A series of novel composite photocatalysts, NiO/Ta2O5, were synthesized by the solid-state reaction and successfully characterized by X-ray diffraction, Transmission electron microscopy, diffused reflectance ultraviolet and visible (DRUV-vis) spectroscopy, Photoluminescence and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) pattern indicated the formation of composite material. The red shift in the absorption edges of the newly prepared composite photocatalysts were well observed from the DRUV-vis spectra. The composite photocatalyst prepared at metal ratio (1:3) showed highest result toward hydrogen production under ultraviolet and visible light irradiation in the presence of methanol as a sacrificial agent. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.