Low light photography will push the limits of your equipment and test your skills. It can be extremely frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
Take a buddy if you feel uncomfortable in the dark. I enjoy being in the middle of nowhere with no one else around in the dark of night.
Learn how to make the best use of any situation and use what light is available.


I use an LED flashlight and lantern covered with a white sock to soften/diffuse the light. Tripod that can get the camera low to the ground and eliminate camera movement.
Camera with remote trigger. May want to use mirror lock up to further minimize movement.
Understand your camera controls and be able to make changes quickly. Practice by closing your eyes.

Camera Settings

Shoot RAW It will allow you more flexibility when developing or processing your image.
Use the other side of the dial for more control over the camera.
Understand the exposure triangle ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed and how changing one will affect the other.
I use mostly AV or aperture priority. It is easier for me to make changes when the scene is changing rapidly. However, there will probably be a point when the aperture will be set at the maximum wide open.
The other two basic control options will be ISO and exposure or shutter speed.

Example settings: Sunset with sun above the horizon, ISO 50, F/22, Shutter speed set by camera. Sometimes I’ll darken exposure by 1 stop or more because of over exposure by sun. Check the histograph and photo. Lengthen shutter speed, increase iso and open aperture as sunlight decreases. Keeping in mind noise from high iso and long exposure.

Lens will depend on what you are trying to shoot. Milky Way and landscapes use short focal length. However, when creating a panorama image anything is acceptable.

ISO depends on how much light is available. Impact high ISO and noise. Higher ISO will result in more noise.

Aperture will also depend on how much light is available and what you want to accomplish. Larger more light but shallow depth of field or what appears in focus vs what appears out of focus. Smaller less light more depth of field.

Shutter speed depends on how much light is available and what you are trying to accomplish.

Manual focus on the foreground or about a third of the way up from the bottom if there is one. Otherwise focus on the next closest object in the frame.

A smaller aperture will help bring the background into focus. A longer exposure will help clarity but increase noise. Use live view to focus. When there is not enough light, manual focus using live view. If it is too dark, I’ll illuminate the subject if close enough with a flashlight to focus.

I turn high iso speed noise reduction, long exp noise reduction, high light tone off to not have to wait for in camera. Reduce noise when developing.

Set white balance to daylight. Easier to process especially if you want to create a panorama. Easily changed in LR.

Planning requires some thought.

What and where do I shoot and when.
Think about what you want to capture, then where would be a good place. Sometimes, I look at what others have done and try add something or at a different time.

Safety first. The most important thing is to return safely. A good time to plan is during daylight. Some paths can be treacherous. Going in may well lighted but coming back out can be pretty dark and vice versa. When going in always stop and look back to see where you came from and take landmarks so you can retrace your steps.

Make the best of any situation. Sometimes all the planning in the world will not work out.

Google Maps or Google Earth may help to explore new locations.

Weather conditions

Air quality will impact shot. Use your imagination to create.

I use NOAA weather service site to see what the weather will be like. I for one like clouds and lightning storms and out of the ordinary weather. High clouds or thin ice clouds create very interesting effects at night.

When shooting next to the ocean be very aware of surf and wind conditions. Very difficult to shoot right next to waves pounding the shoreline with an onshore wind. Unless that is what you want.

Keep track of local weather and the changes over time.

Tide predictions

Useful when shooting low tide at sunset and other situations.
Low tides and movement of the water create different colors, light.
Most people perceive the ocean as a flat blue surface
Low tides will cause the shallow reef to break the surface and present an opportunity.
An example would be to predict when a reef will be exposed at sunset.

This one is for the Lahaina area. d=TPT2799

Night sky predictions

Another would be to predict when and where the milky way will rise in relation the horizon, sun, moon, stars and planets. This program is awesome for planning a night sky, sunrise and sunset shoot.

Haleakala Summit weather and 360 degree live webcam to “see” what the sky looks like.


Use the great tips from David Schoonover class on composition.

When setting up, find a position to shoot from to make use of the light and what you are trying to capture. Locate the light and its direction and try to anticipate how it will impact your photo over time.

Ask yourself where the sun, moon or the milky way will be in relation to other elements of your photo.

I like to shoot the Milky Way and moon when it is low and parallel to the horizon, rising before the sun and/or moon. The light on the horizon has to pass through a thicker atmosphere and will create very interesting light and color.

It is also easier and more interesting to place something in the foreground in the same frame with the rest of the elements of your photo.

Perpendicular or slanted Milky Way can also be used to enhance your image.

Clouds, high altitude ice clouds above or below will change light. So will moonrise, sunrise, milky way, stars constellations planets.

I use a wide angle lens and try to get really close to an object in the foreground.

Be willing to shoot at all hours of the night. The experience will be beyond your expectations and imagination.

Processing RAW image

In low light the camera can capture more than what the eye and brain can see.
Taking the shot is one thing. Developing it will take it to the next level.

Developing image is only limited by your imagination creativity and perception. your image and you can make it your own.

I use LR4
Learn how and what each control does to the image. If I have questions, I ask Mr. Google.

Keep the passion and have fun!

Hawaiian Supaman

Leave a Reply