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How to take great photos in low light

LG-Adriana-Kunen-Museum-of-Glass-Italy-1000.jpgCaption: A photo of the Museum of Glass and buildings along a canal in Venice, Italy, taken at dusk. (Local Guide Adriana Kunen)

The first step in taking a great photo is usually finding good natural light to illuminate the scene. However, that’s not always possible, like when you’re trying to capture a landmark just after sunset or snap a delicious dish at a dimly lit restaurant. Some cameras allow you to make special adjustments to your exposure for a quick fix, but if you don’t have that option, there are still some basic steps you can take to get better photos in low light situations.


Here are my tips to help improve the photos you take when you have limited available light.


1. Prepare beforehand

Know what kind of light will be at the location before you get there. Check the time of sunset before you head out and aim to take photos before it gets too dark. Getting your photos during the warm light of sunset can be a magical experience if it is timed right!

LG-Artur-Nailevich-Kul-Sharif-Mosque-1000.jpgCaption: A photo of the exterior of Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan, Russia, taken during sunset. (Local Guide Artur Nailevich)

2. Don’t zoom

Try using your feet instead! If you want to get closer to your subject, move your body closer. When you zoom into your scene, you are actually cropping into your image and the photo will look pixelated when taken in low light.

GI-899530198-1000.jpgCaption: A closeup photo of a woman’s hands holding a smartphone and taking a photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. (Getty Images)

3. Hold your camera steady while setting your focus and exposure

By holding your camera still when taking a photo, you can prevent your photo from blurring with camera shake. A small tripod can help, but if you don’t have a tripod, brace yourself and your camera against a wall or other solid object. Make sure you are relaxed when holding your camera, as a tense hand can cause camera shake. Tap the screen to set the focus and proper exposure of the image, and finally press the shutter.

GI-731847915-1000.jpgCaption: A photo of a man bracing himself on a railing while taking a photo of a landmark at sunset in Prague. (Getty Images)

4. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

Some of the best photos are captured by learning from trial and error. When shooting with a smartphone or digital camera, take a few test shots using different techniques to see what results in the best image. Low-light photography can be a fun challenge, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera.


5. Use flash only as a last resort

When flash is used, it can cast a harsh light and color on your subject, that is usually different from the surrounding environmental light. Whenever possible, try to only use natural light to illuminate the scene.

Christina-Domingues-0F1A3264-1000.jpgCaption: A closeup photo of a woman’s finger turning off the flash on a smartphone, with a view of New York City during twilight in the camera frame. (Local Guide Christina-NYC)

Do you enjoy taking photos in low light? Apply these tips on your next low-light photo adventure and share your photos on Google Maps and with others here in Connect in the comments below. We’d love to see your amazing pics!

LahcenL Level 6
Level 6

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Beautiful and wonderful picture

davidhyno Level 9
Level 9

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Hi @Christina-NYC !

I wait and I always read your posts very willingly with lots of useful tips!
I agree with the above, especially on the use (and abuse) of the flash!
Another advice to add if you allow me is to use, when possible, the volume button of the earphones to take the picture: this allows you to hold the phone securely with your hand and avoid even the slightest blur caused by the touch of the button shutter or the physical volume up button of the smartphone.


Here my photo from Bryce Canyon taken on golden hour (sunset) :


IMG_8954.jpgBryce Canyon at Sunset Point

You can view original here : Bryce Canyon




vivianalessio Level 3
Level 3

Re: How to take great photos in low light

too beautiful

INGA1 Level 8
Level 8

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Thank you very much @Christina-NYC for very useful tips.

It is a big problem for me to take a picture in low light.

"Use flash only as a last resort."-I think it is very important.

I try to made photo in low light in Treviso,Italy.IMG_20181122_215528_087.jpg




SP31 Level 9
Level 9

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Low lighting is always such a challenge and these tips definitely help, @Christina-NYC. I think preparation, as you said, is usually a great first step when it isn't a spontaneous shoot. And you're definitely hitting it right on the nail in terms of not zooming or moving - those types of suggestions are very different than when taking shots during the day time or situation with much more light. 


I'd advise everyone to not have the automatic flash option enabled on mobile devices as flash really should be a last resort as you said.


Thankfully for many Pixel users like myself theres the option for Night Sight but even as natural photographers these tips are very essential.  

Miami, FL | Communicator | My Profile | Miami Local Guides

Re: How to take great photos in low light

@davidhyno Amazing! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photo and the useful tip! I'll have to try it! Thank you!

davidhyno Level 9
Level 9

Re: How to take great photos in low light

LucioV Level 10
Level 10

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Dear @Christina-NYC I love long exposure photos :)

I will share some favourites from my already uploaded to Connect


tavolaralittle.jpgTavolara long exposure shotmoonover_little.jpgRising moon over snowy mountainsDSC_3676 copia.jpgCamp fire, in Yosemite valley4414991400_6a613982cb_bArt, EUR, Rome4414991386_8fea5e68d5_bArt, EUR, Rome5938212136_e16e2164bf_oScorrano, Puglia, a firework passes against the moon14900316988_5062970cbd_bBudapest, St Stephan Fireworks

ersouza Level 6
Level 6

Re: How to take great photos in low light

Take advantage of burst mode with your camera, whether its a smartphone camera or otherwise.  You can just hold down the shutter button and take multiple photos in rapid succession.  This helps combat camera shake because you can remain still and aren't moving your fingers/hands while taking each shot, raising your chances of getting the sharpest photo possible, esp. in more challenging conditions.


The downside is more photos to sift through and vet, but sometimes it's worth it for that perfect shot.  :-)