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December 25, 2016

Tips for low light photography: Capture every Christmas moment

by John_A

Christmas tends to be a time of pretty lights and low-lit rooms to take full advantage of those lights, which in turn results in images full of random shadows and colours.

To help you out, we have compiled a few tips to give you better photo results when using a camera in low light. First step is taking it out of auto, and then follow these tricks to make sure you capture every moment. If you’re using a smartphone, you can check out our feature six tips on smartphone photography to help you out.

Use the scene modes

The scene modes are a good place to start and many cameras feature an intelligent scene setting, which detects when you are taking a night shot so this feature is worth keeping on.

You can also manually set your camera to night mode, which will more than likely still give you a flash, but it is a step in the right direction for a better shot.

Some cameras also have a low light mode, which not only turns the flash off, but automatically sets the right shutter speed, aperture, ISO, among other features necessary for a good shot.

Set the maximum image stabilisation

As the flash is your enemy when it comes to low light shots, when you turn it off your shutter will need to stay open as long as possible for each photo to get as much light into the sensor as possible.

The only problem is, any movement you make in that time will result in blurring, which you don’t want unless you are looking for a super arty shot.

To help avoid the blur, you need to find the image stablisation setting in the camera and set it to the maximum. The camera will then use a range of techniques and algorithms to counteract any shaky hands.

Alternatively, find somewhere stable to rest your camera – a table or wall, for example.

Avoid zoom

When you zoom in, you reduce the amount of light that can be let into the camera at any one time, unless you have a high-end model, that is.

If you have a camera that allows you to adjust the aperture, you’ll notice the maximum size, which is the smallest number available, will be selectable. For the majority of compact cameras, this won’t be the case when you are zoomed in.

For the best low light shots, you need a large aperture and therefore you need to move yourself closer, rather than hitting that plus button to zoom in.

Consider setting the maximum ISO possible

Since you have taken your camera out of Auto mode, it is likely the device will stop adjusting the ISO for you, or at least let you alter it yourself.

The ISO is the measurement for how sensitive your camera is to light. For low light shots, a higher ISO will give you a photo without using a really long, slow shot, which is difficult to keep steady handheld.

At the top settings you’ll probably see some more noise or speckles on your images, with a lack of clarity and possibly the odd artifact, but if all else fails, you’ll get that night shot.

Try the manual option

You might just be a point and shoot photographer, but if your camera has a manual mode, then it is worth giving it a go.

For low light conditions, you need that large aperture mentioned above and a long shutter speed, meaning you will need low numbers for both settings.

If you are unsure, many cameras will show you how you are affecting the image as you change the settings on the LCD display, so keep an eye on it and stop when it looks right.

Take the time to experiment and you’ll find the best combination of all the techniques above.

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