Night photography: How to Take Pictures After Dark

The word ‘photography’ translates to ‘drawing with light’. So, it makes sense that when we have little light to work with, getting the shot becomes much harder. With techniques, equipment, and the right night photography settings, you can capture great photos even in minimal lighting.

Whether you’re into night skywatching or you’d like the confidence to take photos at any hour of day or night, you’ll want some night photography know-how. To avoid dark or grainy photographs when you’re shooting after dark, keep these helpful tips from Ted’s Cameras in mind.

To Flash or Not to Flash

Night photography sometimes will require a flash, depending on your subject. Night portraits, for example, benefit greatly from using a hot-shoe-mounted flash. For these shots it’s recommended to use a slower shutter speed to allow more light in to blend with the flash lighting, avoiding a vibrantly lit-up subject and totally dark background. For a slow shutter speed, consider a tripod to avoid camera shake.

Street scenes and nightscapes mostly don’t need a flash, as the light won’t be strong enough to illuminate distant subjects. Rely on street lighting and storefront lighting, and get creative with your light sources.

The Best Gear for Night Photography

  • A mirrorless camera. For night photography, mirrorless cameras are great as they feature large image sensors which are capable of capturing considerably more detail than smaller-format cameras. They also provide higher ISO performance, resulting in more detail even in darkness.
  • A lens with fast aperture. The faster the maximum aperture of your lens, the easier it is to let in more light. To find an ultra-bright lens, such as f1.8 or even f1.4, look for wide-angle, standard, and telephoto lenses.
  • A flash. As mentioned, certain night photography styles benefit from an external flashgun, so it’s good to have a flash in your night photography kit.
  • A tripod. Capturing the best images with minimal noise comes from keeping your ISO as low as possible, and shutter speed slow. In most cases, this means you will need your camera mounted to a tripod. To keep things lightweight, there’s a range of portable, travel-friendly tripods on the market.
  • A remote control. Some photographers like to operate the shutter remotely to eliminate any possibility of blur, especially when using slower settings that let in as much light as possible.

Night Photography Camera Settings

Night photography requires different settings than portrait photography. Here’s what to think of when you’re changing exposure settings for night photography:

  • ISO. One of three elements used to control exposure, you’ll want to start as low as possible, with low light sensitivity of about 100, and raise as necessary.
  • Shutter speed. A slow shutter speed is a great way to let in plenty of light for night photography, but it also can result in obscured imagery due to movement. If the subject is stationary and you are using a tripod, you can use very slow shutter speeds. If you have moving subjects in your images, keep this setting moderately high and set the two other elements to allow more light.
  • Aperture. If you need as much light as possible to keep your shutter speed high, open the aperture of your lens right up. This provides a shallow depth that’s often ideal for portraits.
  • Shoot in RAW. Capture maximum detail from your camera’s sensor by shooting RAW. You can also edit RAW images with greater success, without degrading the quality of the original image.

Night Photography Tips and Tricks

  • Look for well-lit areas. This provides more light for your images and helps you to capture dynamic images rather than gloomy ones.
  • Don’t be afraid of blur. It can be used to emphasise movement.
  • Use shadows and highlights. Learn to embrace shadow and light and use these features to your advantage. Negative space can help define the main focus.
  • Use manual focus. If you feel like your AF is not entirely accurate and you’re trying to figure out how to focus night photography, switch to manual for your night shots and enjoy more control.
  • Use a tripod. Sometimes handheld photography at night is okay, especially with High ISO-performing digital cameras, but if your subject allows, use a tripod to shoot with a slower shutter speed.
  • Bracket your exposures. Snap one photograph at the exposure your camera suggests, one slightly underexposed, and one slightly over. Make sure you’re shooting in RAW so you can make adjustments later.
  • Scout for locations during the day. Avoid stumbling around finding locations when visibility is low so you can see all the interesting landscapes and compositions.

With these tips and techniques up your sleeve, you’ll be getting the shot you want in low light conditions. Get prepared with everything you need by browsing Ted’s Cameras’ website and enter the world of night photography with confidence.

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Laine Matthews

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