How to Take Photos at Night?

Written by Lusia Tuesday, 06 April 2010 04:31

So you want to take photos at night? Some of the most amazing photos are taken after dark - but chances are if you don't know a few tricks you'll end up with blurry photos.




So you want to take photos at night? Some of the most amazing photos are taken after dark - but chances are if you don't know a few tricks you'll end up with blurry photos, something dark and dull looking, a bright bit of flash in the foreground, or something so grainy that it's almost un-usable. Unfortunately this is also a time when automatic settings and program modes on cameras often fail, or are simply a poor substitute for dialing in the right settings on a camera with decent manual controls.

So how is it done? HDR? Photoshop? If you’re a digital single lens reflex camera owner and your camera has a mirror lockup feature, use it to minimize vibration at the beginning of your exposure. You can also set your self timer to trip the shutter to cut down on camera shake. If your camera supports one, a remote shutter control is another handy tool. The following tips are aimed at providing a guide to taking long-exposure photos at night on a camera with manual settings.


Focusing in near-darkness - Focusing is a tricky proposition in near-darkness. Carry a flashlight to help illuminate your subject if necessary to give your camera (or your eye, if focusing manually) something on which to focus. The flash light will also help you see your camera’s knobs and buttons. Once the autofocus is established, I usually switch the lens to manual focus so I don’t have to repeat focusing for every shot thereafter.

Want to see stars? If you’re in an area where stars are visible, an exposure of 30 seconds at ISO 400 will catch them. After 30 seconds, the rotation of the earth will cause stars to form a “trail.” To catch star trails, a setting of ISO 100, f5.6 and an exposure time of anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours will do the trick.

Charge your batteries - Long exposures eat up batteries very quickly. Make sure you have a fresh set or freshly charged batteries in the camera before you head out at night. It’s also a good idea to carry fresh or fully charged spares with you.

Go wide - A wide angle setting will not only give you a better field of view, it will increase depth of field and help make up for small errors in focusing.

Go low -  Nighttime shots are dramatic in and of themselves, but you can enhance the drama even more by setting your tripod as low as possible. Most of my night shots are taken not much more than 12 inches above the ground.

Experiment with white balance - If you’re photographing a nighttime landscape far from city lights, a Daylight white balance will work the majority of the time. If you’re shooting a cityscape at night, however, try switching to Incandescent to keep street and window lights from showing up as orange. The Incandescent setting will also deepen the blue of the sky during the Blue Hour.

Experiment-With light trails, bursts of flash and images where there are no lights at all. A long enough exposure can turn a desert by night into a bright scene with lots of star trails.

Panoramas-While you've got the tripod out, its a perfect time to make a panorama image. Just make sure the camera is on "M" for manual, and that images overlap by about 25%.


Last Updated on Thursday, 17 June 2010 17:04