How to Shoot in Low Light Without Flash

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We all have had our precious moments in low-light situations. However, the camera does not always capture the best pictures in such situations and flash can not always be the solution.  We will tell you how to shoot in low light without flash by adjusting some camera settings and using some accessories.

How to Shoot in Low Light Without Flash

There are numerous ways you can take a perfect shot in low light conditions. This includes getting the right exposure by adjusting the aperture, ISO levels, and shutter speed. Sometimes you might have to bring in some accessories such as a tripod and much more!

Getting the Right Exposure

You need to get the exposure right. The exposure refers to setting the ISO levels, shutter speed, and aperture right, also known as the Exposure triangle.

If you choose to expose the image in the beginning, it will result in a great product. Always go for high exposure (not over-expose) because it is easier to bring down exposure levels during editing at the end. It allows you to get more information from an image, which is essential when dealing with low-light situations.

Also, shooting long exposures capture some of the prettiest pictures during nighttime because it allows you to use small apertures and thus capture more depth in your images. However, make sure that you do not overexpose your photos because this decreases their quality,

Photo of candles inside cages

Adjusting the ISO

The higher the ISO setting, more exposure towards the light. Most cameras these days come with very high ISO settings. Hence, when shooting in low light conditions, you can simply increase the ISO level (between 500-7500) to increase the brightness of your photo.

However, there is a downside to this. Increasing the ISO too much can increase the noise in the picture.  There is thus a tradeoff between noise and brightness in the picture so you can either choose an optimal point or just go for another option.

Shutter Speed

Hence, the faster the shutter speed, the less exposure to the light. You should decrease the shutter speed (between two seconds to 10 seconds) so that the shutter gets more exposure to light. This increases the brightness of the photo and makes it a great option for shooting in low-light conditions.

A good practice here is to start at 15 seconds and keep increasing or decreasing the shutter speed accordingly until you get the right picture.

However, if you slow down the shutter speed it can result in a blurred picture. You will have to keep the camera extremely steady, but even then, if the subject moves, it can result in a blurred image.

The Aperture to the Rescue

Using a wide aperture between f/2 and f/16 is usually recommended when capturing in low light conditions because it increases the exposure to light and thus is a great option in capturing in low light conditions.

Again, this is not where it ends. A wider aperture impacts the clarity of the image. Simply put, a wider aperture results in an unclear image. So, you have to find a balance.


So a high ISO level results in a noisy or unclear image while a slow shutter speed may lead to motion blur. The trick here is to find an optimal point between a high ISO level, a slow shutter speed, and the aperture size. 

You need to adjust them to a point where they complement each other without impacting the image negatively. A recommended setting is keeping your aperture near  f/1.4 while keeping the ISO around 500 and the shutter speed at 1/125 seconds.

Hence, you still increase the ISO level, decrease the shutter speed, and increase the aperture size to a certain point. These three working together will let you capture the moment, which is not noisy, blurred, or unclear.

Control the Camera Shake

When you are shooting in lowlight conditions, you have to use slower shutter speeds. These shutter speeds can go as low as thirty seconds, and you have to hold the camera still for all that time! The following accessories help you keep the camera still.


One way to keep a camera still is to use a tripod. A tripod would allow you to adjust the height while keeping the camera still and hence help prevent motion blur.

However, there is again the issue with carrying a Tripod around with you. Also, a tripod reduces the flexibility with which you can move the camera during a photoshoot.

Remote Control and Cable Release

Using remote controls to capture images is a great option because it reduces camera shake. Even if you have attached your camera to a tripod, pressing the shutter button can lead to a camera shake and if shooting with a slow shutter speed, can cause motion blur.

A cable release can be plugged into your camera and gives you control to press or release the shutter from afar. Hence, it allows you to take a picture without pressing the shutter button and keeping the camera intact.

Stabilization Methods

Another way to reduce camera shake might be within your camera itself. Most cameras come with in-built image stabilizers. This reduces vibration and hence helps with motion blur during a low light photoshoot.

Get Faster Lens

A faster lens (also called a prime lens) comes with a wider aperture (around f/1.4), and as mentioned earlier, it allows more exposure to light. They have a fixed focal length. It thus gives you room to play around with your ISO and shutter speed seconds.

In other words, with a faster lens, you can increase shutter speed and lower the ISO level because they work great in low-light settings.

The White Balance Adjustment

This setting in cameras allows you to alter the color balance of photos you are shooting resulting in them appearing neutral white. You can either choose a white balance mode in your camera while capturing or adjust it post shoot in software such as Photoshop and Lightroom.

This feature can be extremely beneficial in low light situations especially during the nighttime. There might be several light sources, each with its color, theme, etc. Leaving those untouched, might create a disbalance in your picture.

The white balance can especially impact the skin tones which appear unnatural in low light situations. You can thus adjust the white balance to alter colors and capture an image that is appealing to your eyes.

