To better capture a scene with dim lighting, you can take a flash picture using the shutter priority mode. You want to first experiment with longer exposure values to determine the best shutter speed – without flash – to capture the background. Then put your subject into the scene and use your flash. If possible, ask your subject to remain still during the entire exposure. The flash will properly light your subject and their small amount of movement won’t have much effect on their exposure, while the background exposure will be largely unaffected by the flash and take longer to be properly exposed. This technique is best done using a tripod so that the background is not affected by camera shake, as these exposures may be fairly slow (1/2 – 1/15 second).
- About 30 minutes after sunset, when the sky is darkening but the stars haven’t appeared yet, put your camera into Aperture Priority mode and set it to the widest possible aperture. Aim your camera at the sky and depress the shutter button halfway to get a meter reading. Take note of the shutter speed. Turn on your flash, but set the camera to Shutter Priority mode with the shutter speed you noted earlier. Caution your subjects to hold still (if possible) and take the picture. You will see the background light increase, while your subjects – exposed primarily by the flash – will be well-lit. If your subject is not able to hold still, there may be some small amount of blurring, depending on the amount of light normally falling on the subject.
- In a large room that is not brightly lit, such as a cozy living room or perhaps a museum, take a meter reading of the general room light in Aperture Priority mode with the aperture open as wide as possible. Use this shutter speed for your camera and turn on the flash. Focus on your subject and take the picture, cautioning your subject to hold still for a moment. You should find that your subject is well lit (by the flash), but the background is also well lit with just the normal ambient light.
- Go into your yard, or outside somewhere (public library, street, etc.) that is lit by outdoor lights. Take a meter reading of the background in Aperture Priority mode with the aperture wide open. Using this shutter speed in Shutter Priority mode, take a picture of your subject (use a flashlight if necessary on your subject to focus on).