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How to Photograph Object in a Dark Cave

Updated on July 10, 2012

Photographing Subject in Low Light Shooting Conditions

My digital camera

Taking pictures in the dark can be a challenging task for anybody who only has a digital camera with limited capability. My digital camera is a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W30 6 Mega Pixels. It is a small pocket camera whose optical zoom is 3x times. Although the camera is small, the photograph quality it produces is very good because it is equipped with lens that was manufactured by Carl Zeiss. I also have a new Nokia mobile phone that has an integrated camera in it but I don't use it for shooting subjects in the dark. Why? Because its flash is not strong enough. In addition, it does not have optical zoom feature that can be used to enlarge objects that I want to shoot. The camera is also covered with plastic casing whose quality is lower than glass. Now I don't use the DSC-W30 anymore. I've got a newer version still manufactured by Sony Corporation, a Cyber-shot Digital Still Camera DSC-W310

Photograph of a bat taken deep inside a dark cave
Photograph of a bat taken deep inside a dark cave

dark photography

bats in a cave
bats in a cave

Travel Photography and Caving Photography

As a travel writer I study travel photography seriously. The photographs that I shoot will be used for my blogging or writing activities promoting eco-tourism attractions in my town. The photographs are also used in the composition of a number of travel brochures which you can see and download in my blog or
Yesterday, I brought the Sony Cybershot digital still photo camera with me when going into the jungle near Penginapan Kagum, an affordable homestay in Manokwari town of Papua. I explored a cave deep in the jungle of Table Mountain Manokwari. It was very dark inside the cave. I had to bring two rechargeable lamps to help me and my friends walk inside the cave. Standing in the middle of the cave and looking around, I saw bats hanging on the walls. Some of them were flying after hearing the sounds of human beings walking and talking inside the cave.

After walking for around 50 meters, the outdoor light ceased leaving us completely walking in the dark. I tried to shoot the bats that were hanging and sleeping in the cave. I shot several times. For every shot I used different control dials wheel that is located on the upper right corner of the digital camera.

View Finder or LCD Display - To locate object in the dark, I hardly ever use the view finder window of the camera. I rely fully on the LCD screen that shows the subject that I want to shoot. It is more comfortable than seeing the object through the small window of the view finder that is located at the middle top of the camera.

Control Dial - The control dial which I explained below is for Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W30. You use digital camera that is made by other manufacturers, then the control dial and its symbols maybe different. Refer to the manual book of the respective camera to find functions that are the same as what I mentioned below.

The first one that I tried was the auto adjustment (see the green icon that looks similar to the silhouette of a digital camera as shown in the picture below). The result was bad, and blurred.
The next control dial that I used was ISO. Again the result was very bad. In the manual book of the camera, it says that we can use this feature to shoot an object without flash in low light reducing blur. Because there was no light at all inside the cave, the ISO function could not work properly.
Then, I used the P function. The LCD screen presented a message, "auto exposure with adjustable settings". When I shot the bat, I got pictures whose qualities were better than the previous ones that i had already taken. Photographing bat in a cave is a new and interesting experience for me. I will upload the photos in my website Manokwari Travel Guide. It contain web-pages related to eco-tourism activities that I promote through the website and my other blog the Diary of Manokwari Tourist Guide
I did not use extra lenses at all and flash light. I relied fully on the available features that the Sony cyber-shot provides in the DSC-W30. I was happy at that time because the photographs inside the cave are bright enough to be seen on the computer screen after I transferred them into the hard disk of my desktop computer.
If you also experience the same situation like what I faced inside a dark cave, please, try to photograph objects with different control dials of your digital camera to find the best results.

How to get brighter pictures in low light condition

Aperture Function - Check the control dial button of your D-SLR camera whether it has got A function. A is the initial letter for Aperture. If you shoot a subject with the Aperture function activated, you will see that the sound of shutter will be heard later. It means that your digital camera tries to let more light going into its lenses to capture the subject. Modern digital camera with backlight CMOS sensor is able to create brighter pictures in low light condition.

Tripod - To maximize the performance of your camera, you need to bring a tripod. The tripod gives more stability to your digital camera than your hands. Make sure that the tripod is in static position before you press the shutter button. Slight movements of one of the legs of the tripod will ruin the quality and clarity of the photographs that you shoot.

Self Timer - If you press the self timer button of your camera, you will see on at least two options, i.e. 2 seconds and 10 seconds. Select the 2-second option. When you press the shutter button again, you will see that there will be a delay of 2 seconds for the camera before it shoots the subject that you have aimed at. The 2-second self timer is designed to reduce the vibration effect that is created by our pointing finger pressing the shutter button. When the vibration has ceased or reduced, the camera will automatically shoot your subject to give you sharp pictures. Also read my other articles: Photograpy and Photos

See the control dial of this digital camera Sony Cyber-shot DSC W30
See the control dial of this digital camera Sony Cyber-shot DSC W30
Digital Still Photo Camera Sony Cybershot DSC-W30
Digital Still Photo Camera Sony Cybershot DSC-W30


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    • MyOfficeBooks profile image


      6 years ago from Brisbane

      Interesting article on using a basic model camera in difficult conditions. While being convenient, i would have thought the little sony to be impractical in a showed that with a little patience that you can still get ok results. Thanks!


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