We all know that it is very challenging to take good quality images in a low light conditions. Fortunately your DSLR can be adjusted to compensate for that challenge, and in fact, pick up on light sources that may not be obvious to you.
Here is a collection of practical tips to get great photos during the night time. Remember there are no hard and fast rules in photography. Experiment to get the scene just the way you want it.
Keep in mind, as a general rule, that the less light you have available, the longer you have to leave your lens open and the wider you have to have it open. That means you have to keep your camera absolutely still.
Don’t lose a great shot just because you didn’t feel like toting your tripod. Without one, you will surely be disappointed with the results of your shoot. Don’t rely on finding a level surface at the scene; be prepared. Use a cable release or the auto-timer.
If you’re serious about night photography, you may want to invest in a lens hood. These attach to the front of your lens and like blinders, keep out unwanted light. As you become proficient with night photography, and go for longer exposure times, a lens hood helps restrict light from an unexpected source, like streetlamps or electronic signs in the distance.
If you shoot without a lens hood, check the area for potential light problems and use your hand, or a piece of cardboard to avoid flare.
Experiment with Exposure
A long exposure calls for a slow shutter speed. Most of your night shots will probably need an exposure time of from one/half to two seconds; however, as you become familiar with shooting at night, you’ll sometimes find opportunities that call for an exposure time of from five to 30 seconds, depending on the image you’re trying to capture.
Create light balance by setting your aperture to a larger number which leaves the shutter open longer. Take lots of shots at different exposures, and keep a notebook handy to record the settings you used for each shot and use it for reference.
When to Use Your Flash
If there are people in the scene, or any type of movement, you’ll probably have to rely on your flash to capture the shot. The problem with flash at night is that the photos are often washed out, almost too stark against the dark background.
To avoid this, try shielding the flash with your hand or a small square of cardboard to direct the flash upwards instead of directly on the subject.
Bring a Flashlight
Carry a flashlight with you for several reasons. First of all, when it’s dark, it’s often difficult to tell if you’re in focus. Turning a flashlight on the subject will tell you if you’re in focus. Also, it’s a good idea to scan the area of the scene for extraneous objects that you don’t want in the photo.
Flashlights are also ideal for minimally lighting up a foreground. They can also be used to highlight certain objects, or to create dramatic shadows.
Shooting at night means you’ll be out in the dark. Whenever possible, bring someone with you. It’s easy to get so caught up in what you’re doing that you forget to pay attention to what’s going on around you. For safety’s sake, don’t let that happen.
Be sure to bring a cell phone along in case of an emergency and pay close attention not to get lost. Even the best photographers can get so focused on what they’re doing that they forget to pay attention to where they’re going.