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Photographing in low light . . . tough, right?

Photography in low light was a huge challenge for me when I first started out. My photos were dark and grainy and it was just so frustrating. After a lot of research and even more practice, I learned a few tricks I'll share with you today.


1. Bump up your ISO

In the perfect situation, with beautiful light, you will want to keep your ISO as low as you can to eliminate grain but some situations simply require a bump in your ISO. Increasing your ISO will allow more light to hit your camera's sensor increasing the light on your subject. I would start at 800 for testing purposes and adjust up or down from there. Just don't be afraid to go higher. I took photos this weekend in a terribly lit school gym and had to bump my ISO to 1600. The photos turned out great with very little noticeable grain!


2. Lower your Aperture

Your aperture setting tells the camera how much light to allow in to your shot. If you use a wide aperture (small f-stop), you can capture a bit of light for your photo without having to use a flash. The great thing about a lower aperture is how it creates such beautiful bokeh. The lower your f-stop, the more blur in your background (bokeh). Just remember that this is best when you have fewer subjects and they are all at the same depth. Meaning if you have a large group, of say a sports team, and they are posing several rows deep, you will want to bump up your f-stop to make sure everyone in the photo is sharp and clear. Shooting at f2.8 is my favorite but this sporting situation would not create the picture you are hoping for at an f-stop that low.


3. Use a slower Shutter Speed

This one is dangerous so read carefully. A slower shutter speed will result in a longer exposure time. This will allow more light to your subject, however keeping the camera as still as possible is critical. It's so critical to your photo, you'll want to use a tripod or set your camera down on a secure surface and use the built in timer. If you use Nikon like we do, you'll want to use the VR (Vibration Reduction) feature (Canon's is called IS). This all takes a little more time and thought, and some extra equipment but the results are amazing.


4. Buy a "Fast" lens

IF you are in the market for a new lens, you might consider a faster lens. The lens that comes with your camera (kit lenses) are nice but they aren't ideal for low light situations. Getting a "fast" lens will allow you to take better pictures in low light because they have a wide apertures (f1.4, f1.8 or f2.8) and allow more light in. Fast camera lenses can be quite expensive so know that this is not required, only a suggestion if you are already in the market. You can definitely create beautiful photos in low light with your kit lens, it just requires more knowledge and practice.


5. Adjust your White Balance

I typically keep my camera on auto when it comes to white balance. I find that my professional series Nikon DSLR does a really job at capturing colors accurately. However, I find that on occasion, adjusting the white balance in my camera helps my pictures find the right "white" and helps my pictures from looking washed out, orange, blue or yellow. I find this most often when shooting inside with fluorescent lights. Most cameras will allow you to adjust this in the camera before your photo s