Professional Night Photography Tips


To help everyone interested, I’ve prepared a list of tips to follow to shoot at night.

Night Photography Tips:

  • ISO: Use ISO 100 for Canon cameras and ISO 200 for Nikon cameras. Only change this to a higher number after examining various shutter speeds. Your camera must be capable of having shutter speeds as long as 30 seconds. You will know when you moved seconds when your camera displays the ” mark for your shutter speed. Example 1″ = 1 second.
  • Focus: You might be able to use automatic focus if there is adequate light but you will have have to use manual focus. Recently, I was able to use automated focus during Live View by moving the focus box over the moon then letting automatic focus do its thing. If your camera doesn’t have manual focus, find a light in the scene to focus on. The autofocus will require light. If there isn’t a light, use a flashlight. You can turn it on and put it where you want to focus or use it to lighten your focal point.
  • Aperture: Use f/11 or f/16. This will give you a greater depth of field so that more of the subject will be in focus.
  • White Balance: Try Daylight. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it will usually result in different light sources such as tungsten, fluorescent, halogen, neon, etc. looking better
  • Speed: Try 1/8 second then use a shorter shutter speed if the photo is too light. Use a longer shutter speed if the photo is too dark.
  • Tripod: You must use a tripod or other stable support. You can’t handhold long exposures.
  • Cable Release: If you have a cable release, use it. If not, set your timer so that the shutter will release several seconds after you press the shutter button. This helps prevent camera movement.
  • File Type: I almost always shoot Camera RAW + JPEG. This gives me a raw file that I can shape and a JPEG that I can use instantly.

If your camera doesn’t have a Manual setting, you might still be able to successfully take night shots. Look under the Scene (SCN) menu for the following settings:

  • Fireworks: This setting should extend your exposure long enough to capture night lights.
  • Night Portrait: This setting prolongs your exposure and causes the flash to go off. This setting is intended to take a picture of someone with city lights behind them. You may have tried to take this kind of picture before and the background didn’t show up at all. Night Portrait fixes that problem.
  • Tripod: You still need a tripod to steady the camera. If you have a timer, use that, too.

Bonus Tip: Avoid turning on the camera’s noise reduction as it will result in taking longer for the image to write to the memory card (the same amount of time as required for the exposure) before becoming accessible for viewing on the LCD screen. Instead, reduce any noise that may have been injected into the image during the Post Production process.

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