 55-200 mm 1:4-5.6g lenses. I would like to add a prime lens to my equipment, but am still paying for the camera body and the two lenses that came with in my bundle. I am active in the local music scene and would like to do more photography of my band friends when preforming in club situations. I have great access to get close to my subjects but cannot use a flash at is is too distracting to the musicians and paying customers. I have not had Great results with the lenses i have as i seem to get a lot of blur ( the musicians move around alot and the light is only from stage lighting which can vary greatly from high to low quickly) so i am looking for a nice prime lens to add to my new collection. Is this the best prime lens for both club shooting, and some family portraiture? What would be your choice for a lower priced but still good lens? Thanks you so much for your help in this matter. Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

    • 51.1) Eiledon
      May 2, 2014 at 12:10 am

      Hi Terry,
      I came across your question while researching Active D Lighting. What caught my eye was that you shot bands and totally understand. 1st 3 No Flash… So I get it. My go to use to be 35-70 fixed f/2.8 set up at 800 ISO on my D90 I recently purchased a new lens as my main lens died and got a new 24-70 f/2.8 that on the D610 is awesome in low fast paced light. Especially blue,green & red light situations. So I’m looking forward to the 24-70 on my D90. I plan on trying it out with the Active D setting to see how it does in the RBG settings bands seem to make photos work with. With my D90 my set up ranges from App priority 800 ISO @ f/2.8 to manual settings depending on lighting with the D610 full frame you can go as low as 250 ISO @ 2.8 App or manual settings. Shooting that high energy lighting situation the 2.8 is needed. The 1.8 would be a good as well but I have not seen one that would work well as they seem to work well for macro but not bands due to the distance from stage to camera eye. I have also and normally use a a 2nd cam with my 80-200 f/2.8 and work between the two cams to get the shots I want with each cam set to their different ISO. Hope you find this info helpful.

  52. 52) Sagar
    June 25, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Very nice article…this will really help me to try out low light photography.

  53. June 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Great tips for low light photography- we push the ISO right up now as modern cameras are pretty good even at high settings. I have a 2.8 but going for a 1.4 will give that little bit more which can make all the difference.

  54. 54) william
    June 29, 2013 at 5:07 am

    its so wonderful article. I was wanting to ask you how you managed to get such bright crisp photos of your home and then I found this article. For some reason I Thanks for writing this post

    never use my tripod in the house but that will change now. Thanks again!

  55. 55) Debashis
    October 3, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Dear Sir,
    It was a pleasure going through your site… I have got a Canon D1000, and only at the first steps of DSLR photography. Hope will get to learn a lot from You……….

    Thank You

  56. 56) jaison thomas
    November 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks for such a nice description. But still it is not clear that what mode to be selected(manual, aperture). when I tried aperture mode with f 1.8 in low light condition, shutter speed shows 1/5 which cannot be increased keeping the same aperture. if it is in the manual mode I am able to set the aperture to 1.8 and increase the shutter speed as well. but the metering shows under exposed. kindly suggest what setting has to be done. I am using nikon d90 with 18-105 and 50 mm 1.8d.

  57. November 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    This is a fabulous article with great information for beginner photographers. Thanks for sharing!

    December 20, 2013 at 2:50 am

    i bought canon ixus 510 hs on diwali time. Now i enjoyed with that options. Some of the options i dont know to use such as i frame movie and low light. please tell me about that? and Battery Backup is very low. it has been taken for only 40-50 photos maximum with flash.

    I would like to take short film in that camera is it possible?

  59. 59) Korinda Wierzba
    January 19, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Hello, I am a beginning photographer and I will be taking pictures at a local Country club father/daughter dance. I am needing some advice in shooting in low light. I have read the comments above and they were helpful but still have a few more questions for my situation. The place that I’m taking pictures is an older building. It has natural wood floors, however the walls are a pink/salmon color and the lighting is really dim. I am going to get a different backdrop this year, however, I am wondering if I should get a studio lighting set up, or will just a good flash or speed lite work? Also, what backdrop color would best suit my situation? I appreciate any feedback. Thanks,
    Korinda from KC, MO

  60. 60) jeremy rogers
    February 15, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Hi, I own a d3200 and the longest I can keep the shutter open for night photography is 30secs, I know that in other dslr cameras they have a Bulb mode which lets you keep the shutter opened for as long as you want but on the d3200 the longest is 30secs, so I was wondering if there is anyway I can achieve bulb mode manually or if I can exceed 30secs to capture more light for a better picture.

