Night and Low Light Photography – Capturing Christmas after dark

By  | December 16, 2012 | 3 Comments | Filed under: Photography

Christmas Tree 2011 citizenAs promised in my last column I am going to attempt to share more tips and tricks used to capture a variety of images in low light and evening settings. There is no rocket science involved; similar methods are applied and used in other lighting conditions discussed in previous columns. If you want the best shots that are easily manipulated later in a “dark room” software without sacrificing your composition it is suggested to shoot in RAW. Shooting in this format allows the camera to store the maximum information about your shot. This is particularly beneficial for night photography as it offers more flexibility when tweaking the white balance, temperature or when brightening your image.

Preplanning and exploring your location prior to nightfall is not only a time saver but it allows you to pick the best locations to set up with ease and safety. Dusk is a great time to scope the area for city and traffic lights that will impact or interfere with your composition. Get your gear ready, some of the essentials that make night shooting more successful are a flash light so you can easily see to adjust settings (unless your camera has a display back light), assist in locating items in your camera bag you may need during the shoot and for finding your way through dark terrain. Always include extra recharged batteries and flash cards. A tripod and remote release will ultimately become your best friend when shooting at night and well worth the small investment to get started. Dress according to weather conditions as there is nothing worse than being soaked or frozen to cut a photo session short. Reflective tape or vests are a good idea if you plan on shooting on or around a busy road or highway.

Since you will be shooting with limited or spot lighting you will have to slow your shutter speeds down from 1 to 20 seconds depending on the image and conditions. This is far too slow for a hand held and therefore a tripod is an absolute must if you want sharp results. Once you have secured your tripod and attached your camera, frame your shot and back away before hitting the shutter. If possible I highly recommend a wireless remote, they are economical and can make the difference between a good shot and an award winning composition, simply because the slightest camera shake can result in
a blurred image.
Ultimately shooting in manual mode gives you the most opportunities to fine tune your settings. Using a narrow aperture (F 14-16) offers a greater depth of field and a cleaner foreground. This is also what I commonly refer to as the sparkle effect, as it creates starbursts adding a magical element to your composition. Keep in mind that your cameras Exposure Level Indicator is only a guide and not always as accurate as it can be. Always check your LCD screen and enlarge your image to ensure that a good balanced light is present. If not, adjust your stops accordingly, usually only 1-2 stops is
needed to correct any misreads by the camera.
When shooting indoors when flash is not permitted, the easiest way to remedy the light is to boost your ISO level up and increase the shutter speed. Finally a fast lens can provide more stop options and accuracy when shooting at night or in low light situations. These can be quite an investment, however, there are affordable prime lenses ranging from 80 to 300 dollars that will enable you to get those extra few stops that will elevate the quality of your image significantly.
This holiday season explore the dark. You may surprise yourself with the mixture of moods and emotions you can capture with a single click. Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy Clicking!!

Light's on Grand River Wall

Light’s on Grand River Wall

Cut Lines for Images

Church Choir: Here is an example of a no flash low light situation, where increasing the ISO to 600 allowed for a visible clean shot.

Christmas Tree: The twinkle of the Christmas lights was created by selecting a very high F stop coupled with a long shutter speed.Christmas Harmony Citizen

Unsilent Night Light Display: This image was shot with a short shutter speed and higher ISO because the projected light images where continually morphing and changing. To get a clean image of the light a little sacrifice on the background grain was necessary. With saying that, there is software that will allow you to remedy this issue easily but for demonstration purposes I have opted to not edit out the small bit of noise the high ISO selection created.


Judee Richardson-Schofield has become a familiar name and face in the local media. Judee has been published in the Cambridge Times, the Cambridge Reporter, the Record, Globe and Mail, City Parent, Forever Young and was the feature writer for the Cambridge Courier to name a few. She has worked as a communication specialist for the Cambridge Memorial Hospital, a marketing writer for World Cities and currently opened the doors to her own business Vivid Photography. She won the YWCA Women of Distinction award in Communications and Public Relations in 2005 and has been nominated twice for the Bernice Adams Award.

3 Responses to Night and Low Light Photography – Capturing Christmas after dark

  1. Beedie Savage December 17, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Really nice article on shooting in low light conditions Judee. Thank you for this post. I found it very informative.

  2. kenceus January 31, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Christmas already passed. But that was a nice preparation.

  3. social worker ceus January 31, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I love these light photography since they are very good to save.

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