There is something about photos taken at night – not the ones where you have taken a happy snap of a friend at a party and virtually blown them away with a big burst of flash, but the image that would just not be the same in daylight.
Understanding light and how to make the most of what is available to you is the key to great night shots. While quality digital cameras have automatic settings to help once the sun goes down, having the confidence to play with the camera’s settings will result in far more striking images.
Take the following tips on board when venturing into the dark world of night photography and you will be well on the way to adding some impressive photos to your portfolio.
- Use a tripod: Less light at night means the camera’s shutter will be open for longer and any camera movement with result in blurring of the image. Using a tripod will keep the camera steady and also help you maintain the composition of the image. Make sure the camera is steady and level – many tripods come with a built-in “bubble” to help you achieve this. It’s also a good idea to use the camera’s timer when taking photos as even the simple matter of pushing the button can cause the camera to move.
- Understand your settings: You need to understand how aperture and shutter speed affect the amount of light that hits the image sensor in your camera. Too much will lead to over exposure and not enough will result in dark, under-exposed images. A good place to start is by using the automatic night settings on your camera. They should be displayed either by looking through the viewfinder or on the camera viewing screen. Note them down and take a few shots on these settings, and then switch to manual and experiment with different combinations. The results will speak for themselves. Many models, such as Canon cameras, will also have an image stabiliser option on the lense which helps eliminate any camera shake. It’s often a good idea to turn this off at night because when using long exposures and a tripod, the stabiliser sensor can sometimes cause its own movement.
- Take lots of shots: Memory cards hold plenty of images so there is no reason why you shouldn’t shoot as many images as possible. Try different settings, make slight changes to the camera’s angle and position, and shoot lots from each of these. And just when you are satisfied that you have got what you were after, think outside the square and try something different. It’s always worth taking several “safety” shots as well, ones that you are fairly confident are going to give you a decent result without the risk of experimentation.
- Experiment with manual focus: Your camera may find it difficult to lock onto the subject of the image because of the lack of light, resulting in a blurry image. You may even find that it just can’t focus at all. Switching to manual focus will eliminate this problem. Review the scene in your viewfinder and make some adjustments – even a subtle shift in focus can make a big difference.
- Be prepared: A little forward thinking will go a long way when it comes to night photography. It’s a good idea to scout your location in the daylight first because it is going to look a lot different in the dark. This will help you find the best spots and also make you aware of any hazards. Make sure you have all your equipment at hand as well in a quality camera bag. And rug up – it gets cold at night!