London-st-Pauls-Cathedral-River-Thames-Millennium-bridge-Dusk

How to take better night photographs

Hi there!

This week I thought that I would give a few tips on getting better results when taking night photographs.

London-skyline-night-tower-walkie-talkie-gherkin-reflections-thames-river

Use a Tripod and Shutter Release

Stability is key. It is vital that your camera dos not move for the duration the shutter is open. As you will inevitably need to leave the shutter open for longer than usual (as you will need more light), the camera is more prone to vibrations which can be recorded in your photographs resulting in blurry images.

A remote release is extremely useful here so that you don’t risk shaking the camera when you press the shutter. If you don’t have a remote release, don’t forget that you can use the 2-second timer built into most cameras.

London Tower Bridge at night with Car Trails lights

London Tower Bridge at night with Car Trails lights

Shoot in RAW format

I personally use RAW file format for all of my images rather than jpg as I like the flexibility and control I have in editing my images. I think using RAW when taking night shots is one of the key times to use this file format as it is much more forgiving in the amount of data recorded and will allow you to tweak the highlights and shadows where necessary as it is often difficult to balance these when taking night photographs.

London Bridge and Walkie Talkie Building Reflected in River Thames at night in Blue Lights

London Bridge and Walkie Talkie Building Reflected in River Thames at night in Blue Lights

Use a Low ISO

The usual applies here – the higher the ISO you choose, the more noise will be recorded in your image. This will be exaggerated in night photography as your shutter will be open longer. Also, bear in mind that noise is often more visible in dark areas in your photographs and so a dark sky or shadows will show more noise.

Modern church in America with large stained glass window and tall white tower spire religious architecture

Modern church in America with large stained glass window and tall white tower spire religious architecture

Don’t Use Flash

This one really depends on what you are trying to photograph although usually the flash is not needed as you can leave the shutter open to obtain the right exposure. Obviously a cityscape won’t benefit from the small amount of light from a flash, but it can be invaluable if you want to light up say a person or thing in the foreground of your image whilst leaving the shutter open to record the rest of the ambient light of the scene. Just remember that a small flash will only light up a small area a short distance from the camera.

Conway-Castle-Gwynedd-Wales-UK-night-reflections

Aperture

As we know, a larger aperture lets in more light. This an be a great help when taking night photos as it means you do not need to use shutter speeds that are quite as long. However don’t forget the principles of depth of field (click here to read more about aperture and depth of field).

One other tip is that remember is where you want to get the ’star-effect’ on your lights use a smaller aperture (higher F-Number).

Car Light Trails on the Interstate Freeway at Night with the street lights with star effect

Car Light Trails on the Interstate Freeway at Night with the street lights with star effect

Manual mode

Night Photography is a time when you will really want to shoot in manual mode, as you will want to control both the shutter speed and the aperture (see above) to suit your particular scene. Shutter priority mode on most DSLR cameras will only let you leave the shutter open for a maximum of 30 seconds, so if you find that this is not enough then you will have to use Bulb Mode. Bulb mode which allows you to dial in the aperture you want and rather than setting the shutter speed, it allows you to manually keep the shutter open for as long as you want using a remote release.

London St Pauls Cathedral Millennium Bridge River Thames Reflection

London St Pauls Cathedral Millennium Bridge River Thames Reflection

When to take Night Photographs

Again this depends on your own personal choice and the scene that you are photographing. The time immediately after the sun has set can be a great time for taking night photographs as the sky still has a dark blue hue allowing you to still see some detail in the sky and the city lights will on. This time is known as the ‘Blue Hour’ and can give your night photos a little more interest than if taken hours after sunset when the sky is extremely dark.Obviously this is a personal choice and sometimes a dark sky can also be dynamic in an image and obviously for star shots then you will need as dark a sky as possible with minimal light pollution and no moonlight.

times-square-manhattan-night-buildings-lights-NYC-New-York-City

Check Focus

Make sure you check your focus – it can be tricky using the camera’s autofocus at night so manual focus is usually the way to go. Live view can be a great help, especially when zoomed to 100%, which can make it much easier to ensure that your image is in focus.

London Architecture night scene looking up at Lloyds Building skyscraper and modern office building in lights.

London Architecture night scene looking up at Lloyds Building skyscraper and modern office building in lights.

Hope you find these tips useful!

Once again please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about this post (or anything else on my website), and to pass this tutorial onto any photographer friends you think may benefit from it.

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How to take better night photographsantonyz
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