Taking Photographs At Night
Night-time brings some beautiful scenes for photographing. However, it can be very frustrating as what the eye sees if far greater than what a camera can see as our night contrast ratio is much higher than a cameras.
However, this does not mean you can’t get an incredibly good night shot using a CSC or DSLR…or even an SLR or higher quality compact camera…pretty much anything that can give you full manual or at least Tv Priority.
So, what do you need to do, well, depending on what you are taking a picture of, for instance a building at night, or the moon, or just a landscape, will obviously require a different settings, however for this I will use this picture I took last night as my reference.
This was taken on my G15 with the following settings:
f/3.2, Shutter speed 10 seconds, ISO80 on a small, very very cheap, comapct tripod!
Now, from my settings you can see I got a nice amount of light and it has kept it’s sharpness. A lot of the time with night shots they look incredibly grainy and they are usually blurred – this is due to the camera lowering the shutter speed creating blur and bringing the ISO right up in order to make the sensor more sensitive to light.
Now – Important note 1, TRIPOD! You will not succeed without a nice tripod to set up. Now obviously if you are out and about you can just up your ISO to get a faster shutter speed but if you, like me, are heading out to do this shot then you will have the time and knowledge to prepare. It was a nice sunny day, I knew it was to be a full moon so I took my tripod and camera to work then cycling home stopped along the way to snap some photos.
So the F-stop – you will have to adjust this accordingly for what you are shooting. For this shot I didn’t open all the way up to f/1.8 as I wanted a deeper depth of field, however to get smooth flowing water or clouds etc. you may want to shut the stoppage down and slow your shutter speed. I will go into shooting water another time, but for now lets just concentrate on shooting static images. So adjust your f/stop to where you like it, it you are just shooting something like a building, keep the f/stop as low as you can and decrease the shutter speed.
The shutter speed is extremely important in night photography. It can do a wide variety of effects with no need to photoshop. I shot mine with a 10″ exposure which gave me a smooth-ish water and, as it was on a tripod, still gave me a nice sharp photo. Now as with ISO, low shutter speeds can give you visible grain at slower speeds. So remember when adjusting your settings, you want to find a nice balance between f/stop and shutter speed.
PRO TIP: If you are shooting with a slow shutter speed and don’t have a remote, to decrease the chances of blur when pressing the shutter button, put it on a timer! I didn’t have my remote with me last night so I set it to a 1 second delay so I was clear of the camera and it was completely untouched the entire time the shutter was open.
The last thing will be ISO. I always tend to keep mine at the lowest ISO to give me the cleanest picture. But if I wanted a faster shutter speed and was already at full f/stop and still needed more light then the only thing left would be to adjust the ISO – again, it’s very dependant on what you are shooting.
Then it’s just frame up that composition! I could have taken a bit more time on mine however I had just finished a long night at work and it was past midnight..and pretty chilly and I still had a bike ride home so I wasn’t as concentrated as I could have been! However, still has nice bright colours and no need for flash.
Go out and practice – check the weather, bring a torch (flashlight), and perhaps a flask of coffee to keep warm! Any questions leave it in the comments and I will get back to you and help as best as I can!