At night, our surroundings can seem very different compared to during the day. When evening falls, ordinary scenes seem to change, becoming more mysterious or dramatic. With these night photography tips, you can capture images filled with atmosphere and fascinating interplay between light and shadow.
Use these night photography tips as your guide:
Set adequate exposure settings – when it’s dark, you will need to compensate by gathering enough light sources to illuminate your subject or scene, or by using exposure settings meant to take in a lot of light. The slower the shutter speed, the more light will enter the camera sensor. However, this increases the chance of camera shake so for speeds slower than 1/30s, it is best to use a tripod or at least secure the camera on a steady surface. A bigger lens opening (smaller aperture number) also gathers more light. Remember that this will also impact depth of field, making it more shallow. As for ISO, a higher number will allow more light into the camera but will also increase image noise and that grainy look. Experiment with combinations that will give you sufficient light without compromising quality or the effect you’re going for.
If you’re wondering what kinds of photos you can take at night, here are some night photography tips on suggested subject matter and techniques:
Take photos of cityscapes – at night, cities sparkle with thousands of artificial lights and even with no moon to help light up the scene, you can still capture enough light by placing your camera on a tripod and using a long exposure setting. Look for a good vantage shooting point, preferably at a distance to capture more of the surroundings.
Photo by Chris Tse
Shoot the moon – a common night photography subject is the moon. An object of mystery and romance, the moon has a variety of phases (new moon, full moon, etc.) that makes it all the more interesting to shoot. Ideal times for moon shots are early evening and dawn, when it is not too far above the horizon so you can add details of the landscape. Also, at this time the moon is closest to the Earth, making it appear larger.
Prepare before the shoot by consulting a moon chart to find out what time the moon will rise and fall, as well as what phase it will be in. Also, check the weather and decide on a good shooting location where you can shoot the moon without obstruction.
Photo by Luz Adriana Villa
Have fun with light painting – use a handy light source like a flashlight to “paint” light on the subject. You can also create streaks of light in the air and make them form shapes or words. You might have to take some trial and error shots to make sure the intensity of the light is just right, that you’re covering the whole area you want to illuminate, that you haven’t overexposed by lingering your light too long in one spot, and the like. When doing light painting, place the camera on a tripod and set the timer for the shutter. Give enough time for you to be able to light paint without hurrying and risk accidentally tripping on your tripod in the dark.
Photo by VFS Digital Design
Shoot light streaks – night time is perfect for capturing light streaks of moving objects. Not only do these suggest action, they look pretty cool. For example, take this photo of car light trails illuminating the road:
Photo by Bravo_Zulu_
You can look for other kinds of objects that can create interesting light streaks, such as carnival ride lights:
Photo by Rebecca Chatfield
Capture the atmosphere – night photographs have a certain mood which makes them fascinating to view. There seems to be an air of mystery with the presence of more shadows, and you can take advantage of this in your compositions.
Photo by Stewart Leiwakabessy
A few more night photography tips:
A camera with a manual mode will give you more control over the low light scenarios since you can make exposure adjustments.
Scout locations that would make interesting scenes for night photography. What looks ordinary in the daytime can look vastly different at night.
Needless to say, be careful when shooting outdoors at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Always be watchful of your surroundings.