Rock Steady: Tips for Capturing Beautiful Photos in Low Light, Without Flash!, by Competition Judge Andrew Niesen
Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes nature gives you perfect ambient light. You know the serendipitous moments I’m talking about – late afternoon light filters through low-hanging clouds and casts a warm glow over the family you’re photographing. Other times, you’re not so lucky! You’re stuck indoors due to rain, or have a family who’s insistent on capturing portraits in a favorite room in their home that’s got few windows.
In many of these challenging situations, you may not be able to use flash or supplemental lighting. Maybe it would be too disruptive to the kids in your photos? Or maybe you just don’t like the look of flash.
There is one sure-fire way to capture beautiful photos in low light, without the use of flash: embrace slow shutter speeds!
It can feel scary shooting at slower shutter speeds like 1/15 or 1/20 of a second (or even slower!). But you can do it if you have the right tools and techniques. Here’s how you can take advantage of slower shutter speeds and master the techniques required to capture beautiful photos.
1) Use a monopod or tripod. By planting yourself firmly and steadying your camera and lens using a monopod or a tripod, you enable yourself to use slower shutter speeds without risking too much shake or blur. Remember, the floor is steadier than you are!
2) Steady your body. If you don’t have a tripod or monopod handy, and are shooting handheld, you should try to steady your torso and arms. Bend your knees slightly, pull your elbows in toward your sides, and draw your hands toward your chin.
3) Squeeze the shutter release. Use steady motion when releasing the shutter, and avoid jerking the camera when making the exposure. It’s simple, but it helps you stay steady and avoid any shaking.
4) Shoot repetitive frames in rapid succession. The slower your shutter speed, the lower the percentage of sharp photographs. You can counteract this by shooting more pictures, which ensures that at least one sharp frame will result.
5) Control your breathing. It sounds funny, but it really works! Try hold your breath during the exposure. Don’t forget to exhale after you shoot the photo.
6) Invest in fast glass. The faster your lens, the higher your shutter speed. Consider amazing portrait lenses like an 35/1.4, 85/1.2 or 135/f2. I even love using a 200/1.8 for slower shutter speeds, as long as I have a monopod handy! You can often find these gems of lenses used on eBay or at KEH.
7) Invest in IS/VR lenses. Most newer model, professional lenses come with an option for “Image Stabilization” (Canon) or “Vibration Reduction” (Nikon) technology. By using Image Stabilization, you can easily shoot at shutter speeds down to 1/8 of a second with sharp results. It’s incredible and you should take advantage of the technology you have at your disposal!
8) Try shooting wide. Telephoto lenses actually amplify your body’s shake. If you can get closer to your subject without being disruptive, you should try shooting with a wider-angle lens to minimize the effect of unsteadiness. A good rule of thumb is to not let the shutter speed drop below the lens’ focal length (50mm lens = 1/60 sec; 20mm lens = 1/15 sec).
Trying these techniques on your next challenging, low-light photo shoot will give you ample opportunities to capture beautiful images that are unique and show off your skills as a professional photographer.
Andrew developed a passion for photography as a curious – sometimes mischievous – kid in St. Louis. Shooting for local newspapers led him to pursue photojournalism. At the Missouri School of Journalism, he focused on photography and interned at five newspapers. Combining his love of visual communication with his innate curiosity about human relationships, Andrew rounded out his college experience with a second major — anthropology — studying cultural variations of different groups of people. These skills come into play as a photographer who has spent decades focusing on storytelling and relationships. His love of photographing real people experiencing beautiful life milestones led him to co-found LaCour, a wedding photography studio in Atlanta, which was the parent studio of The Decisive Moment, a studio that is still operating today. His journey as a photographer has been personally and professionally rewarding, mostly because it’s allowed him to document the joy of family. When he’s not shooting, Andrew plays a role as a software designer and saves up for far-flung trips with his wife, Rachel. They are expecting their first child this Fall, a little boy who will surely be photographed quite a lot by his parents!
napcp contributor meet Katie Mitchell
About the Contributor: Katie, our Editorial Manager, is our wordsmith and communications extraordinaire! After college and graduate school, she worked in the nonprofit world, and briefly in politics. She realized she'd be quickly burned out, and started writing for various lifestyle websites. Before landing at NAPCP, Katie shot product photography for Etsy shops and other small business owners. Katie also works with Pinterest, as a member of their Pinfluencer team. She is passionate about making the world a happier, more beautiful place! Katie lives for her husband and two children, updating their totally 90's home, and finding joy in the small things. Even washing dishes.
New in the NAPCP Store – Holiday Postcard PackWe’re hustlin’ for the holidays and having the BEST time with our seasonal marketing, with these holiday marketing postcard pack designs! There’s a lot of love in the NAPCP Member Community for these beautiful Artifact Uprising postcards. We feel it, and it is so special to see this community come together to share their ideas […]
A Colorful Family Session at Coney IslandInspiration I’m always inspired by the real stories of my families, and my images are an attempt to showcase their unique connection and genuine beauty. This family has chosen adventure to be a central quality of their life together, and are embracing travel with their young daughter and sharing their experiences at dearestdays.com. They wanted […]
What’s in Her Bag: Marisa McDonaldTell us a little about what’s inside your bag. I love my Jo Totes Missy Mint bag! It has custom dividers so I can create perfectly sized sections for my camera and lenses, external pockets, and even a laptop sleeve! My bag pretty much always has a camera (lately, my new Mark IV!), my Sigma […]
#NAPCPColors Round-UpWe rounded up a few of our favorite #NAPCPColors Instagram submissions to kick off our week with a colorful bang! We’re so happy all of our Instagram followers and friends had such a wonderful time participating in this new project, on one of our favorite social media platforms. Julie Campbell Photography Paul Douglas Studio Sandi […]
We are so delighted that you are here. The National Association of Professional Child Photographers is an association whose mission is to promote and support the artistry and integrity of professional child photographers. To accomplish this mission, NAPCP provides the most comprehensive resources for its members, bringing together a community of passionate artists committed to growth in their skills, their artistry, and their businesses.
NAPCP.com (formally pronounced "NAP-C-P") is a place where professional child photographers can come and connect, learn, teach, aspire and grow. It is also a valuable resource for parents who are looking for a professional child photographer in their area, and want to be inspired and educated about our specialized industry.
September Inspired Magazine: Featuring K.C. Crow!
Click here to read our September magazine featuring K.C. Crow! Don’t forget, Inspired is now printable! Print your copy straight from MagCloud, and share your favorite pieces with friends, family and clients. Save Save Save
Announcing Our Second Half 2017 NAPCP International Image Competition Winners!
Hello friends! After much excitement and anticipation, we are absolutely thrilled to announce the winners of our Second Half 2017 NAPCP International Image Competition. Uniquely focused on child photography, the NAPCP International Image Competition features a range of image categories, including Babies, Newborn, Children, Family, Maternity, Siblings, Toddlers, and Seniors. Thank you to our amazing […]
August Inspired Magazine: Featuring Amy Tripple!
Click here to read our August magazine featuring Amy Tripple! Don’t forget, Inspired is now printable! Print your copy straight from MagCloud, and share your favorite pieces with friends, family and clients. Save Save
Free Custom Wallpaper: Shoot. Edit. Share. Repeat.
Free Custom Wallpaper — Competition season is here and today we want to share this free custom wallpaper with you, to download! Download and use this wallpaper for your own personal use. Set it as your device wallpaper or share it via social media. Scroll down for clickable download buttons at the bottom of this […]
The National Association of Professional Child Photographers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com