Monique Harmer Photography

The world's largest annual nude swimming race, Sydney Skinny, pictured on Sunday, 12 March 2023 after a three year Covid hiatus.

How to photograph people in low light outdoor events


Photographing the world’s largest annual nude swimming race, Sydney Skinny, held at Cobbler’s Beach, Middle Head Road, Mosman.


This is always a low light event to photograph. The media VISION OPS are always during the first wave. This includes participants who have consented to being interviewed and having photos/vision taken of them while they swim. Media registration is essential.


TIME FRAME: Media arrive before 7.30am for registration. Media wave of swimmers starts at 8am. All media to depart beach at 8.30am. 


Thank goodness it didn’t rain this year. 🙂 

Photo settings - second camera Nikon D4s

1) Focal length 24mm - Lens AF-S Nikkor 24-70, 1:2.8E ED.

Why 24mm? 

Like many events, you’re there to photograph/document the natural flow of whats happening around you while at the same time, keep the integrity of the event. Opening the lens up gave me options to crop if needed also allowing participants to enter from both sides, without too much distortion. Using any wider here would have made the person closest to prominent and others too small. To me it was more about the participants in mass than 1 person.

2) Aperture F9

Why F9? 

The light doesn’t come into this bay area till after we leave. F9 was a safety net to capture more in focus in the focal plane. Any higher I would have had to compromise my ISO, allowing grain, or shutter speed & risk soft, or out of focus people, movement walking, Great for the creative art shot. If you have time and someone else on your team is grabbing the in-focus shot, FABULOUS what are you waiting for get creative…..

3) Shutter Speed 250

Why ss 250? 

This was the lowest speed I’d risk on the day. At these types of event theres always the late participants running into the water. I walk behind the starting crowd, at the same pace centred behind the people in front of me. This way your movement is kept in focus as much as possible. 

4) Flash - manual mode set at 32, Nikon Speedlight SB 5000

Why flash mode 32? 

It lifts the subjects in front of you slightly and the soft light keeps it as natural as possible. Using a flash like this will improve your cameras recording capacity – quality. I have found it to lesson the grain in lowlight situations when you still want to capture the natural light on people and scene.  Not to mention the flash regenerates instantly on continuous so you can avoid the hit and miss fires when capturing movement. As well as adding a catch light in the eyes of someone who turns to face you. 

5) ISO 400

Why iso 400? 

I could have probably used 500 or even 640 here. My go to with the D4s is generally 400. Its not the best low light camera especially with the new models hitting the market. 400 seemed fine at the time it was an overcast morning so plenty of soft light with the cloud coverage. 

6) Camera set to RAW

Why use Nikon RAW? 

I always shoot in RAW, it gives me more options and captures the highest amount of information and details. Making life a lot easier in post. 

Hover over gallery images to see camera settings.

Or simply click on an image to enlarge 🙂 

Press coverage this year was for NCA News Wire – here are some of the links to articles where photos from the event were used

Thanks for reading, 

If you found this helpful or want to know more please let me know by leaving a comment below. 


Monique Harmer

Monique Harmer

Our photoshoots are not just about taking pretty images they’re about taking your customers on a journey and gaining a better understanding about you and your business.

2 Responses

  1. Great insights and truly appreciate you sharing your settings and rationale behind the selected settings for each shot in these relatively low light conditions….very helpful thank you. And great images!

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Hi I'm Monique

Hi I'm Monique

Personal and business brand image expert. Photographer and educator who is super passionate about empowering business women and men to have a positive self perception, with the right tools and guidance so they can share their gifts with the world.

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