New photographers are often apprehensive about photographing at night. One might even think they’re afraid of the dark because they scurry away as soon as dusk hits. It’s no surprise really considering that it is more difficult to take excellent photographs at night. With the right photography equipment and a steady hand, your nighttime photos don’t have to be a wash out.
Although not always possible or convenient, it’s best to use a tripod. At night, it’s imperative that the camera is absolutely steady. Because there is no natural light, you need a slower shutter speed to make up for the low light conditions. It’s actually a good idea to use a self-timer. Even when you press the shutter button with the camera in a tripod, the camera can still shake. Use the self-timer along with the mirror lock-up function to prevent any blurry pictures.
You might be tempted to keep the flash on all the time. It makes sense, right? No light so compensate with an external flash. While this is all well and true, the flash will have no effect if shooting a deep landscape. Switch off the flash and choose manual settings instead.
If you can, shoot in the first half hour after sunset. This will prevent streetlights from hindering the detail and colors in the night sky. Because you will need longer exposures to compensate for light, the battery will drain much more quickly so always keep a spare battery for DSLR cameras in your carrying case.
Although it sounds backward, put your DSLR cameras’ white balance setting to “daylight.” It will actually make the sky a deeper and richer blue color while giving any bright lights a warm, yellow tinge. Keep an eye on your ISO while you’re at it. Even after you adjust your shutter speed and aperture, you still might not have enough light in the pictures. Try increasing your ISO but keep in mind that higher ISO also means more noise in the photos. You will also need a larger depth of field, especially if you’re shooting buildings and lit structures. Use a minimum of f11, but f16 and higher is better. Adjust your shutter speed accordingly because as you increase the f-stop, less light will be allowed into the lens.
A popular photo to capture are the light trails of moving cars. In order to do this, shoot at dusk while there is still some color left in the sky. Use an exposure of around fifteen seconds.
Don’t give up hope if the photographs don’t come out as good as you expected. Nighttime photography can be tricky, so just keep at it and experiment with different photography equipment and settings until you are happy with the results.
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