So it’s no secret that I don’t like using the flash on my camera. I’ll be at a family function after the sun has set and take a photo. Almost predictably, one or all of my subjects shout “your camera didn’t flash!” That’s when I tell them that “I don’t like to use flash.” Why? Because it makes photos look horrible. Unless of course you get a lightscoop or a good speedlite and learn how to bounce it, etc…which is a whole other post… Flash, in my opinion, is close to the devil. It makes photos look unnatural. Too many times I have seen a great photo opportunity ruined by the firing of the flash.
That said, shooting at night without a flash is tricky. At times, it can seem darn near impossible. One thing you can do (on any digital camera) to help with non-flash photos is to bump up the ISO (set it to the highest number). I am not going to even to try to explain what ISO is or how it works – because I hardly even understand it myself – but I will tell you this: It helps in a low light situation. The down side? Your photos are going to have grain. To me, I will take the grain knowing that I do not like the result of a flash photo.
Another thing you can do is widen your aperture. You might be thinking – “um your what?!.” Like I said in this post, I am not a professional. Aperture is another tricky thing to explain. It describes how wide your lens opening is with an f/stop. The lower the number, the wider the opening. f/1.4 is a lot wider than f/8. The wider the opening in the lens, the more light that you allow in. The down side? If you have a moving subject you are going to need to watch your shutter speed or you are going to have a lot of blur.
This is the trifecta of photography; the relationship of the ISO, the aperture, and shutter speed. I hope that you find this helpful when moving forward with your photography journey but after writing this I have a feeling that I may have confused you even more. Take peanut steps – maybe try messing around with your ISO first and then work on the aperture and shutter speed.
Some low light non-flash photo examples:
Have fun playing!