What Lens Should I Use For Low Lighting

Last Updated on April 18, 2021

night landscape with illuminated tent

Whether you are shooting at night or just a dimly lit room, it’s important to have the right type of lens or your image quality will suffer dramatically.

Lenses To Use When The Light Is Low

Most photographers opt to use a lens of at least f/1.8 or higher, but the type of lens you choose will depend on what your needs are. For example, if you want to shoot outdoors at night with a slower lens like an 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6, you’ll need to take multiple shots and combine them in post processing which is time consuming and often creates very poor quality images due to noise from the multiple exposure stacking process.

What Type Of Lens To Use Outside At Night

The best type of lens for low light photography is a fast lens with an aperture of at least f/1.8-2.8, and if you want to capture starry skies, you’ll need a lens with multiple apertures (ie: f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 or higher) that can be changed quickly from one to the other without having to physically change it on the camera.

I like to have a fast lens so I can capture a lot of images quickly and stack them on my computer with the hopes of capturing stars that are “too far” from the main object. Image stacking and post processing is fun, but it takes time and if you’re shooting a whole bunch of photos at night where there’s not much star movement (ie: street photography), you’ll have to wait for the stars to move out of place before you shoot.

What Type Of Lens For Low Light Indoor Photography

When shooting inside a room without any windows, you’ll need a lens with a focal length of 35mm or less to prevent lens flares from the bright lights of a flash.

For these types of shots, I like to use the Canon EF 35mm f/2 because it’s cheap ($150), light weight, and it can be used wide open at f/2 for shooting in low light conditions.

The Canon EF 35mm f/2 lens is also great for shooting at night when I want to capture the fire in a fireplace or the glow of a pair of red lips.

I also use this lens for shooting close up portraits because it gives me nice shallow depth of field when used with correct focus mode. The shallow depth of field allows me to control where my subject will be in the image without having to change the focus mode daily.

Bottom Line

To sum it all up, I like using fast lenses that have an aperture of at least f/1.8-2.8 to capture fleeting moments outside at night where there’s a lot of star movement and low light conditions so I can combine them in post processing.

For indoor photography, I like fast lenses that are 35mm or less to prevent lens flares and focus mode changes from the brightness of a flash unit inside the room.