Saturday, November 24

Coffee With Beryl: Photography and Daylight Savings Time

Today Beryl is going to share some excellent tips on taking photos in less-than-stellar lighting conditions, very timely for this time of year when we have to shoot inside for the holidays. Thanks Beryl!!!

And PSE11 is still on sale for less than $50 for those of you who still want to upgrade and have some money left from Friday.  ;-)



I hate daylight savings time, with a passion.
It's a true sign that the winter blahs are coming and that we'll be living in the dark for many more hours in the coming months. No more evenings running around outside on playgrounds and in the neighborhood. On these chilly winter nights we tend to hunker down indoors and resort to evening reliance on technology to entertain us instead. In our house daylight savings usually translates into lethargic minds, cranky bodies, and tired souls. It seems difficult to accomplish much and the darkness makes our family want to just hibernate for the winter.

Less light and less outside time can also translate into less time for photo taking too.
But does it have to be that way?

I'm sure if you've been taking photos for awhile, you've noticed that it can be much more of a struggle taking pictures after the sun goes down. The possibility of blurry images or washed out faces grows exponentially as you attempt to compensate for the lack of available light.

For those of you who are still just getting to know me and my style as a photographer let me share that I am a bit biased when it comes to flash. I hate it and don't use it. Not because I don't think it's useful, it definitely can be if you know how to use it in the right way! But, as a mom I was never interested or willing to learn the right way because that right way meant using a big bulky piece of external flash equipment that I just didn't want to lug around with me while running after my kiddo.

If you're looking to learn how to take photos after dark using a flash than I'm just not the teacher for you plain and simple.

But, I do think with the 5 tips I'm sharing here today you can be well on your way to taking better photos in low light with no extra flash equipment required. I have done it, and I know you can too!

Tip #1: Invest in a prime lens (either 35mm or 50mm)

If you are a DSLR user this single piece of advice changed my photography is an amazing way! A reasonably priced lens, the 35mm or 50mm have a key feature that your kit lens does not which is low aperture capability. Without getting into all the technical mumbo jumbo of what aperture does, basically this lens when set at those low aperture levels will let MORE light through your lens. This will in turn bring more light into your camera and allow your shutter to do it's job just a bit quicker. When your shutter can work quicker the likelihood of blurry images goes down. Yay!  (If you have a Canon, Rita loves her Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II.)

Tip #2: Crank up your ISO

This technical setting is another one that will give your camera a little light 'boost' as well. High numbers mean more of a boost of light. The downside, however, is that each time you set this value higher it will add a level of pixelization or graininess to your images. This graininess is often called 'noise' in a photo and causes you picture to lose some clarity. However, I find this noise to be quite a nice artistic touch sometimes and I typically like to edit pictures with a lot of noise in a classic black and white treatment (Rita's Chocolate B&W is my favorite!)

Tip #3: Turn on ALL the lights in your house

Or at least turn on all the lights in the room you're in. I've found that in our house, not every room offers enough light for in the evening for photos, but our kitchen and dining room are ok. Now that I know which rooms are best, that is where I try to take my 'after dark' photos the most. Be warned however that no matter the room, your images will have a slight yellow or orange hue to them due to the lack of available natural sunlight. There isn't much you can do about this so either learn to embrace the tone the evening brings to your images or try to reduce those tones slightly during the editing process either with your color balance or by converting them to black and white.

Tip #4: Limit movement

Ha! Even I have to chuckle a at this one. With a toddler in our house this is not an easy tip to follow. But the more you can eliminate movement, the better likelihood of your camera being able to handle the lower shutter speeds without blur. I've found that after dark I try to capture Brielle either sitting at the dining room table or quietly playing with her toys in the family room. For extra stabilization I balance my camera on the dining room table or coffee table instead of holding the camera in my hand.

Tip #5: As a last resort diffuse your on camera flash

Sometimes flash just can't be avoided. That's ok. Not every photo has to be taking with professional quality goals in mind. I talk a lot about the importance of setting intention with your photos and knowing when you want to capture high quality photos vs. snapshots. Read up on this idea more on my blog right HERE. If you find flash can't be avoided to capture your desired shot, I have heard that taping tissue paper over your pop-up camera flash can help to diffuse it's light and make it a little less harsh. I'll admit I've never tried this technique myself, so if you try it out and it works I'd love to hear about it!

Your Turn:

Now that I've shared my tips for making the most of photos during the daylight savings winter blahs it's your turn to share with me! Leave a comment below and tell me which of these tips you're planning to try. Or go try these tips tonight and come share your results on my Facebook Page when you're done! I'd love to hear from you and have you report out any other ideas or suggestions you've found that have helped you make the most of your photography in low light situations.

I can't wait to see how you embrace this week's challenge of photos after dark. Until next time, happy snapping! xo.

Beryl Ayn Young is a wife, mama, teacher, and photographer who offers photography lessons to nourish the mind, body, and soul over on her personal blog. Beryl believes in lifelong learning, photographic healing, & a glass half full perspective. She teaches e-courses and and provides photo coaching aimed at teaching you how to improve your camera skills and cherish life’s journey. Get inspired on your photography journey with one of her many freebie lessons or classes right here.


  1. Great overview, some stuff I know and some I'm off look into (like defusing the flash using tissue paper?).

    I'm with Rita about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. A.MAZ.ING shots any day of the week.

    However, I was forced to use the flash on my Canon Rebel T3i to get shots of the kids hitting the pinata after dusk earlier this month, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the shots look. Not nearly as great as they would have been if the birthday parents had got around to the pinata 30 minutes earlier, but still good.

    Robin E. in AZ

  2. I'm definitely a flash-as-a-last-resort gal. Like only if I will simply miss the shot if I don't turn it on. That said, I think I've only used the thing once. :) I loooove my 50; it takes such lovely low-light pictures. One "trick" I guess is that I'll take a pic on Auto/no flash setting so I can see what the camera thinks are the best settings for the low light. When I'm just not sure what to do, that'll give me a place to start.

    Thanks for the tips!


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