Tips for Using a Digital Camera for Photos in Low Light

Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)

All sorts of problems can arise in low-light, from noise to blur to weird color casts. Fortunately there are a number of techniques and technologies you can utilize to eliminate them:

Improvise tripods: Camera shake blur is a common problem in low-light photography, and the ultimate solution to hold the camera steady - a tripod - is bulky and impractical. However, one can often improvise a tripod from the environment, or even your own body. Try balancing the camera on a ledge, table, chair, or any other surface. If there’s nothing available, you can try holding the camera with your elbows propped up against your waist, or use a neckstrap to balance the camera against your neck. Each of these methods will keep the camera steadier, minimizing the amount of blur.

Take multiple shots: One important aspect of blur is that it’s variable - the amount of blur in your images change from shot to shot, even if all your settings and techniques are the same. Because of this, taking a large series of photos will often improve your chances of getting a sharp shot - even if your original photo turns out blurry, there’s a decent chance that the next photo could be sharper. Within the next twenty photos, you’re almost guaranteed to have one photo that’s sharper than your original, so taking a large series of shots and selecting the best one afterward is a useful tool for reducing blur.

Noise reduction programs: All cameras exhibit noise at high ISOs, resulting in blotchiness and grain in your images. There are a number of noise reduction programs on the market, however, that can filter out this noise extremely well, completely removing it in many cases. One such program is NeatImage, which can be found at www.neatimage.com. There’s a free trial for Windows users, so it doesn’t hurt to try it.

High ISO noise - original High ISO noise - filtered with NeatImage

Utilize high ISO: While noise can be a problem with high ISOs, in almost all images the noise is highly preferable to blur, which often makes images completely usable. If you’re faced with a choice between high ISO and more noise or low ISO and more blur, choose the high ISO, especially since noise can be filtered out with noise reduction programs.

White balance presets: Indoor lighting can often produce odd color casts. The easiest way to deal with this is to simply set your white balance preset before taking photos - set the preset to either “Incandescent/Tungsten” or “Fluorescent” depending on the lighting source, and your photos will come out with the correct color.

Unbalanced incandescent lighting In-camera incandescent preset

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