Early morning light..low contrast scene..hand held 7D-II with 300 IS II f4 lens. A big dark cat is climbing down a tree super fast. I had increased EV by 1/3 and had to jump up ISO to 5000 to get a shutter speed of 1/250. I got 2 decent steady shots out of 12 frames. But grainy of course.

Was a negative EV more suited (instead of the positive bias i used) to have lower ISO and then increasing exposure at PP?

Personally I prefer analog manipulation over digital. Though not sure if that was the most wise decision at current scenario.

What other combinations could I have used please?


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  • Philip - thanks. I have read that thread already. Great suggestions over there. However it was mostly talking about stationery objects thereby you having an option of not worrying about shutter speed (keeping it at a decent one). Where as in my case it was a fast moving object so my main worry was getting a decent enough shutter speed first (as I was in Av mode, shutter speed was derived than set) to have steady shots which are not blurred.
    – Mainak Ray
    Apr 17 '16 at 8:58
  • If you care about shutter speed, don't be in aperture priority.
    – Philip Kendall
    Apr 17 '16 at 9:09
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    @MainakRay, you are asking about noise, regardless of the kind of photo you want to take. So your problem is exactly high ISO vs post-processing. Once you set the appropriate shutter speed as suggested Philip Kendall, you are left with the same options. Flagged as dupplicate :)
    – Olivier
    Apr 17 '16 at 9:18

Personal opinion only:

I find that a sharp but noisy picture is usually preferable to a less noisy out of focus picture. Exceptions may be in situations where artistic aspects make the achieved degree of blur acceptable. Your findings may differ.

(1) Lowest speed - SSL : Shoot at as low a speed as you can and still tolerate the target's & your motion artefacts - largely motion blur - BUT NOT SLOWER.

(2) Fastest speed - SSH : Shoot at the highest speed that you can that allows noise and quality to be acceptable.

If SSL <= SSH then you have a ball game.

If SSL > SSH you have a problem.
Solution - any mix of:

  • A camera with better low light performance

  • A faster lens (or larger aperture if available)

  • 'Better' post processing software

  • Add light to the scene

  • Improve your technique

  • Why has nobody so far at least mentioned Flash? Not always what you want and tends to change the 'environment' but has it's place. I was very surprised some years ago to see an International competition (relating to wild life afair) won by Spanish photo of a wild wolf jumping a low fence at night. Remote auto trigger used. They have details of film speed, camera type and many settings and more. AFAIR ISO 25 was used ! NO mention was made of the fact that flash must have been used. If you can do that and win such a prize then flash for the black cat may just be OK :-)

As others note, overexposing does not sound wise here.
You are effectively decreasing shutter speed all else being held equal.


Sometimes blur can be acceptable, or somewhat acceptable. Here the result was accidental - shutter speed was 1/6s & flash was used. Without flash this is a reject. With flash it may be acceptable depending on other shots.

enter image description here

FWIW: NIKON D700, 1/6 seconds, f1/6.30, aperture priority, ISO 3200, 260.00 mm (genuine as FF Camera)

AND this is what caused that camera behaviour: Flash Setting - SLOW Not a setting I usually use. Camera ensures that background light 'rounds out' any underexposure (as opposed to metering scene and then hoping)(if I understand slow mode correctly).


Pushed to limit (or beyond :-) ).
This was purposeful (believe it or not. )
Camera set to rear sync and several seconds exposure and swung in arc around background and then stopped at selfie position just before rear-synced flash flashes. Results variable. Whether any are "any good" is in the eye of the beholder :-). (I like SOME of them). Tracking black cat down tree may be interesting :-).

enter image description here

  • Thanks v much Russell. It was a full grown black leopard actually. The park I was inside have strict "no flash" rule. I had permanently disabled flash. I kind of agree that overexposing by a third did brought up the iso higher to the next level. But there might be slight benefit of capturing more natural elements of the not so contrasting scene with the over exposure. At least thats what played in my mind at that point of time. But i see your point too.
    – Mainak Ray
    Apr 17 '16 at 13:26
  • OK - so my flash add on is highly irrelevant - good policy in this case. If you are allowed to add even a smidgeon of always on light it can make a difference at very low light levels. eg 1 EV above low moonlight is useful and 3 EV (8x) is extremely useful. Apr 17 '16 at 13:31
  • In this case your +1/3 stop was helpful because it forced you up to ISO 5000. Because of the way Canon cameras use the +1/3 stop and -1/3 stop ISO settings you would have gotten a much noisier image at ISO 4000. For more please see: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/43756/…
    – Michael C
    Apr 17 '16 at 19:55
  • @MichaelClark Your 1/3 stop comment is presumably intended to be on the question and not (where it is) on my answer so may not be seen by the OP. Apr 18 '16 at 14:49

Your best approach when exposure time is fixed (and practically limited) is record RAW images and use as high ISO as possible without loosing necessary highlights.

This graph shows how to select the best ISO setting for lowest SNR. You drop diagonal onto the graph and pick the ISO which is closest to it. In this graph the ISO settings closest to ideal are called "12800" and "51200" in camera (measured values are somewhat lower but that dos not matter).

In your case you will get best SNR at setting 12800 already - if needed highlights are not blown of course.

So, ideally, you should fix your shutter speed at maximum reasonable value and set ISO manually and compensate for exposure in RAW editor.

  • Thanks Euri. I was in Aperture priority in this situation. RAW of course. Did I do the right thing by over exposing by 1/3 point? I wanted to capture the scene as natural as possible with the details
    – Mainak Ray
    Apr 17 '16 at 7:55
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    @mainak-ray: the only things which matter in extreme low lighting cases are: aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Everything else is secondary. Yes, if you use Aperture priority, your way to go is set high ISO and positive exposure correction. However, I find that A is not very good for that, you will do better in M in such extreme cases. Apr 17 '16 at 8:13
  • I don't follow the logic of overexposing - it just increases your trouble by requiring extra exposure time or even lower iso. It seems clear to me (but I'm not a pro) that you'd rather want to underexpose by 1/3 or even more, to get a better (shorter) time and thereby reduce the movement in each shot.
    – Aganju
    Apr 17 '16 at 12:35
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    @aganju: over/underexposure is secondary. Whichever settings set which results in shutter speed being short enough, ISO being set high enough and necessary highlights preserved is fine. If you have a scene which does not have much contrast and you use A mode you will end up with better SNR at same shutter speed if you step up ISO and set equal overexposure - in M mode, one needs to set new ISO only. Apr 17 '16 at 12:54

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