Shooting in low light conditions


TPF Noob!
Jul 29, 2013
Reaction score
United Kingdom
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit

I am getting back into film photography and wanted to get some advice about shooting in low light conditions as I recently took my Canon AE-1 50mm f1.8 to a restaurant and just about managed shoot a few shots before the light faded. We were sat outside so the only available light was the evening sky and a few fairy lights draped around the walls. I haven't got the film developed yet but I am pretty certain they will be blurred as the I used a slower shutter speed slower than the focal length of the lens etc.

I already had a roll of B&W 400 ISO film (Either HP5+ or Tri-X) in the camera from a previous trip so I had no choice but to shoot with the film. In this situation is there anything I can do? Is it possible to shoot at a different ISO for some shots or does the entire film need to be pushed?

I also want to shoot within a jazz bar which will be extremely dim, in this situation I cant shoot with a tripod so would I simply use a film with a higher ISO such as Ilford Delta 3200? If so, can I rely on the built in meter?

Thanks for your help everyone,
The entire film needs to be pushed. At times like that, it becomes a matter of deciding whether the previous images or the current images are more important, and if you decide that the current ones are, then expose for them at 800 or 1600 ASA and take what you get from the others. Don't forget that you can help yourself a lot by finding a firm surface (table, shelf, etc) on which to place the camera while shooting.
You can use a film like Ilford XP2+ which can be shot anywhere from ISO 50 to 800 without changing processing due to its wide exposure latitude. However, it is a C41 process film.
Thanks tirediron, that makes perfect sense. I used to develop B&W film myself so I presumed this would be the case.

Compur are saying I can shoot XP2+ and change the ISO multiple times throughout the film without sacrificing any of the shots as long as I process correctly?
Yes, that's correct. Image quality may vary some but it is essentially a "variable-ISO" film.

Per Ilford ...
"Although rated at ISO 400, XP2 SUPER can be exposed over the range EI 50–800. When higher speed is needed, XP2 SUPER can be rated at up to EI 800. For finer grain, when speed is less important, rate the film at EI 200/24, although for finest grain it can be rated as low as EI 50 if
required .
.. No matter which film speed is chosen, standard C41 processing is recommended."

Personally, I've shot it as high as 1600 or even higher and was happy with the results though that exceeds Ilford's recommendations.

But, keep in mind that some adjustments may have to be made on individual frames when printing or scanning a roll that has been shot at different EI's. Your local photo finisher may or may not do a good job of that.

The tech data sheet for this film is here:
Last edited:
Low light, especially in a club, is where incident metering can save you. If there's no change in lighting or much movement, you can dial in exposure and shoot away. XP2 is great for this.
One tip is to shoot with a shorter lens in really low light situations. The lens has a wider angle of view, and lower subject magnification, so blur is less noticeable. A really talented newspaper shooter who was around when I was a kid used to shoot a 20 or 24mm lens at slow speeds all the time, like 1/4 second. His images often had subject motion blur on the moving parts, but the remained of his scenes were sharp. I grew up seeing all these slow-speed, hand-held news pics. It was pretty cool. Yes, even with a wide-angle there can be blurring--but it is usually less of a problem, less ugly, than with a longer lens like a 50 or 85mm.

I'm not really sure how good the metering is with a Canon AE-1 and a 50 at ISO 3200 in a jazz bar, but I would think that if the subject is lighted more or less evenly, you'll be okay. If he has a SPOT light on him, like from above or from off to one side, and the background behind him is dark, the meter might tend to OVER-expose him, due to the dark background so keep that in mind. You can usually prop your elbows on a table, press your belly to the edge of the table, and make sort of a "human tripod". f/2 at 1/15 at 3200 ISO is probably gonna be the general guesstimated exposure if it is "dim". If they have some spotlighting in addition to very weak mood floods, you'll probably still be at f/2, but maybe you'll be able to get a bit more shutter speed, like maybe 1/60. If it's "bright" club lighting, you might gain a stop, going to f/2.8, at 1/60 second, maybe.
You can shoot different ISO with Diafine, but you can shoot XP2 at different ISO's and develope it incorrectly in Rodinal



Don't know if this helps but a friend of mine likes to shoot in low light bars with BW film. He shoots T-Max 3200 rated at 12,500 or up to 25,000 ISO.....! He develops his film in Kodak X-Tol up to 30min. at 90 degrees. And still has shadow and high light detail in his prints which are all done in the darkroom, no scanning for him.........!

Most reactions