Ep 67 How to shoot in low light

Episode 67 artwork

Light is everything when it comes to photography. But, sometimes, you just don’t have enough of it! We’re not even talking about shooting in a dark room. There are many instances when your lighting isn’t ideal and you could do with a little bit more light to really make your photos pop. So what you can do about it?

In this episode, Gina and Valerie focus on simple ideas you can use when you are shooting in a variety of low light situations.

#ginachallenge #lowlight

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

Useful links

No Cameras Allowed is a documentary that follows James Marcus Haney’s journey of breaking into music festivals and inserting himself into the world of some of the biggest names in the industry.

I also found a great new screensaver from 500px it’s awesome because every time I log onto Chrome there’s a new gorgeous picture from 500 pics amazing.

Recap on last week’s episode

Jessica Roberts-Booton‎ reshoots the image we discussed, using the advice we gave her on light metering. Check out the before and after shots here.

light metering before and after

Listener Question

From Daniella Mone in New York

Hi Gina. Recently I was approach by a friend who works at a spa to do headshots for the spa team. The spa director wants to use the images to introduce the team on social media and the spa website. How would you approach this job? What lighting setup, background, lens would you recommend for headshot? I shoot with Canon 7D, lens 50mm and 85mm, I have two speedlites 600ex-rt the westcott rapid box an umbrella and a reflector. I’m thinking of investing in the Westcott X-drop for a clean white background and easy to carry. Thank you for your great show!

We answer this in the episode.

How to shoot in low light

This topics was inspired by this post by Ian Oliver-Hulme.

Ian Paul Oliver-Hulme workout shot 1

Ian Paul Oliver-Hulme workout shot 2

Ian Paul Oliver-Hulme workout shot 3

Above: Shots by Ian Paul Oliver-Hulme

Ian said: “So I had my most challenging shoot this evening. It was at night, in a small garage, with new lighting gear. There was so much gym equipment and three bodies in there, It really pushed my limits and it was good to see that I’ve lots to improve on and I really felt that I took a lot away from the 30 minute session. It was shooting for a personal trainer’s social media page to attract more business. Let me know what you think!”

Low light portraits can be really tricky. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Camera Settings


  • A faster lens will give you more options when shooting in low light
  • High end 50mm 1.2 or 85mm 1.2 ($2000+)
  • Low end the nifty 50mm 1.8

Slow shutterspeed will allow you to shoot in lower light and pick up more ambient light like streetlights etc


  • Pump up the ISO when shoot in low light.
  • Sharp and grainy is better than soft and clean

What about noise?
Looks like grain in film photos. The image will have a courser texture and each pixel will appear more defined.


  • I believe a tripod is essential for low light shoots
  • Bean bags
  • Rocks
  • Fire hydrants
  • Monopods
  • Bracing techniques

Getting the exposure right in low light

  • You can chimp and chimp here but I believe if you really want to nail the exposure on these kinds of images the best tool is a light meter.
  • Think about what is the hero of your shot?
  • Want it all? Expose -2 – + 2 and shoot HDR
  • Dark room with mostly black your camera is going to want to expose for the “average”, which is equal to mid grey.
  • Camera will overexpose the image. So compensate by closing down 1/1.5 stops
  • Correctly expose for shadows
  • Use a lower ISO
  • Using fill Light
  • Garage style lighting can be used here

Reflectors and cutters

Studio light

  • Softboxes
  • Grid spots create a very narrow light source
  • Some studio lights can be focused to create a narrower or wider beam of light


  • Control the spread of the flash manually
  • Wide 24mm vs narrow 105mm

Continuous lighting

Flash light that can be focused

Continuous LED with barn doors

Mimi Elashiry low light shot in Paris

Above: In this image of Mimi Elashiry I exposed for the highlights and let the background “go” there is very little detail in the shadows. This look can be created using a higher f stop and faster shutter speed.

Glouco Jnr Sorelli low light shot on a vespa
Above: In this image of race car driver Glouco Jnr Sorelli, I used a speedlight with the flash zoomed in to 105mm. This reduces the spread of light.

I also shot at a higher f stop and faster shutter speed to create a dark background.

Football and NRL low light shoot using a large softbox

Above: In this image of AFL footballer and NRL footballer for an editorial shoot I used A large softbox to recreate window light.

Alex Dimitriades grid spot lighting

Above: Actor Alex Dimitriades shot using a grid spot.

#ginachallenge #lowlight

1 Response
  1. Rod Petsef

    Hiya, if possible, can you provide behind the scenes images on your podcast webpages? If that is not possible, a top down line drawing of the scene/lighting floor plan. It would help visualise what your talking about in the podcast. I’m really enjoy listening to the podcasts! Example http://instagram.com/fscottschafer.


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