Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Taking photos in low light

I’ve used a very simple point and click digital camera for many years. It has been great for just throwing in my bag (and it is robust enough for that!) and taking snaps on the move. However, I have been struggling with the quality of the photos that I take for this blog. When I can I take photos outside in the park, but sometimes in the winter I just don’t fancy shivering in the park in a summer-weight top and taking the various stages of my projects to be photographed in the park seems just a little excessive and would get some odd looks!

I had tried some different tactics for taking photos in poor light. This article here provides some really useful tips. I’ve tried a many of the tips suggested in the article. These included directing the flash away from the area that I wished to photograph, steadying the camera on things, usually books or tables. I also changed every setting on the camera I could find. I raised the ISO speed and even took photos on the timer, but still many of my shots were just fuzzy.

Just before my holiday in San Francisco, I finally took the plunge, and with the help of some Sodexo vouchers earned from work, I bought a new camera. It’s the Canon EOS 1200D. I chose this particular camera solely based on the reviews I saw online. In particular, several previous buyers had recommended it as a great choice for an entry level camera. Being an SLR newbie, I was particularly looking for a camera that didn’t have too many settings and was easy to use. The reviewers also mentioned that they weren’t impressed with the software that came with the camera and the quality of videos that it produces. I didn’t really intend to use the software supplied with the camera, and the video facility is just an additional extra as far as I’m concerned, so these comments didn’t dissuade me from my purchase. The camera did come with a free camera case, but I had to purchase a memory card.

I got plenty of practice with my new camera on my holiday. I used only the auto settings (see below), but these were quite sufficient for me for the time being.

Camera auto-settings

Here are some examples of photos I took in low light conditions. I took this photo in the Sacramento Railroad Museum. The lighting was very subdued and I am pleased that it came out as clear and detailed as this. I noticed that when using the auto-settings the ISO setting is changed automatically by the camera and this is displayed on the screen for reference. This is quite useful, for when I get more adventurous with the settings.


On a visit to Muir Woods, I took this photo under the dimly lit tree canopy and again, it is incredibly sharp.


Just for the purposes of comparison, I took a photo of the same subject with both of the cameras. I took them both this afternoon in the living room where it is perpetually dimly lit. It was also overcast outside.

Taken with Canon 1200D (SLR camera)

Taken with Canon 1200D (SLR camera)

Taken with Fugifilm FinePix Z.2

Taken with Fugifilm FinePix Z.2

I could instantly see the difference. I don’t think it is quite so easy to see now I’ve sized the photos for the blog, however, with my old camera the photo is “fuzzy” and I had to steady it on a box to get even this quality.

I also took many landscape shots of San Francisco Bay. This photo is the view from the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. It is just about possible to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

View of bay

In general the camera feels very comfortable in the hand and is quite light so it isn’t too tiring carrying it around for long periods. The battery seems to last well. I have only charged it up once and it still reads fully charged when I turn the camera on! One thing that I was disappointed with was when I asked a passer-by to take a group photo and clearly it is easy to mistake end up pressing the flash button instead of taking a photo. The flash went off and it was only later that I noticed in disappointment that no photos had been taken!

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It’s raining again….yep, again. Any of you in the UK will know instantly why I’m about to have a moan about this. According to the BBC “parts of England have had their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago, figures show”. Actually December wasn’t much better and I can’t claim I’ve seen the sun much in the last two months.

But, what has this got to do with sewing? Well, I’ve been having a real struggle over the last few weeks to photograph my projects. I would dearly like to snap all my creations in natural light. However, it is simply too dark inside during the day. Outside it is perpetually raining. I have tried to take pictures using the flash, but you get a lot of flash glare. I don’t have a very sophisticated camera or any decent lighting so I’m a little stuck. I was trying yesterday to take a decent photo of my silk skirt, the glare just made it look like it was made of PVC, not a delicate silk!

I made some items last year that I have yet to photograph. I’m promising myself that when this awful weather ends I’m going to create a gallery of all my projects.