7 tips for night photography

New York City, USA skyline at night.
Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Are the dark days and long nights getting you down? I’m really looking forward to lighter evenings and some warmer weather but I’m also aware I don’t want to wish time away, I mean…how is it February 1st, 2017 already? So, let’s embrace the winter months and the darkness they bring, a perfect time to brush up on our night photography skills. Here are my night photography tips…

Shoot in RAW
RAW files record the most amount of detail and information. This will give you the most scope to enhance your shot when you’re back at your computer. You’ll be able to edit your white balance, highlights, lowlights, contrast, saturation, and sharpness in a non destructive format.

Keep your lens clean
This might sound a really simple one but it’s something often overlooked. Check your lens is really clean to make sure your images are as sharp as possible and to avoid flair.

Stillness is key
Even if you think you’re holding the camera really still, I can bet you you’re not! When shooting with low light the slightest movement can ruin your shot. There are a couple of things that can help you with the art of stillness. First of all and most important, get a sturdy tripod (or rest your camera on something securely). Secondly, just pressing the shutter button can sometimes cause camera shake so you could either invest in a shutter release trigger or use the self timer along with locking your mirror up (if you can). Don’t forget to also remove image stabilisation if you’re using a tripod.

Lights hanging from trees in forest
Cultura RM / Alamy Stock Photo

Manual focus is a must
Some of the best lenses and cameras have trouble auto-focusing in low light so switch over to manual focus to get your shot sharp.

Keep your ISO low
You’re going to want your ISO higher than if you were shooting in the day but the higher your ISO the more chance of getting a grainy/noisy image which we don’t want. If your images do end up noisy, then you can easily reduce or even remove this in your photo editing software. Check out this handy Lightroom tutorial from Adobe if you’re not sure how.

Experiment with your shutter speed and aperture
For the best results you should switch your camera to manual. Set a wide aperture if you want a shallow depth of field and a narrow aperture if you want everything in focus, although I wouldn’t go narrower than f16 as further can cause softness when defraction sets in. A narrow aperture will work well for longer exposures like star trails, car lights and cityscapes. You’ll also want to select a long shutter speed – you can lengthen/shorten your shutter speed depending on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re shooting light trails with tail lights or fireworks for example you’ll need a much longer shutter speed, start at 30 seconds and see how it looks. It’s fun to experiment though, take some shots, review them on the back of the camera and adjust if it’s too dark/bright.

I’m seeing more and more star trail images recently, I love them! It’s amazing what we can ‘see’ with the help of our cameras. Check out this great star trail tutorial from PetaPixel.

Star trails and a meteor over the pine trees in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.
Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

When to shoot?
Try shooting soon after sunset, this way you won’t miss the lovely detail and colours in the sky.

If you’re looking for more night photography inspiration then read our blog on the world of night photography. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below.

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