  61. 61) manuel
    February 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    can anybody help me. Im going to take photos indoor with backdratf with 2 lights. What setting should i used im using nikon d3100. Pls

    • 61.1) Kunal Khapre
      March 16, 2015 at 4:48 am

      Try playing with the shutter speed and ISO this will do your work :)

  62. 62) Elaine
    February 22, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Wow- thanks so much for the fantastic article. It was great to read such a comprehensive overview.

  63. 63) Grateful Beginner
    March 1, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Thanks so much for a great website. I am currently doing a photography course for beginners and am learning more from your website then the course

  64. 64) rockphotoz
    July 7, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I cannot but say THANK YOU for this powerful article. Just imagine since year 2010 and still relevant in the world of photography.

  65. 65) naomi wilson
    July 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    dera mr nasim,
    i have a nikon D3100 with a 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6g, and i want to know how i have to change my iso aperture or my shutterspeed for me to get a nice pic of the moon but with the sky blue

  66. 66) Kiran Kumar
    September 8, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Dear sir/mam
    I am nature guide in western ghats of India. i have a small Nikon 16.5 mp digital camera.
    Now my plan is buy a d SLR camera in Rs. 30000(thirty thousand)
    My doubts are
    I am very keen observe person, i want to take small micro/ macro pictures
    and in side the jungle low light, in low light need best pictures
    and after sun set and also indoor photos
    which is best company camera – and lenses?
    Nikon D3300 -24.5 mp is OK ?
    Kiran Coorg.
    i hope i get back u soon

    • 66.1) Kunal Khapre
      March 16, 2015 at 4:45 am

      If you are new in the world of DSLR I recommend you Nikon D3100. It has everything you need as a beginner. Later on when you think you have mastered the art of capturing, you can change the lens or your whole kit. P.S. and it’s in your budget too ;)

  67. 67) Joar
    September 29, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Wow compact amazing write ups… I salute you sir with your article… Its really helpful for a beginners like me. Thank you so much

  68. 68) jansen
    October 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Hello Nasim,
    In a week an organization at my school will be hosting a bonfire and a car smash, I was wondering if you had any tips i could use and possible settings I could use on my camera to get great, well exposed pictures with out a flash. Also, I was wondering if you had any suggestions on types of pictures i could get. I am using a nikon d5000 with a 18-55mm kit lens; Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  69. 69) Subrato Mitra
    November 7, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Terrific article. Learned a lot. Thank you, Nasim.

  70. 70) Franklin
    February 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Great read. But I’m having a problem with night shots. When I capture the moon, there’s a dark ring around the moon, the moon is blown out, and the sky is too bright. So I lowered my exposure for the moon, but then the sky is too dark and doesn’t capture any stars. Is this a matrix/spot metering issue? Or is this a crop sensor camera issue?

    • 70.1) agittins
      February 22, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Hey Franklin, not certain without seeing the pics but the dark halo around the moon might be an artefact from the sharpening that the camera (or your post-processing workflow) is doing. Turning off sharpening (or set to “soft” mode or similar) might help with that, but shooting raw will probably make for the best results. As for capturing stars I think the problem is that the moon is so much brighter than the stars that you just can’t capture them both in one exposure (the “dynamic range” is too great). You can try exposing for the moon for one frame, then expose for the stars in another, and combine the images to blend. This is called HDR or “high dynamic range” photography – there are loads of techniques and tools out there for doing it – you’ve got hours of intriguing reading ahead of you :-)

  71. 71) krishna raj pandey
    May 26, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Dear Mr.Nasim
    I just bought canon 7d mark 2. cant i do lowlight photography with this camera since this is not full frame camera.
    however ur all articles are very useful to be ..
    krishna raj pandey

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