how to photograph in darkness

When working outdoors, achieving proper exposure can be a simple process due to the abundance of natural light. The moment we head indoors, however, the process gets rather difficult in a hurry. This often leads to blurry photos and frustration, leaving many photographers wondering if they should even bother at all. The solution is not necessarily the flash, but a few quick tricks that anyone can use right away for better results. Here are five way to shoot with success even in the darkest spaces.  

photography tips

1) Crank the ISO 

The single biggest cause of exposure problems is a hesitance to raise the ISO. It is, after all, the least understood setting for many photography students. Yet with a single button, you can prevent underexposed images. Think of your camera as a light-gathering sponge. The higher the ISO number, the more light it soaks in.

adjust camera ISO settings

At ISO 200 for example, the camera gathers twice as much light as ISO 100. The amount of existing light may appear sufficient to our eyes as they automatically adjust. To a camera however, it’s not nearly enough to make a proper exposure. In these low light situations, you’ll often benefit from an ISO of 1600 or 3200.

adjust the camera light

Some of the world’s most exquisite architecture and artwork is found in the darkest spaces of churches and museums. To further complicate matters, many restrict flash photography. By adjusting the ISO, you can leave the flash off and still capture well-exposed pictures. At a recent visit to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, it was not uncommon to shoot at extraordinarily high ISOs such as 6400 or 12,800. As technology continues to improve, some high-end cameras now offer ISO 102,400 and 204,800. Essentially this allows a photographer to shoot in near darkness.

architecture photography tips

2) Use Noise Reduction

While it’s true that some digital artifacts will show up around ISO 1600 and greater, this is an easy fix using noise reduction tools.

noise reduction tools

PicsArt has a powerful Noise Reduction Effect that eliminates the distracting grainy effect to give you a cleaner and clearer shot. Try it for yourself to see just how effective it is.  

edit grainy effect

3) Use a Tabletop Tripod 

A tabletop tripod is the perfect solution for when you need to travel light but still want to work in low light. The ability to use a slow shutter speed opens up a world of creative possibilities, specifically, showing motion. With this technique you can reveal the flow of commuters streaming through a busy transportation hub or airport. Because the tabletop tripod is so small, you’ll need to find something to rest it on at an ideal height. While this may seem like a disadvantage at first, it actually works in your favor. With a large tripod, you would stand out and draw a good deal of attention to yourself. 

tripod using tips

4) Use the Timer 

This rarely used setting is typically found in the “drive” menu, along with single shot, multi-shot burst mode, etc. If you’re in a place that doesn’t allow tripods, it’s still possible to take sharp photos, even with long exposure times. Select the two second timer and rest the camera on a chair, or the ground.

camera timer for sharp pictures

You can use the folded camera strap to angle the camera upwards if necessary. When you press the shutter, the camera will move initially. Don’t worry, you have two seconds for it to settle down before the camera actually fires. 

folded camera strap

5) The Magic Number is 1/125

If you want consistently sharp photos, the slowest shutter speed you should ever hand-hold the camera at is 1/125 (pronounced one, one twenty fifth of a second). Anything slower, and the likelihood of camera shake increases dramatically. While features like vibration reduction and image stabilization offer some flexibility here, it’s wise not to push your luck with slower exposure times. This becomes even more critical should you decide to print your favorite images. Even with a steady hand, tiny mistakes become large problems upon enlargement. Besides preventing camera movement, 1/125 is also suitable for freezing slow moving subjects like a portrait.

portrati photography tips