Night photography can yield beautiful and dramatic photos! City streets are at their most colorful when street lights are aglow. Sunsets create brilliant colors that make landscapes a great subject for night photography. You can create beautiful low-light night photos with the basic DSLR camera and kit lens that you’ve purchased. All DSLR’s camera have the essentials needed for good night photography. Point and Shoot cameras with manual controls can also be used for night photography. Here are a few basic tips that will have you creating exciting photos at night in no time.
The first requirement is to use a tripod. Generally this is required if your low-light photos are to be sharp and blur-free. Some recent camera models have a Vibration Reduction or Shake Reduction feature built into the camera or lens, which is designed to give you sharp photos at lower shutter speeds. However, the best way to insure that you obtain the sharpest low light photos is to use a tripod. You can generally find a sturdy model that fits your budget. Just make sure that the model you purchase is rated to carry the weight of the camera and lens you plan to use.
Secondly, use your camera’s Aperture Mode setting. By controlling the aperture, you allow the camera to select any shutter speed it requires for the proper exposure. F:8 aperture will insure that the entire photo will generally be sharp focus, with good depth of field. A smaller aperture such as F:16 will add a “star” effect to street lights. A slower aperture such as F:3.5 will create light trails from cars in motion at night. Here again, a tripod is good insurance against blur as the shutter speeds can be one second or more in night photography. It is also generally a good idea to select your cameras lowest ISO speed to insure noise free images.
Use a cable release, remote shutter control, or the camera’s self timer to activate the shutter. This eliminates any chance of vibration caused by manually clicking the shutter with your hand. I generally find using the cameras two-second or ten second self-time perfectly suitable.
The best night time photos are captured when there is still a bit of color in the sky. This gives more colorful images than shooting in near darkness. The image shown above from Times Square, NYC was shot about fifteen minutes after sunset to take advantage of last light left in the sky. When natural light mixes with street lights the results can be quite dramatic. The half hour before, during and just after sunset can be great times to shoot.
Compose your photo and shoot using the techniques outlined above. Review you image on your camera’s LCD screen. Do you like the image captured? If it is too dark, use the exposure compensation tool to adjust the exposure for a faster shutter speed. If the photo is too light, use the exposure compensation feature to adjust the exposure for a slower shutter speed. Generally most DSLR camera may need some exposure compensation so that the photo captured suits your taste for just the right exposure.
With these tips and a bit if practice, you will improve your ability to capture beautiful and memorable evening photographs!
Camera meters are not perfect. Sometimes the meter setting chosen by the camera will create a photo that is either too light or too dark. Exposure Compensation is a feature of a camera that allows you to adjust the exposure. By doing so, you can manually change the exposure so that the photo is lightened or darkened. Usually, the range of adjustment goes from +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 steps (or stops). Each camera may have a slighty different way of controlling this setting so please consult your camera manual for the Exposure Compensation feature.
Aperture Mode, or Aperture Priority Mode, is a camera setting that allows you to select the aperture for a photo. aperture. Once you do so, the camera chooses an appropriate shutter speed. The main purpose of using aperture-priority mode is to control the Depth of Field. Depth of Field is the extent to which objects in the foreground and background of your selected subject are sharp or blurred. For shooting landscapes at night, you want to insure that everything in the photo is in sharp focus. Generally speaking, the higher the aperture number the sharper the focus.
Your lens may have an aperture that starts at F2.8 or F3.5 as the widest sperture. The smallest aperture may be F:16 or F:22. The larger the aperture the more blurred items behind and in front of the subject you focused on will be. The smaller the aperture, the sharper the foreground and background of your subject will be. In landscape photography with DSLR cameras and kit lenses, setting the aperture at F:8 to F:11 is generally sufficient to get everything in your landscape photo in sharp focus.
Consult your camera manual to learn more about these features. Becoming familiar with them will help you to produce consistently good night photos. With a bit of practice you will be creating memorable photos! All photos displayed in this article were captured by Donald Peterson.
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