Photo Tips: Low light hand-held modes for travel photography


In travel photography, you are going to run into situations where you want to take photos but there isn’t a lot of light available. Learning to shoot in low light modes is a must if you want to capture and convey the feel of rain-washed streets at night or the inside an old cathedral. Most point and shoot and DSLR cameras have modes for low light and many, like my Sony Alpha a77 DSLR, even have a mode for low light without a tripod (in other words, hand-held).

photo tips low light travel photography
Bridge over river in Girona, Spain, at night

Understanding and accepting your situation

You must realize that without a tripod your camera will not be able to capture as much light, so it will be difficult to get enough detail for a large 30 x 36 print for your living room wall. That said, you can still capture a great image in low light hand-held mode that is perfectly acceptable for smaller size prints and other low resolution applications, like on the internet.

photo tips low light hand held mode
Reenactment of a battle between Catalan and Napoleonic troops

Grain through the hourglass

Grain, the little dots you see in pictures, is going to occur at higher ISOs, so plan on it. In the days of film photography, grain added a level of character to a picture and was even a goal. It still is with digital cameras. Low light will add an attractive granular feature to your pictures so you have to be prepared.

Photo Tip – Low light hand-held modes

The travel photographer wants every shot to relay something, whether the feeling of streets at night, the intimacy of a dim restaurant or an old woman praying in a candlelit church.

  • Find the low light hand-held modes on your camera. Use your manual to learn what modes are available on your camera and what each mode does. Practice shooting in various low light, hand-held modes (churches, restaurants, outdoors at night, etc.) before you leave on your trip so you won’t miss a shot on the road.

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Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. “Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.”

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6 thoughts on “Photo Tips: Low light hand-held modes for travel photography”

  1. I love photos and taking them but I’m a real amateur at that. If they come out wrong, I just hope to fix them with some program. I hope to me better photos in 2013 with your tips.
    Happy New Year !


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