In this article, I wanted to touch on one of my favorite types of photography and give you a few night photography tips. Night photography is not anything like shooting in the daylight. There are a few things you need to make your night photos stand out. Hopefully, these night photography tips will get you interested in learning the techniques and get you out to capture some great night shots.
Night photography is one of the hardest forms of photography to master. You’ll need to turn everything you’ve learned about photography on its head and learn a new way of shooting. It takes a little intuition and the ability to think creatively to capture great night shots.
Safety should be your primary consideration when you set out on a night shoot. You’ll need a good flashlight, preferably with a red light setting or a red filter. The red light will help you conserve your night vision. But you don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark and tripping over things. A good flashlight can help you with light painting too. I’ll get to that in a moment. You also need to remember you’ll have your valuable camera equipment with you. If you plan to shoot in a dangerous area plan to have one or two other people with you. You’ll want to scout out your shooting location in the daylight if possible so you can spot any hazards while you can see them.
It’s easy to forget that it can be cold at night in some areas. Batteries don’t last as long in the cold. Make sure you have spare batteries and that they are fully charged. A jacket and gloves are also good to have in case the temperature gets lower than you anticipated. You may also want to consider carrying a few disposable hand warmers and a few rubber bands. Moisture in the air can cause your camera lens to fog over at night. You can activate one or two of the hand warmers and use a rubber band to secure them to the lens to warm it. A thermos of hot beverage can help you brave the chill and stay out a little longer to get your shot as well.
You are going to need a DSLR to get good night shots. Remember, night exposures can be as long as 30 seconds or even longer. Most point and shoot cameras don’t have a setting for long exposures. An intervalometer is another key piece of equipment you need. This little gem will allow you to set the exposure time and will also take repeated exposures of the same duration for a few frames or as long as your camera battery lasts. It will help if you have a lens with an infinity exposure mark on it too. This mark is where everything within the frame is in focus. This mark is a lifesaver if you are taking exposures of the night sky. It is really hard to get a good focus using a star at night. Use the infinity setting and your shots will most likely be in focus.
An intervalometer also can function as a cable release. You don’t want to have to press your shutter because that can introduce vibration which can ruin your shot.
Finally, a stable tripod is essential. You’ll want one that is sturdy so that a sudden breeze doesn’t ruin your shot.
As noted earlier, long exposures are essential for night photography. To get the light streaks from the cars on the freeway in the image above takes a 20-30 second exposure. Photos of the night sky require a long exposure as well. But you’ll be amazed at the number of stars you’ll capture with a long exposure of the sky compared to how many you can see with only your naked eye. This is because the light builds up on your sensor while the shutter is open.
Another fun thing to do when shooting at night is called light painting. This is when you use a flash or a flashlight to paint light onto an object while your shutter is open. You can use your light to paint a tree or a building. The possibilities are endless. You can even move through the frame painting different objects and as long as you don’t illuminate yourself and you keep moving, you’ll never reflect enough light for you to register on your camera’s sensor. In addition to a flash or flashlight, you can do light painting with the colored chemlights used for emergencies. The limit really is only your imagination.
Now that you have some ideas from these night photography tips I would love to see what you come up with. Feel free to share your photos in the comments section. I look forward to seeing what you can create using these night photography tips.
If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.
Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.