Inside: Think you can’t take great photos because you don’t have enough light in your house? These tips for low light photography at home will change your mind.
The lack of natural light in my home made me feel so limited when I first attempted to learn photography. I’d say things like:
“My house is too dark for great photos.”
“My photos aren’t good because there’s not enough natural light in my house.”
Do you …
feel limited by the lack of light in your home?
only pull out your camera when there’s bright light available?
believe the lie that you have to have lots of light to take a great photo?
Here’s the truth: you can capture great photos without a lot of light.
I love low light photography now because I’ve learned how to work with the light I have. And I’ve learned to love the challenge of working with less rather than more light.
I captured this photo in my home on a dark, rainy winter day.
Two choices made it work: my camera settings and my subject’s proximity to the light source.
Read on to learn how these tips for low light photography can help you with taking photos in low light.
3 Reasons To Embrace Low Light Photography
One of my best tips for low light photography is to embrace it because it allows you to capture life when it’s happening rather than waiting for a time when the light is bright.
A small window illuminates one corner of my kitchen. It’s one of my favorite spots in the house to shoot.
I love how it creates a “pocket” of light that spotlights my subject. I’ve taken some of my best photos there.
Low light photography makes for interesting photos with elements of both light and shadow.
When you expose for the small amount of light in a low light scene the rest of the scene will be thrown into shadow, creating beautiful contrast and depth.
I captured the photo below during a week of sickness. Trust me, the room wasn’t presentable, but I love how the mess fell into shadow as I exposed for the light from the ipad falling on my daughter’s face.
And that’s a third reason I love low light photography. With your subject illuminated and the rest of the scene in shadow, the shadows help conceal any clutter in the scene.
Any mom can mom appreciate that benefit!
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The Best DSLR Settings For Low Light Photography
When I hear people say they don’t have enough light in their home to take great photos, I know what they’re missing isn’t light, but the ability to manipulate their camera settings for the best results in any lighting situation.
If your house is dark, that’s one of the best reasons to learn how to use your DSLR camera.
In auto mode most cameras struggle in low light, but in manual mode, that’s where a DSLR can shine over a camera phone or a point and shoot camera. A DSLR has capabilities those others don’t.
Taking control of your camera settings will open up new worlds of possibility for shooting in low light.
Without the ability to control your camera settings your ability to capture great photos in your home will be limited.
Camera Setting Tips for Low Light Photography
Use a wide aperture.
A wide aperture setting allows your camera to gather more light. If I’m shooting a single subject indoors I keep my aperture between f/2.8 and f.3.2.
Think of aperture (also known as f/stop) like the iris of your eye. Your iris opens wider to gather more light when it’s dark. Your camera can do the same in low light.
Raise your ISO.
Your camera’s ISO setting determines how sensitive your camera’s sensor (the part inside your camera that captures an image) is to light.
The lower your ISO setting, the less sensitive. The higher the setting, the more sensitive.
The higher you set your ISO, the more light your camera will be able to “gather.” Use a higher ISO setting to help your camera take a photo low light.
I like to start around ISO 800 or 1000 for low light photography.
Expose To The Right
An issue you will run into with low light images is increased noise in your image due to a higher ISO setting. Noise makes your photos look grainy and can decrease the image quality.
If you’re shooting in manual mode, set your exposure as bright as you can without overexposing your subject. The brighter exposure will help to reduce the amount of noise in your image.
Make sure the ticker on your in-camera meter falls to the right of 0, toward the + side.
If terms like aperture, ISO, and exposure sound like a foreign language to you I recommend downloading my free photography cheat sheet and quick start guide for beginners.
Lighting Tips For Low Light Photography
When you’re shooting indoors be aware of your distance from the light source (the window).
It sounds like common sense, but when you move closer to the light source you’re taking advantage of a mathematical law called the inverse square law of light.
The name sounds complex, but the concept is simple:
Light loses its intensity rapidly the further you get from the light source.
So if your subject is 1 meter away from your window – then they move two meters away from the window – the amount of light available from that window doesn’t halve, as one might guess.
At 2 meters away from the window, you’ll only have ¼ of the light you had at 1 meter.
So, moving closer to a window in your home can multiply the amount of light you have to work with.
Back to the example in my kitchen, I’ve found that I get best results when I take photos on the side of the kitchen island that’s near the window.
On the other side of the kitchen island the light becomes too diffused and too dark to give me good results.
In the example above, the photo turned out great even in low light because of my daughter’s proximity to the light source. If she’d been closer to my camera on the other side of the room from the window it wouldn’t have worked well.
Don’t buy the lie that you don’t have enough light in your home to take great photos.
Instead, learn how to use the light you have and your camera settings for the best results when shooting in low light.
If you’re ready to master your camera, I recommend joining Love Your Photos 101 – the digital photography course for beginners I offer several times per year that’s designed to get you shooting confidently in manual mode.