Shooting in Low Light

My photography background consists of taking a few classes at the local junior college, and what I’ve read online and in books. All of these resources have helped me along my journey in photography. I’ve taken a handful of photos that I really enjoy. But I still lack the ability to take decent photos in low-light situations.

Kayla’s volleyball game.

When I shot on film, using my Nikon N90, I was always anxious when shooting in low light. I would dread that the photos I took would develop and show nothing at all. Shooting digitally I am less anxious, but I’m rarely happy with the end results I achieve.

I know part of the solution is having the right tools. If you don’t have a fast enough lens, then shooting action in low light will be a challenge. The photo above is from one of Kayla’s volleyball matches. I used the fastest lens I had, a Sigma 30mm / f 1.4. From the looks of it, the photo came out as best as it could. But the lens is wide, so close-up details are not possible. I wish I could move closer to the action. I guess I need a longer lens.

Kaleb sitting.

I used the same lens to take this photo of Kaleb in very low light. I shot this at ISO 800. You can see some blurring, as I had the aperture wide open. I didn’t take into account the depth of field I was working it. I need to pay more attention to this aspect of photography. I was simply hoping to get a photo without using a flash. I worked on the photo a bit in Photoshop, but it could have been much better if I had just a little more light.

So what do I know right now about shooting in low light?

  • If you have a fast lens, use it. As I understand it, a fast lens is f 1.8 or lower. If you have a kit lens it may not be suited for this task.
  • Use a higher ISO. If you use 800 or higher, you may get some grainy photos, so don't be surprised.
  • If possible, use a tripod. A tripod may not work, especially when your subject is moving.

There are plenty of good tips out there. I just need to read them and keep shooting. As they say, practice makes perfect.

AJ Giron @verbal