Night can be the best time to take some moody and breathtaking shots, either under the moonlight and a sky full of stars or of bright bustling nighttime city life. At first, night photography might seem as straightforward as any other daytime photography, but the reality of the situation is, it just isn’t. If you’ve taken your camera out at night and found pitch black or grainy images, you might not know what to change to get those crisp clean nighttime shots. Maybe you’re event new to the scene and don’t know where to start. Either way, we’re here to help. In this blog, we’re going to explore:
- Useful camera equipment
- The best settings and modes for nighttime photography
- Great night photography ideas
- How to fix your nighttime photo
By following this guide, you’ll be on track to become a pro at night photography in no time!
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Equipment for night photography isn’t too different to most photography you’ve likely already had a shot at. First things first, a good tripod is a must for a lot of nighttime photography. Many photographs in dim lighting need long exposures, and long exposures need a steady camera. If you’re planning to shoot in windy conditions, make sure to have a heavy tripod with you, otherwise, your lighting will be all over the place and your photo will be blurry if you’re swaying all over the place.
First things first, sort out the focus. Autofocus is great when first getting into photography, but its weaknesses really shine when the lighting is dim and it struggles to adjust in the dark. Using manual focus gives you complete control over the shot and guarantees a clear picture in dark settings. To get a good focus, turn the manual focus to infinity, and make sure not to accidentally go back into autofocus or you’ll lose all your hard work!
Next up: shutter speed. Different shutter speeds will produce different effects. A fast shutter speed is great for freezing your subjects in motion, getting a clean shot of any stars, lights or whatever is in your view. The downside here is that a faster shutter speed captures less light. This can be fixed by increasing the ISO, but that’s a whole different issue we’ll cover in a moment. On the other hand, a slower shutter speed creates a blurry image. At first, this doesn’t sound all that great, but if you’re looking at getting a long exposure photograph (where car lights trail behind them or stars appear as pretty white lines in the sky) then you’ll want a shutter speed of at least 10-30 seconds, maybe even more depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Finally, we have the ISO. This is a tricky one, and different sources will tell you different things for good reason. On paper, a high ISO is the obvious choice since it allows your camera to pick up more light at night. If your ISO is too low, the image will appear too dark to see anything. On the other hand, a high ISO also increases the noise in your image, making for an unappealing amateur shot. The best solution here is to play with the rest of the settings and push the limits of your camera. Some modern cameras are actually able to reach a high ISO setting without sacrificing quality, but if you’re still working with a more standard camera, you can always use a slower shutter speed or wider aperture. In conclusion: learn what your camera is capable of and go from there.
The night is the perfect opportunity to experiment with new ideas and techniques. If your find yourself stuck on where to start, we have you covered. Below is a quick list of different ideas you could play with when taking night photography.
Long exposure shots
Nighttime is abundant with long exposure shot opportunities. From moving stars to car lights and even torches, you can take a long exposure shot to get light in action, creating a breathtaking shot and bringing the night to life.
Experiment with reflections. Catch the moon and stars distorted ever so slightly in a lake, or capture the buzzing light from city buildings in the water. These shots can sometimes be difficult to get right, but at nighttime when the cities are lit up with different colours reflecting in the otherwise dark water, it becomes much easier and all the more beautiful.
Big cities are often full of nightlife. Vibrant colours, different entertainment, even bustling crowds can fill up the space at night in the big city. It’s always interesting to see how the lights can really bring a place to life.
Focus on the moon.
The moon is a great source of natural light, and on top of that, it’s beautiful. Use it as a focal point for your images and see what your surroundings can do to complement it.
If you’ve encountered any issues with your nighttime photography so far, there’s no need to worry. You can easily fix any issues afterwards with post-production. Use software like Adobe Lightroom to quickly fix your gallery’s lighting, or remove the noise from your work. You might even want to change the way the sky looks or replace it altogether. If you’re interested in learning the basics for post-production, check out our guides such as Photoshop vs Lightroom to find out which would suit your needs better.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for some professional touchups for an affordable price, Splento offers quality edits for as little as £0.49 per photo! More information along with the easy to use upload tool can be found here.
If you’re looking for something new and different, night photography is full of exciting opportunities and presents a whole new skill set to build up. It’s a chance to take breathtaking photos like never before, and you’re likely to find all sorts of new things while out and about at night.
Make sure you play with your settings as recommended, and you’ll be a pro in no time!