Tutorial: 4 More Tips For Taking Better Low Light Photos

After posting the 10 tips article a few days ago, I have a few additional tips to share about low light photography. These tips can also be helpful when doing still life or landscape photography in any lighting situation.

So without further ado, here are the additional tips:

TIP 11: Use Mirror Lockup: – Mirror lockup is a feature on many DSLRs and other cameras. By engaging mirror lockup (often through a custom menu), you can reduce vibration inside the camera because the mirror does not have to flip out of the way to expose the film or sensor. This can result in sharper images when you have the camera on a tripod. I have seen a subtle but discernable difference when using mirror lockup on various cameras.

Just remember that on most cameras, the first press will engage the mirror lockup and the second press of the shutter release (or cable release) will make the actual exposure. It’s also a good idea to wait 2-5 seconds after engaging the mirror lockup to make your exposure to allow for vibrations to be reduced.


(Fig. 1) This image of the Eiffel Tower was shot at about 1am, using a tripod. photo ©Andrew Darlow, all rights reserved

Tech info: Sony DSC-F828 (8MP fixed lens SLR camera), f/4.5 at 2sec., ISO 64, Manual Mode

TIP 12: Use a Cable Release or Self Timer: – A cable release allows you to keep your hands off the camera during an exposure, which can help to further reduce movement during a shot. A self timer is often more convenient to use, but it’s not nearly as easy to get a shot at a specific time. Some cameras have a timer option that’s just a few seconds, which is very helpful.


(Fig. 2) This image, photographed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France at about 12:30am, was shot using a tripod. photo ©Andrew Darlow, all rights reserved

Tech info: Sony DSC-F828 (8MP fixed lens SLR camera), f/4 at 1/2 sec., ISO 64, Manual Mode

TIP 13: Set Your Highlight Warning to “On” – On most cameras, by turning the highlight warning on, the LCD display will show blinking areas where your highlights are almost blown out (detail may still be in the highlights), or the blinking highlights may be blown out to a point where detail cannot be recovered. Using this feature can help to avoid the problem of blown out skies, lights, etc. Try to set an exposure that avoids blinking highlights, with the understanding that some lights and areas will be blown out at times. Or capture multiple exposures using Auto Exposure Bracketing (see Tip 14).

TIP 14: Use Auto Exposure Bracketing: – Auto Exposure Bracketing is a setting that allows you to take multiple exposures (usually 3) with three different exposures, one after another. This can be very helpful when you have a situation with a lot of bright lights, windows, or a mix of very bright and very dark areas. The images can then be combined in a program like Photoshop. This is most effective when on a tripod, or if shooting handheld, use continuous shooting mode and take three exposures (hopefully without moving!). When shooting RAW, I will use a 1.5 or 2 stop exposure bracket. For example, with a 2 stop AE bracket, the camera might shoot at the same shutter speed, with these three apertures: f/2.8, f5.6 and f/11. The RAW format allows for significant tonal adjustments and in my experience, 1.5 to 2 stops works well. For those who shoot in JPG mode, you may want to choose a 1 to 1.5 stop auto exposure bracket.


(Fig. 3) This image of the Eiffel Tower was shot at about 1am, using a tripod. Good thing the ground was dry and very clean because I was flat on my back to achieve this angle of view. I very gently depressed the shutter release after breathing out, so that there would be a minimal amount of vibration. Another option would have been to use the self timer, but I wanted to take as many images as possible before the tower’s lights were turned off. photo ©Andrew Darlow, all rights reserved

Tech info: Sony DSC-F828 (8MP fixed lens SLR camera), f/4.5 at 2 sec., ISO 64, Manual Mode


A selection of 34 compact and fast lenses to consider for low-light photography (15 Pentax, Sigma and Canon-branded lenses were recently added). Some were chosen more for affordability than speed, and you can find many more lenses on lens manufacturer sites.

For additional reviews and information about lenses, I highly recommend the following sites:

Digital Photo Pro (digitalphotopro.com – Selected articles from many past issues.)

Photo.net (Many lens and equipment reviews.)

Luminous-Landscape.com (Many articles about lenses and photography, including this excellent one about Mirror Lockup)

Shutterbug.com (Many articles about lenses and other equipment from previous issues.)

SLRgear.com (Many reviews from the website’s staff and readers.)

Popular Photography & Imaging (popphoto.com – Many online exclusive articles about lenses and other equipment.)

Professional Photographer Magazine (ppmag.com – Many online exclusive articles and reviews.)

Rangefinder Magazine (Archives section) – (rangefindermag.com – Many articles from previous issues.)

To search any site for lens info whether or not the site has a built-in search box, I recommend the following tip: On Google.com, enter the following into the search box: site:website.com lens (for example: site:imagingbuffet.com lens)



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