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How can I get photos showing the “shaft of light” effect?

While sitting in a room, there was a ray of light coming in through a small opening in the window. I tried my best, to capture the light ray, against the contrasting darkness in the room, but I failed. I have tried to take such a picture outside too, in woods, where light rays were coming in through think growth of trees, but the capture was not at all what I have seen in pictures of similar situations.

Here is a picture I randomly picked from Flickr to clarify what I was trying to capture. enter image description here

My question is, what is the appropriate setting on the camera OR simply put, how can I take such pictures (of light rays) in open areas and/or closed spaces, like a room.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I got the answer from the original question thread. You can close this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Incognito
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


Well, first of all it's not possible at all to photograph the ray of light itself. You can only photograph the effect that the ray has on other things.

To catch how the ray shines through the air, you need something in the air to reflect the ray, like dust or mist.

Once the effect of the ray is visible in the air, you can easily photograph it. It will be more visible if the background is dark, so you may need to adjust the exposure, or use manual settings so that the camera doesn't expose to make the background light.


Manual mode and a little experimentation is one way to approach this, as it will be difficult to get a good exposure reading for the light ray.

Set your desired aperture, then dial in a shutter speed to get a good exposure of the room. Now under expose by a stop, take a shot and check the results. Using that as reference, you can adjust your exposure slower or faster to get a good result.

Depending on the range of light in the scene you might be able get both the light and the room within tolerable limits, but it is likely that the room will be very dark. If that's the case you could use a tripod and take two exposures, for the room and light ray, and blend them in post processing.


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