Equipment for Low Light Photography

Taking photos in low light takes some practise to perfect, we have put together a great guide to help you master the art of low light photograph. Tips for taking low lights shots, fixing underexposed photos and even a infographic on low light photography tips to bring it all together. We hope you enjoy.
Citrus shot with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi using a 50mm f/1.4 lens.  1/100, f/2.0, 50mm, ISO 1600.
Citrus shot with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi using a 50mm f/1.4 lens. 1/100, f/2.0, 50mm, ISO 1600.

Make the most of this list of recommended photography equipment for successful shooting under low lighting conditions.

Camera – The best DSLR cameras for low light photography posses a high maximum ISO, burst shooting capabilities, exposure compensation capabilities, RAW file format capabilities, and multi-point auto-focus. The Nikon D7000 is an excellent choice, as is the Canon 5D Mark II and the Pentax K-5. For more entry-level photography, choose a Sony Alpha A580 or a Canon Rebel T3i.

Lens – A lens is considered “fast”, or most capable in low-light photography, if it has a very low maximum aperture. Anything below f/2.8 is fantastic for photography in dim settings. Also, look for a lens that has image stabilization or vibration reduction capabilities. Many Canon fans swear by the 35mm f/1.4L or the 50mm f/1.4 prime lenses. The Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS is a great walking-around zoom lens with image stabilization capabilities. For Nikon enthusiasts, the equivalent prime lenses are the (expensive!) Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.4G and the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G. For a great walking-around zoom lens, choose the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G.

Tripod or Monopod – Choose a quality, sturdy tripod with a ball head and quick release to provide excellent support and flexibility for low light photography. Grab a monopod for functional stability while on the go. Personally, I am a big believer in Manfrotto products.

Remote Shutter Release – Use a remote shutter release with a tripod-mounted camera to eliminate any potential for camera shake while photographing.

External Flash – Speedlites are all the rage for providing off-camera flash that is flexible and portable. Canon’s lineup of Speedlite flashes offer a range of functionality and affordability. Nikon has their own lineup of speedlights as well.

Reflectors – Reflectors work great for capturing and directing even the smallest amount of ambient light. Choose a reflector that is silver on one side and gold on the other in order to provide cooler or warmer light quality. Lastolite has a great lineup of quality products at affordable prices.

Tips for Photographing in Low Light

Taking photos in low light takes some practise to perfect, we have put together a great guide to help you master the art of low light photograph. Low light cameras and equipmentfixing underexposed photos and even a infographic on low light photography tips to bring it all together. We hope you enjoy.

Drums, shot at 1/6 of a second using f/2.8, ISO 1600
Drums, shot at 1/6 of a second using f/2.8, ISO 1600

Sometimes we want to take photographs under low lighting conditions without using a flash. It could be that we don’t want to cause a distraction during a ceremony or formal event. Perhaps flash isn’t allowed, such as during many concerts or performances. Or maybe we just like the ambiance that the use of the available light creates. Whatever the reason, it is reassuring to know that we can take quality photographs, even in dim lighting, without the use of a flash.

One – Crank up the ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera’s sensor is to the light that is reaching it. My Canon 7D’s highest ISO is 6400 (I haven’t purchased the expansion), and I’ve used that setting to photograph bands at night clubs with some pretty good results. The additional noise that is generated by using a high ISO can be filtered out somewhat in post-processing. Sometimes the extra grain adds a little something special to the shot. Shooting in RAW format allows for the most flexibility in post-processing.

Two – Use a larger aperture. The larger the aperture, the more light is entering the lens. Shooting at f/5.6 lets in more light than shooting at f/18 (remember, the lower the number, the larger the aperture).

Three – Slow down the shutter speed. More light is captured the longer the shutter remains open. Keep in mind that a good “rule of thumb” for clear hand-held shots is no slower than 1/60th of a second. Use a tripod if you’re shooting at anything slower than that, though I have had success at slower hand-held shots using lenses with image stabilization.

Four – If you do have to use a flash, try to avoid the on-camera pop-up. It tends to flatten the appearance of the image because the light is hitting the subject directly. Invest in an off-camera flash, angle light so that it is not directly in front of the subject, and use reflective surfaces and diffusers to soften the light. Strategically placed constant light (such as tungsten lamps using soft white bulbs) work excellently for providing additional ambient light without sacrificing the atmosphere of the setting.

