How to Shoot in Low Light With a Nikon D80

by Colin Gilbert

The Nikon D80 is equipped to take quality low-light pictures, but different scenarios call for different shooting strategies. The camera's built-in flash is useful for basic indoor scenes, but if flash is either not possible or not wanted, other options are available. Using a tripod with cable (or remote) release makes long exposures possible without camera shake. If a tripod is out of the question, adjusting the camera's ISO, aperture and shutter speed helps keep images sharp and bright. Setting the Nikon D80 to a high ISO and wide aperture (low f-stop) will generally produce quality low-light images.

Step 1

To shoot with the D80's built-in flash, press the flash mode button (with the lightning bolt icon), located to the right of the lens-mounting area. The button releases the flash unit that will then operate automatically. If the camera is set to "Auto," the flash will come out automatically.

Step 2

To use a tripod, screw the tripod plate into the bottom of the D80 and attach the camera to the tripod. Connect the cable release or remote receiver into the remote- cord connector, located on the bottom of the camera's left side. Use the remote or cable release just as you would the shutter release button on the camera body.

Step 3

To shoot without a tripod or flash, first set the ISO to 800 or higher. Access the ISO menu by pressing the "Menu" button on the back of the camera body and then entering the shooting menu, designated by the camera icon.

Select aperture-priority mode by turning the mode dial (on the left side of the camera's top face) to the "A" position. Change the aperture with the sub-command dial (located on the front of the camera, beneath the shutter-release button). Scroll to the lowest f-stop number possible (remember that the lower the f-stop number, the wider the aperture).


  • Even if your Nikkor lens has the Vibration Reduction (VR) feature activated, low-light images may turn out blurry if the subject is moving. To minimize blurriness in moving subjects, turn the ISO up and open the aperture as much as possible, so the shutter speed can be increased. Shooting at a higher ISO will produce more grain (noise) in the photograph. Therefore, only increase the ISO enough to get the desired results. If ISO 1600 gets the image bright and sharp enough, do not use ISO 3200. It will only create more digital noise.


  • For hand-held shooting without flash, "faster" Nikon lenses (with wider maximum apertures) will give sharper results. For example, a lens that can open to f-1.6 can receive more light at a given shutter speed than one that can only open to f-3.5, so the f-1.6 lens will produce clearer low-light pictures. If your low-light images are too red or orange, try switching the white-balance setting to "incandescent" in the shooting menu.


About the Author

Colin Gilbert is a freelance writer, tutor and photographer living in Southern California. He regularly contributes to websites focused on addiction recovery, such as, and In addition, Gilbert authored the Philosophy of Art category in "The Daily Book of Art," published by Walter Foster.

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