How to take better photos in the dark | Darker afternoons & early evenings

How to take better photos in the dark

As much as I love the darker evenings, it’s not always beneficial for photographers. As soon as winter hits and it starts getting a little darker towards 4pm, it gets a lot harder to shoot in natural light. That being said, there are several different techniques I use in order to make the most out of what light is on offer. At the end of the day, I still need to earn living, and to do that I need to take photos. I remember struggling during the winter and so I’ve decided to put together a post on how to take better photos in the dark.

These tips are mostly going to apply to shooting outdoors but there will be some tips for shooting inside too. You are always going to get better photos when shooting outside in natural, morning or midday light – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great photos when it’s a little darker out. All the photos you see here are taken at about 4pm on a bit of a dreary day. My photos tend to be very colourful and I like to brighten the image with certain techniques in photoshop. So I’ll throw in a few post processing tips too. Here goes! How to take better photos in the dark –

take better photos in the dark

What each setting means | take better photos in the dark

If you have a DSLR, then there are certain settings you can change on your camera that’ll help let in more light and in return offer you better, crisper images during darker afternoons. Firstly shoot in manual. Although this may seem daunting, I assure you it’s not as hard as it may seem. There are three main settings that I’m going to be talking you through – Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. Each of these can be altered to create brighter images, allowing more light into the camera and fighting away dark, grainy images. Firstly here’s a bit of info on each setting –

Shutter speed – If you’re not an avid DSLR user then you may need to take a little look in your camera’s instruction manual to figure out how to change each individual setting on manual. Once you know how to change the settings, it’s simple. Shutter speed is pretty self explanatory – it controls how fast the camera takes the photo. The lower the shutter speed the slower it takes the photo and therefore lets more light in. The only issue with this is when photographing moving objects you may get a slight blur (don’t worry – there’s ways to overcome that!)

Aperture – This effects the background and ”blurriness” of objects in the background of your images. An aperture is defined as ‘an opening hole or gap’ and that’s exactly what the aperture on your camera is. It is the opening of a lens’ diaphragm through which light passes through. This is measured in ‘f stops’ and the lower f.stop you use (depending on what lens you are using) the wider the aperture becomes, this leaves a gorgeous ‘blurred’ background.

ISO – ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor, the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and your photos will have less grain. Higher ISO settings are mostly used in dark situations to get a faster shutter speed. An average ISO that is commonly used in photography is 100 – this leaves you with little grain.

take better photos in the dark

So what settings do i use? |take better photos in the dark

Late afternoon, moving subject, outside, no sun – Shutter speed: 1/320 Aperture: f1.8 and ISO 640

Late afternoon, stationary subject, outside, no sun – Shutter speed: 1/60 (use tripod if possible) Aperture: f1.8 and ISO 400

Evening, pitch black, inside, stationary subject – Shutter speed: 1/50 (use tripod if possible) Aperture f1.8 and ISO 800. For this kind of photo you can always play around with white balance too. If your camera has ‘Kelvin WB’ You can select this in white balance settings and adjust the temperature, making it cooler of warmer. For this kind of shot you can also use something called a soft box which you can purchase on Amazon for as little as £30.

take better photos in the dark
take better photos in the dark

Editing

Always, always, always shoot in RAW. You can change this setting on your camera easily (just take a look at the manual or simply google it). RAW photos leave you with a lot of room for editing without losing any quality. I can’t stress enough how much you should shoot in RAW. You can then download the RAW extension plug in for photoshop which will help your photos immensely. There are a few things I do to bring darker photos to life during post processing. Here is how I edit an average photo.

  • Turn up brightness and contrast slightly
  • Turn up saturation (only slightly as you don’t want to distort the colours)
  • Turn up the exposure
  • Make slightly more warmer or cooler using a photo filter depending on what the photo lacks

take better photos in the dark

Getting a good photo takes more than just simply pointing and shooting. It’s about considering the placement of your subject, the surroundings, the settings, the post processing. Hopefully this post has helped shed a little light on how to shoot in darker situations! Remember, if something doesn’t work for you, have a little play about and attempt to find the right setting for your situation. It’s all about balancing each setting out. If you spend an hour or two playing about one day, you’ll start coming to grips with how it all works. I hope you enjoyed my post on how to take better photos in the dark! Good luck!

take better photos in the dark
take better photos in the dark

take better photos in the dark

take better photos in the dark
take better photos in the dark

take better photos in the dark

6 Comments

  • Heather Keet says:

    I love to take photos, mostly of scenery. These tips are amazing, I can’t wait to try them out. I’m not as skilled during low light settings so I know I need all the help I can get! #DreamTeam

  • What an awesome post! That before and after photo is epic. I really need to make more effort with my photos for the blog – so often taken on my phone when I have a wonderful camera that takes RAW images! That said, I don’t have photoshop!! AM bookmarking this post! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  • Jessica Anne says:

    Such a lovely post. Thank you for sharing. I have a DLSR that I am starting to pick up more and more, but am still a novice at using the settings. I have been reliant on the automatic setting but you have inspired me to click round to the manual setting and have a little experiment.

    Love Jessica x

  • I think youve just managed to summaise my 8 week photography course in one post! Great information and thankyou for the refresher! Daisy is so gorgeous! #dreamteam

  • Sonia Cave says:

    This post is great timing for me…she says while grappling with her new camera manual!! Thankyou for sharing #dreamteamlinky

  • What a great post. we will leave on our family sabbatical in early 2018 and are eagerly shopping around for a good compact camera and a photographer friend will give us a mini workshop on how to actually use the camera. I never thought about the file format i.e. RAW. it is something I need to learn more about. #Dreamteam

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