Are You Afraid of the Dark? How to Take Stunning Photos in Low Light

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You deserve to have great photos to look back on and cherish as your family grows up. I’m teaming up with Canon again to help you shoot for greatness and learn how to take some awesome shots for your family.

Fall is here and it is getting darker earlier and earlier. Then with daylight saving coming up we’re going be seeing even less light. Not only that but it’s getting cold. And who wants to be outside in that weather taking a bunch of pictures? Not me! So today I’m going to break down how to make the most of a situation with less light. Whether you’re out doors trick or treating, or inside staying out of the cold.

But first, before you head out trick or treating keep some of these tips in mind for capturing those Halloween moments:

Biracial Disney Princess Series: My Little Princess- A cute and creative mother-daughter photo series featuring a biracial girl dressed up as Disney Princesses. Part 9: Cinderella

Do a test run. Going to a costume party before the big night? Get everyone dressed up and take some photos before. If you’re really on top of it you can even have them uploaded and ready to share on social media on Halloween night.

Make sure your battery is charged. Last year I managed to get some great shots of their costumes but as soon as we went out to trick or treat my camera died! Ack! And it was getting dark so my low-light photo options were limited.

Get reaction shots. That look your children get when they get their first handful of candy? Priceless.

Get up close. Don’t forget the closeup shots. The details of the costume. Especially if it’s one you’ve worked hard on creating.

The loot. There’s more than just costumes to Halloween. Don’t forget to grab pictures of those jack-o-lanters you worked so hard on, and the loot of candy they bring home.

Ok now on to tips to capturing low light photos you can use on Halloween or any other time you’re battling a lack of good lighting.

Use a fast lens

f/3.2; ISO 6400; 1/80

When you’re aiming to take photos in low light one of the first things you’re going to want to do is make sure you’re shooting with a fast lens. This means a lens that can have a aperture as wide as possible. The EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a great option for low light photos, or the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens.

Bump up your ISO

f/1.6; ISO 5000; 1/80

Now when it’s dark it’s just dark and it’s the perfect time to take advantage of your cameras ISO capabilities that can make really really dark scenes seem brighter. Don’t be afraid to boost your ISO up past 8000. Just take note, the higher the ISO the more noise you may notice in your photo. But it can still be worth it to get the shot. We were using TV light in the photo above. My f-stop was 1.6, ISO 5000, and shutter speed 1/60.

Use available light

F/2.8; ISO 5000; 1/50

Streetlights, flashlights and porch lights are your friend on Halloween. Even glow sticks. Use those light sources as a frame for your subjects. As soon as your little one walks into the porch light start snapping. It’ll be dark around them but that’s ok. Which brings me to my next point…

Embrace the shadows

F/2.8; ISO 8000; 1/200

I used to worry a lot when my entire photos weren’t completely exposed. As soon as I let go of that I’ve been able to have more fun with my pictures. Use whatever light source you have and embrace the shadows that can create a special mood of their own. My daughter was waiting for me to come to her room to start reading her bedtime story. The only light in her room was the lamplight. I could have bumped the ISO up to make the whole room appear brighter but instead I embraced the shadows in her room and framed her in that light.

Lower your shutter speed

f/1.8; ISO 4000; 1/125

This can be tricky depending on how long your lens is, but another way to let more light in aside from raising your ISO number and assuming your aperture is already wide open, try lowering your shutter speed. I wouldn’t go much lower than 1/100 or 1/80 with a steady hand or image stabilization on your lens. But if you’re used to shooting around 1/400+ like I am, you may forget that you have a little bit of wiggle room with shutter speed.

Use manual focus

f/4; ISO 128000; 1/80

Sometimes a darker room can make it challenging to lock that focus quickly on your subject. If your lens seems to be taking awhile searching for the focus point try switching to manual focus so you can lock it in yourself then snap away. In this photo I locked the focus on my daughter’s eyes which you could see only from the light casting from her tablet. The eyes are a good spot to try to focus on.

Try converting to black and white

I’m all about the colorful photos. In fact I prefer  my photos to be in color about 95% of the time. But I find low light photos make some really beautiful black and white photos. Especially when I’m dealing with tungsten light. If you’re playing with some photos you took in a low-light scene try converting it to black and white and decide which you like more.

f/2.8; ISO 1250; 1/500

Don’t be afraid of the dark! You can do this. Bookmark these tips so you can come back later on tonight and all winter! Questions? Let me know! And don’t forget to check out my online photography course where you can watch and learn more tips for photographing your children.

What’s your favorite low-light photography tip?

From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’ve teamed up with Canon again this year to share how we capture the moments we cherish most. I’m also dishing out tips to help you better photograph your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.


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  1. Lovely shots…very informative post.

    I needed this days ago for my son’s bday dinner.
    Fact is battery was low…photos. came out dark and just not pretty 🙁

  2. With image editing tools of course. These apps allow you to graphically design your image by overlaying shapes and text that will wow your visitors and make them remember you.

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