Travel Tuesday: Shooting Low Light Photography

by | Oct 12, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

It doesn’t matter what you call it—available light, unavailable light, available darkness, or low light photography—often the most rewarding images can be produced when shooting under challenging lighting conditions. Why is that?

  • There’s the thrill of overcoming the ever-present technical obstacles that prevent you from producing a well-exposed image under less-than-idea lighting.
  • Photographs made under lighting conditions look differently from the classic instruction sheet admonition of “f/16 and the sun over your right shoulder” and have a more eye-catching look.
  • Since many travel photographs are made during the middle of the day, taking the time to search out other times to shoot will let you produce photographs that are different from the rest of the pack’s.

When I’m at home on Daisy Hill I like to take a walk around a nearby lake and usually take a camera with me because I never know what I’ll encounter. When traveling, I take a similar walk at night because scenes like the one above at a mall near my hotel in Albuquerque look completely different at night than during the day. I captured this image handheld, assisted by  Olympus E-5’a in-body image stabilization. Lens was the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ED SWD Zuiko Zoom (at 12mm) with an exposure was 1/60 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 2500 with a plus two-thirds stop exposure compensation.

To make successful low light images you’ll want to start with a combination of fast lenses and higher-than-normal ISO settings often combined with a slow shutter speed. Unlike film, there’s no problem with color shifts caused by reciprocity failure as there is with film. While you can always shoot available light photography at ISO 200 when using a tripod, you’ll probably want to bump up your camera’s ISO settings when the light is low. How much will be determined by how much digital noise, exacerbated by slow shutter speeds and high ISO settings, you can tolerate.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat Joe to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, many thanks.


Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print but new copies are available for $21.50 or used copies starting around nine bucks—from Amazon, as I write this.