Night-time photography offers something rather special. After all, the scene that looks good when you shoot it during the day can be totally transformed by the change in light. The night sky offers a range of different lighting and depending on the weather conditions and the time of night often affects things in a way that is quite difficult to replicate in a studio.
When you take photos at night you will find that you are much less likely to be interrupted by other people. You will have unrivalled access to those areas that are busier during the day and there will be no noisy individuals around to disrupt your concentration.
Night-time photography requires a little bit more technical know-how over other photography, but if you use a photo sharing website then adding it to your portfolio of work will really help you to stand out from the other photographers. So if you want to take your portfolio to another level, check out our night-time photography tips.
Your choice of camera is hugely important when taking photographs at night. You should be looking for something with a high ISO range, a large sensor and a wide dynamic range. Fortunately, most cameras have these features so if you have a good quality DSLR then you should be fine.
The high ISO range is vital when it comes to working with lower levels of ambient light and you will need to be setting it to 3200 as a minimum. The wide dynamic range will help you to keep all of that important detail, and the large sensor will allow you to capture as much of the image as possible without losing too much.
You should also invest in a good tripod. The slow shutter speeds that you will be using need stability.
The right settings are essential even with the best camera, and there are 5 settings you should be looking at. These include:
- Shoot manual – use the manual setting on your camera. Auto will just confuse it and you simply won’t get the shot you were hoping for.
- Use a wide aperture – obviously, this will depend on the lens you are using but wider is better for night photography. This allows you to let in as much light as possible. Consider a f/2.8 at the minimum.
- Set your ISO high – start at 800 and work up depending on the type of light you are working with. Remember the higher the ISO the more noise you will have to deal with in your image. The better your camera the better the image even with a high ISO.
- Use a high slow-shutter speed – obviously depending on what you are shooting this will vary. Sky photography may require a speed of around 10 seconds whilst an urban shoot may be okay with a speed of between 2-10 seconds. The amount of light and the effect you want will play a huge part here. Very long shutter speed and light are what help to capture star night trail images of the sky.
- Utilise a tripod – slow shutter speeds and no tripod equal shaky photos so make sure you use one if you want to stabilise your camera.
The right lens
If you know what to look for, choosing the right lens is easy. The best landscape or portrait lens should also be great for night photography. Select something that will let in plenty of light, f/1.4 would be great but at least f/2.8 will work.
Prime lenses have the largest apertures so choose one of these if you can. A wide focal length lens will help you to get nice sharp images and if you want to capture star trails opt for a long focal length lens.