Ah, winter – the most dreaded time of year for bloggers. Being a fan of clean, airy photos can prove a problem during the darker months when daylight is scarce and the weather is dismal! However, there are still plenty of ways you can create beautiful pictures even with very little natural light. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert at all and I’m still constantly learning, but years of taking blog photos in dark, dingy rooms whilst away at uni forced me to be innovative. Now I feel fairly confident whatever the season! So, without further ado, here are my tips for photographing in low light…
Shoot in Manual
While shooting in manual will better your photos regardless, it’s especially handy during the winter months. By switching to manual, you can control how much light you let in through your camera lens, thus allowing you to create a brighter picture.
Whilst in manual mode, I focus on three main settings: Aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Your aperture controls what’s called the ‘depth of field’ in your photo – a low aperture will create a shallow DOF (brighter pictures and more of a blurred background) whilst a higher aperture will give you a deeper DOF (darker pictures and a clearer background). I like to keep my aperture as low as possible as I love the effect it creates.
Shutter speed determines how crisp your photo is – a lower speed will create a longer exposure and therefore blur any action and brighten the picture, whilst a higher speed results in a shorter exposure; freezing the action and creating a darker picture. I try not to set my shutter speed any lower than 1/100 as I find it can massively reduce the quality of my photos. You can use a tripod if you like to steady your camera – I tend not to use them as I find them a bit of a faff, but I know a lot of bloggers swear by them. If you’re into flatlay-style photography they can be really handy!
Lastly, ISO determines the level of noise in your photograph. A low ISO results in a darker yet higher quality picture, while a higher ISO will give you a lighter picture with more noise. I like to crank my ISO up relatively high whilst shooting during the winter as it keeps my photographs nice and bright. I actually don’t mind the grainy texture it can give – I find it adds a nice retro feel to my pictures!
Whilst shooting in manual can be a bit tricky to begin with, once you get the hang of it it becomes second nature. Have a play with your camera and see what suits your subject and photography style. I’ve linked a photography cheat sheet here which explains the settings a little clearer – there’s also hundreds of helpful videos on YouTube if you’re struggling!
Take Advantage of Brighter Weather
I’ve always been more of a ‘spontaneous’ blogger – I wake up feeling the urge to create something, I’ll envision a post and get shooting. However, during the winter I find I need to be a little more organised. I make the most of lighter days – creating a list of blog posts I want to write, and then setting aside a few hours to take the photos I need.
Another habit I’ve been getting myself into is writing my posts when I get home from work. That way I have a backlog of entries ready to go once my photos are finished and edited – it keeps my content nice and consistent.
Edit, Edit, Edit
I don’t tend to overly alter my photos as I don’t like them to look too artificial. However, during winter I find editing to be a necessity. I use Adobe Lightroom to up the exposure/brightness, extinguish shadows and alter the colours slightly. Don’t overdo it, though – too much editing can make your pictures look unnatural and overexposed.
Shoot in RAW
Most of the time I shoot in JPEG as the file sizes are nice and small – perfect for if you’re taking hundreds of photos at once. However, on a particularly dark day I like to switch to RAW as you can make so many more adjustments during editing. When an image is captured, RAW stores all the data, meaning you have much more freedom to work with. The file sizes are a lot bigger and will take longer to download, but it’s worth it!
The Mirror Trick
One thing I always turn to when taking photographs in winter is the mirror trick. Take a dressing table mirror and place it opposite your window (or whatever your light source is) and adjust it until it reflects the light onto your subject. This will make your photo much brighter without having to alter your camera settings. You can also use a large mirror/several mirrors if you have someone at hand to help you!
Lastly, one thing I’d always suggest when shooting in low light is to think outside the box! Switch rooms, alternate between different backgrounds, play about with props – even experiment with studio lighting if that’s your thing. I’m fairly lucky in that my bedroom faces south and has large windows, meaning I get a decent amount of natural light even in winter. However, on a particularly dreary day it can still be a struggle, meaning I have to be a little more inventive with my subject and composition. If all else fails, simply save those pictures for another day and take your camera elsewhere – is there a local cafe/restaurant you’ve been meaning to review? Perhaps take your dog for a walk or head somewhere picturesque to take a few stock photos? There are so many other ways you can create content for your blog if you feel your usual set up isn’t working!
The most important to remember when it comes to blog photography is simply to have fun with it. Whenever I feel myself getting frustrated I take a short break and remind myself not to overthink it. After all, if anything it’s a learning curve!
Do you have any tips for taking blog photos in winter/low light?