Photo of telephone booth in low light

Let There Be Light

There is always some light in low-light situations. Just use it to your advantage. Move closer to that light source so that you can lower your ISO to below 500 and use a less wide aperture above f/3.5  and capture the details you wanted.

Another way to interpret this is to make use of a small light source and use it as your subject. This might include your mobile phone, or a lamp. Although little, the light from these sources can illuminate the object and make for a great image.

Move your object closer to the light source, lower the shutter speed to above one second and shoot away.

The RAW Format

A raw format refers to taking pictures in their original form, that is without being processed. The RAW format thus has a lot of information and details.

Converting to JPEG format results in a loss of lots of information. This includes the details and shadows which can prove to be very useful when you choose to process the images later on.

Thus, taking the pictures in the RAW format gives you a lot of room to wiggle around when you sit down to edit it. Similarly, it gives you complete control over white balance, which as mentioned earlier is a great tool in low light settings. Thus, shoot in RAW to get the most out of low light situations.

The Right Focus

Many cameras come with inbuilt autofocus. Although that is a great feature because it adds clarity to the picture, it relies on contrast to function. That contrast is low or next to none in low light settings because everything appears in a similar shade.

Here, manual focus is recommended. However, if you are not sure how the pictures will turn out, you can always bracket them. Bracketing refers to taking several photographs in the same exposure with a slightly different focus each time to get it right.

Another option you might have is the autofocus assist beam. Some cameras have this feature and it allows you to focus on a subject by bouncing infrared rays on it and judging its distance. Hence, focusing might be a way to solve the low light conundrum.

Shoot in Black and White

Black and white images have a certain appeal to them. Almost all cameras have a black and white filter which you can use to take the colors out of the images. Also, you can use software to convert your low light image into a black and white one later on.

One advantage of shooting black and white is that you do not have to worry about the contrast, lighting, or any of it. Although it takes away the colors, it gives an astonishing look to your images.

Processing It Later

Even after taking all the measures, or at least some of them, there is a possibility that the picture does not turn out the way you wanted it to.

As mentioned before, be sure to take your pictures in RAW format. Now, you can power up your editing software and get to work. There is a lot of editing software in the market which include Lightroom and Photoshop. They allow you to make your pictures brighter and more colorful.

You can use software to adjust the exposure settings, color saturation, white balance, and much more. They can surely reduce the impact of low light settings on your images. Hence, it is a good idea to use these after a low light photoshoot.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

It is essential that you practice shooting in low-light settings. This will allow you to master every trick in the book and not let any moment go uncaptured.

To get better, you can simply go out and practice in the street. There are always people passing by who are happy to be a part of a photo session. Get the angles, settings, grip right so that when the time comes, you are ready.

As mentioned before, getting the perfect image depends on exploring the exposure triangle which is only possible if you have tried with all the settings and know which is right for a particular type of lighting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Different Types of Low Light Conditions?

There are loads of situations (some of which are mentioned below) where you will have to face low light. This can be indoors, at night, or even during the day! In these situations, you can use the techniques shown above to ensure that your camera captures the best images.

Be it inside your house planning a surprise or at a tourist destination such as a church, you will have to make do without light.

The night is where all the magic takes place. You could be trying to capture a scenic route on your way back home or simply the street, you would find no help from light.

You might feel we are exaggerating but think about it. You might have faced low light during the day in overcast conditions or when you are trying to capture something in the shade! The sunlight would not be able to get to your camera for that perfect picture.

Thus, low light situations are a part of our life and we need to be prepared to deal with them.

Why Do Pictures Get Ruined in Low Light?

Pictures do not normally turn out great in low light but why is that so? The scene which looks good in your mind does not turn out that way in a photo because the camera does not get enough light. Without light, the camera is not able to capture that view that looked breathtaking from your own eyes.

Why Not Go For Flash?

Well, if the camera needs light and flash provides it, why not just turn on flash and take that picture? Firstly, your camera might not be equipped with a suitable flash option. Secondly, when the flash is turned on, it drains the battery of your camera.

Thirdly, flash comes with its downsides which include:

There are situations where flash can make your pictures worse. This is particularly true when the picture involves a reflective surface for example when you are shooting through your car window. The light just gets reflected forming an unwanted blob in the picture.

Your camera might not have an inbuilt flash which brings us to yet another problem. External flash is usually positioned at a higher level.

This combined with the lens leaves lens shadows on the picture, which ruins the picture.

Flash can only cover a certain diameter. If you are planning to shoot something far off, the flash would not work. Hence, you would likely have to make other arrangements in all of these cases.


Low light settings sometimes are one of the best places to shoot photos. You can be faced with these situations at night or even indoors. While flash does not always help, you can use techniques such as adjusting shutter speed, shooting in RAW format etc to get the best pictures.