Baby pictures in low light

edited April 2012 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Hi @Moose - This site is amazing for a beginner like me, I appreciate your effort to keep this site updated. I have a newborn baby and own a Nikon D3100 with 18-55 and 18-300 mm VR lens. I've learnt to shoot on manual mode with the assistance of the materials and discussions on your site. I now understand shutter speed, f/numbers, ISO, etc...

I've been taking a lot of pictures of my baby, but sadly, I'm missing something (no wonder, I'm a beginner). The pictures are not good and sharp. I'm shooting in manual mode, mostly indoor with poor lighting during the day and under the florescent lights in the evening.

Could you please guide me to the appropriate setting so that I can take some quality photos. Please, also suggest me about white balance, metering, focus mode, and the other options on the screen underneath focus mode and above metering. Thanks!


  • edited April 2012
    For the conditions mentioned, I think I would use my Tokina 100mm macro lens. Sharp results, fairly tolerant of low light, but I would use either an off-camera remote flash gun or some sort of continuous lighting setup to give some depth to the subject.
  • edited April 2012
    Thanks much @Landon, I appreciate your tips and time that you've spent writing to my question. Could you also suggest me a few, but best and free photo editing programs.

    @Robbo, I'd like to thank you too. Could you share some tips using the above said Nikon kit lens because I'm not in a position to get another lens in near future. Thanks!
  • edited April 2012
    I think Landon has it pretty much sewn up there, not much I could add!
    Photo editing programs? Are you ready for this (not all my comments)...

    Photoshop alternatives:
    1. Gimp
    2. Artweaver
    3. Paint
    4. PhotoImpact X3 portable
    5. SplashUp - I have used this and it has features similar to that of Adobe Photoshop Elements.
    6. Nikon ViewNX (free) which comes with the camera it has more than enough photo editing tools.
    7. List of other alternatives
  • edited March 2013
    @SharadP - Here's the dealio...when you're shooting in low-light, the chances of capturing a sharp, properly exposed portrait goes down...especially with a "dark" lens.

    I like to compare lenses to glasses. Lenses with large maximum apertures (low f-numbers - f/1.2 to f/2.8) are equivalent to crystal clear glasses, while lenses with smaller maximum apertures (higher f-numbers - f/3.5 to 6.3) are equivalent to dark tinted sun glasses.

    When you're outdoors, it's easy to see things with both pairs of glasses thanks to a bright sun. However, the moment the sun sets or you step indoors, it becomes much harder to see with the dark tinted sun glasses.

    This is what happens to the D3100 when it's "looking" through a lens with an average aperture range. In order to compensate for the low level of light being passed through the lens, it needs to turn up it's sensitivity to light (heightened ISO) in order to obtain a fast enough shutter speed to freeze subject movement. When you raise the ISO, you're left with images that are lifeless, dull and full of image noise.

    Ideally, you would want to shoot with a lens that can obtain an aperture between f/1.4 to f/2.8, like the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G. This would allow you to use faster shutter speeds at lower ISO' you sharper, more colorful looking shots with less image noise.

    In addition to that, a speedlight (flash) like the Nikon SB-400 (see here) would do wonders for your low light shots, giving you the ability to bounce light (off a ceiling) rather than directly at your subject. This "bounce" effect spreads the light evenly throughout the room, giving you much more natural looking shots indoors.

    If you're stuck with the kit lens and no external speedlight (flash), then you're going to have to live with high ISO's in order to obtain fast enough shutter speeds to freeze your baby's movements and to reduce camera shake.

    To improve your odds of better looking portraits with your current setup, during the day I would position your baby near a north or south facing window that's letting in natural daylight (you don't want the sun blasting through the window, just soft natural light). At night, I would experiment with 'Night Portrait' mode (icon with a person next to a star) as this will slow down the shutter to capture more background light.

    Hope that helps. Happy shooting! :)
  • Thank you so much for the detailed explanation Moose. You are awesome. Now, I think I'll buy the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens. Investment for baby :). I'll share how I go as I click images with this lens soon. Cheers!
    Thanks to Robbo and Landon as well :).
  • Tripod will be a big help too
  • edited July 2013
    @Moose you explained the lens difference and F numbers so well. You have so much to share and explain, and there are so many people around to give me best possible suggestion. I feel so good that I am here now and that whatever info I need I will definitely find here.
    Thank you all for your wonderful explanations.
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