Photography at night can be used to create mysterious and amazing photos. The long exposures associated with low light can create unique effects and unusually sharp photos. Long exposures mean exposures lasting from half a second up to even 15 – 30 seconds. Below are the various night photography techniques that can be used to make photography successful.
For low light photos, a tripod (or some kind of substitute) is very necessary. I almost always keep a tripod in the trunk of my car or carry a miniature tripod around on trips. A miniature tripod can be very handy because it is typically small enough to fit in a pants pocket so it can be taken anywhere. Some photographers carry around a bean bag or something like it so that can set their camera down and tilt it in any way they like. Some of my best pictures I have taken simply by setting my camera down on a newspaper stand and setting the self-timer.
Read also: 9 Reasons Why You Should Use a Tripod
Many photographers are convinced that they need a cable release to take long exposures but the self-timer release option on just about all cameras works just as well. All you have to do is set the camera up, configure the self-timer, press the shutter button, and wait the specified amount of time (usually 10 seconds) and the camera will take the photo automatically. And you don’t have to touch the camera so the photo won’t be blurred from hand shaking.
Night Photo Opportunities
Landscape Photos – My favorite kind of night photo usually includes a landscape with some kind of foreground element, some sort of framing element, and lots of lights throughout the scene. Adding some kind of foreground item to the frame helps to create a greater depth of field, this technique works for any kind of photo but I have found that it makes night landscape photos much better. Another tip you should keep in mind is that the main subject of a night photo should probably be the most well lit. Lots of light is good for a night exposure but there should still be some focus applied to the major objects in a scene.
Capturing Motion – A very popular kind of night photography includes a steady camera with some sort of fast moving object streaming through the frame. When cars are photographed at night with a long shutter speed, the headlights make a bright pathway of light and in most cases the car can’t even be seen. Another option would be to set up your camera next to a lighted area with lots of people moving like a night club or an illuminated street. Just about any kind of motion captured with the camera steady produces a very interesting photo.
Balancing Aperture and Shutter Speed
When taking photos at night you should keep aperture in mind as well as shutter speed. It is without question that you will need a long shutter speed, but the aperture that you choose will provide the depth of field. When I take night photos I usually have a very long shutter speed (5-15 seconds) and a very narrow aperture (high f-stop). This combination creates a huge depth of field and makes everything very crisp and in focus. Of course sometimes you will not desire a great depth of field and in those situations you should widen the aperture (small f-stop).
Calculating the Exposure
Figuring out what exact shutter speed and aperture you should use can be very challenging in Manual Mode. I would recommend that you just try many different combinations for each scene and eventually you will refine the settings that you prefer. Another technique I use is Bracketing, if you bracket all your photos so the camera takes multiple exposures at different settings, you are more likely to end up with a photo that has a satisfactory brightness.
Read also: Best camera for night photography
Before you start shooting night photos, here are the three most important things to remember:
1. Disable your flash
Bring out breathtaking detail in low-light conditions by using a long exposure (the time your camera takes to collect light). Select Flash from the capture menu, then select Flash off. Press Menu/Ok.
2. Use a tripod
Long exposures require you to hold your camera perfectly still to avoid blurring. A tripod really helps. If you can’t get your hands on one, you can try bracing yourself against a stationary object like a tree, or a wall.
3. Use your timer
Even when a camera is on a tripod, your finger pressing the trigger can cause enough movement to blur a photo. You can avoid touching the camera altogether by using the timer. Select Timer from the capture menu and press Menu/Ok.
When you want to take the picture, you should adjust your camera settings
The key to getting a successful night shot like this is wide aperture, low ISO, and a slow shutter speed.
If your camera has manual settings, you can widen the aperture to allow more light to come through the camera lens which is vital at night when there isn’t much light to begin with. Select either the Av (Aperture priority) or M (Manual) shooting mode on your camera to adjust aperture. The widest opening for most lenses is f2.8.
A camera’s ISO number dictates its sensitivity to light. A higher ISO (a “fast” ISO) will make your camera more light-sensitive, but will add more grain (or “noise”) to your photo. If your camera allows you to adjust ISO, set it low (somewhere around 50 or 100) for sharp detail in low-light. This setting will increase exposure time slightly, but will produce a much richer photo.
6. Shutter speed
Because you’re not using your flash, your shutter speed has to be a lot slower to get enough light. The shutter speed in this shot was at least a few seconds-pretty slow in camera terms. Select either the Tv (Shutter priority) or M (Manual) shooting mode on your camera to adjust shutter speed. The slowest shutter speeds on most cameras range from a few seconds to a “bulb” setting (shutter remains open as long as you want). Several HP digital cameras feature a Night Scenery shooting mode. This automatically disables the flash and uses a long exposure time.
There is no exact science to night photography; I hope some of this night photography techniques will guide you in the right direction. But the best night photographers are usually the people who experiment a lot when they are taking low light exposures and eventually they figure out the best scenes and best exposure settings to match. Just remember that you need a very long shutter speed setting, and that you need to keep the camera very steady.
** NOTE ** If you’d like to know more about night photography, i recommend you this new course by Jim Hamel , this course will teach you in a few hours what it would otherwise take you months – and endless trial and error -to learn about taking breathtaking photos at night.