How To Take Low Light Photos of a Sleeping Child

As a new mom holding my soft as silk, delicately scented infant, I thought there was nothing more beautiful than my baby, peacefully sleeping. That was until I had a house full of kids on a Sunday afternoon, tearing around my front yard, and a little boy in the middle of it all, expelling more energy and noise than I ever thought possible.

Now I think the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is an eight-year-old boy peacefully sleeping.

The difference between eight-year-old boys and their infant counterparts is that the infants happily nestle into their basinets bathed in rich, golden sunlight. The eight year olds? They require a dark room – like little bats.

I decided I wanted to capture my little man when he was sleeping, but the challenge was the low light. My first attempts didn’t work out so well.

This is what you need to know about low light: take adeep breath and go to your manual setting.

1. Bump up the ISO. If you use Auto ISO, this is the time to choose your own ISO setting. Go for at least 800. In my son’s room there are soft lights over the bed, so I could get away with an ISO of 800, but it might be good to start with 1000.
2. Open up your aperture. The aperture is the f-stop on your camera. Choose the lowest number your lens will allow. I happen to own a wide angle lens that opens to f/2.8. If you don’t own a lens with a wide aperture, you’ll need to use a very, very slow shutter speed.
3. Use a slow shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the shutter stays open, letting more light in.
4. Steady your camera. You’ll need a tripod, or a solid surface, to give your camera support when using a slow shutter speed.

On the first image, the composition and steadiness of my hand definitely didn’t work.

20mm | ISO 800 | f/3.2 | ss 2.5 seconds

The second time, I held the camera like I meant business, but I still had some shake because the shutter was open for 2.5 seconds.

20mm | ISO 800 | f/3.2 | ss 2.5 seconds

The third time, I got it right. I placed the camera on my son’s night stand. That gave me a better view of his face and a better perspective. Shooting at a child’s eye level, sleeping or awake is such an important point to remember.

20mm | ISO 800 | f/3.2 | ss 2.5 seconds

I imported the photo into Lightroom and adjusted the white balance a little to correct the yellow/red tones. I also reduced the saturation a little and sharpened a bit.

And there you have it! My sleeping eight year old boy.

Myra Cherchio is a “nearly native” Floridian, wife, mom and clinic director of a medical practice. She spends her free time with camera in hand, documenting her favorite memories with photos and journaling.  Myra is a regular contributor to CaptureYour365.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m going to have to try this! Once my son is asleep he is OUT. Yay for a sound sleeper so I can play with getting a great picture of him being peaceful. Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you so much for the suggestions. I tried the suggestion of shooting in low light for my photo today and it turned out GREAT. I was so happy. I understand how you explain the setting and it has made a great difference in my pictures. Thanks again

  3. The final image is fantastic! I wish I could do this, but my daughter (22 months) wakes up as soon as we open the door. Maybe one day …

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