Five – Use your camera’s exposure compensation capabilities. The scale on many of today’s DSLR’s allow from -3 to +3 stops in 1/3 stop increments (my 7D is +/-5). Dial the exposure compensation to the positive side to purposefully “overexpose” the photograph.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Low light and shallow depth of field Canon S90 photos

Canon Powershot S90
The Powershot S90 from Canon is what we call a pro-digicam, its a compact point and shoot with full manual controls, and high end features like a wide f/2.0 aperture, and a large sensor great for high iso low light shooting.

Following are some photos that caught my eye, especially since they were taken with a tiny point and shoot rather than a big DSLR.

'Ghosts' by alexbrn, showing a pattern of light from stained glass
  • f/3.5
  • 28mm
  • 1/100s
  • 80 ISO

Ghosts by alexbrn. The color and light in this photo are really unique, nice eye to catch that.

'Heaven' by aurelien, concert photo
  • f/2.8
  • 35mm
  • 1/40s
  • 500 ISO

Heaven by aurélien. Concerts present a challenge because they’re so dark, but the lighting is also an opportunity for photos like this. The photographer took the shot at 1/40s (almost as slow as you’d want to go hand-held), risking blur, and even with a slow shutter speed like that needed to use a relatively wide aperture of f/2.8 and higher than normal ISO of 500 to get a good exposure.

'New Grassn' by koocbor, great example of shallow depth of field
  • f/2.0
  • 28mm
  • 1/320s
  • 80 ISO

New Grass by koocbor. Notice how only the grass in the front is in focus, and everything in the background is blurred. The photographer achieved this narrow depth of field using two techniques: a wide aperture of f/2.0 (only available on a few cameras), and by getting close to his subject while keeping the background distant.

'Escalator' by tetradtx, a low-light wide-angle photo
  • f/2.0
  • 28mm
  • 1/30s
  • 200 ISO

Escalator by tetradtx. The perspective in this photo really draws you in. Again, another low light shot, taken without a flash. The photographer used a wide aperture again of f/2.0, and a slow shutter speed of 1/30s to get a good exposure. The photo is very sharp, impressive if they didn’t use a tripod. The shot was taken at 28mm, which although isn’t as wide as some cameras is still fairly wide and is responsible for creating the wide-angle perspective you see.

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Incredible concert photos with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (aka DMC-TZ7)

Panasonic Lumic DMC-ZS3

The Lumix DMC-ZS3 from Panasonic (aka the DMC-TS7 in Europe) is one of the most popular cameras at Snapsort, and for good reason: very few camera’s its size have as much zoom (12x) while still having a good wide-angle lens (25mm), let alone also do 720p HD video and overall great pictures.

Here are some great photos taken by Wonker at concerts.  Taking good photos at a concert is one of the most challenging tasks for a camera because you’re often far away from the performer, there isn’t much light, and to get an awesome shot you have to turn off the flash so you capture the mood and lighting of the even.

  • f/3.3
  • 25mm
  • 1/20s
  • 800 ISO

This shot (above) was taken at 25mm (you can’t really go wider with a point and shoot, some do 24mm which is only slightly wider), and really puts the concert in context, I love the curve of the dome above which seems to frame the stadium below.

To be able to take a good photo in the dark like this, the photographer used ISO 800 and the f/3.3 (the fastest aperture the camera shoots), and 1/20s shutter speed, probably the minimum shutter he could use without introducing blur from camera shake. The ZS3 seems to do a decent job at ISO 800, if he’d left it at ISO 100, his shutter would have been 0.4s, which would have required a tripod.

  • f/4.9
  • 200mm
  • 1/250s
  • 320 ISO

Here the photographer got up nice and close using 200mm (about 8x zoom). If you only had a 3x or 5x zoom you couldn’t get a shot like this (unless you were really close to the action!)


  • f/4.3
  • 100mm
  • 1/25s
  • 800 ISO

From the same concert as the shot above, this time using a high ISO again to make sure he avoids blur from camera shake.

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