Sunday, November 2, 2008

Night Photography - How to do it...



Have you ever wanted to take photos at night…it can be scary…right?! But it doesn't need to be. All it boils down to is: How to get more light to your camera's sensors when it's dark out

You will need a tripod!

But if you don't have one, don't think that you can't enjoy taking pictures at night. It just means a little more pre-planning!

First! Get your kit together. Include a flashlight. (Ever tried to level a tripod in the dark??) Oh yeah ... if you don’t have a tripod, build a platform - use books on your car roof, upside down buckets or wood blocks) Ever tried to see your camera settings in the dark? Take a flashlight!
Dress warmly; fingerless gloves are more than a fashion statement! Take a flask of hot coffee or tea. Something to nibble on is always good!

Pick a place that you think will look cool at night: View to a city, your neighborhood streets, rooftops in moonlight, or boats bobbing in a harbor. Check the place out during daylight or just as evening twilight settles in.

Pick out the best place to set up in advance, especially if you don't know it too well. There is nothing worse than stumbling around in the dark trying to find ground to set up your tripod. Oh yeah ... if no tripod look around your chosen spot for a spot of night shots for something to stabilize your camera on – fencepost, etc.

And be safe! When I'm taking photographs I don't want to worry about my six! Ladies, I am all for equal endangerment and the right to trespass with the best of them, but if you are setting up across the river from a cityscape, don't count on it being deserted. What will be deserted, is the people you DON'T have to worry about. Things are different at night. Exercise some common sense and judgment. And now for the dreaded .... CAMERA SETTINGS!!!!

Relax. If you're shooting digital, you can shoot a hundred (BTW always a good idea to have extra batteries in with your kit).

Night time is like daytime - rules change depending on what you are shooting at. Just less light :)

Point & Shooters!

If your camera will not let you set manual apertures and shutter speeds try this.
Set your ISO to lower speeds (depends on your camera but try for 200 or lower)
Choose "night" mode (if your camera lets you combine modes also use the "landscape" setting)
DISABLE YOUR FLASH!!! This will "force" your camera to slow down the shutter speed.

Set your camera on a stable surface or tripod. I find that even pressing the shutter button will jiggle the camera. So I use my camera's auto-timer set to 2 seconds. Take the shot! Look at it! If it is too dark, try using your E.V. compensation - Try 2/3 increments in the PLUS. If the E.V. comp doesn't give you what you want then try changing your ISO speeds to a higher rate. Remember though higher speeds = more noise!

If the shot has too much glare, try using negative E.V. compensation and lowering your ISO.

Manual Settings

You know that if you got it, use it! Set your ISO to the lower or lowest.
DISABLE YOUR FLASH!!! Aperture is just like for daytime. What are you taking a photo of? Ignore the fact that it is night. Believe it or not, there is a lot of light available when you can slow your shutter speeds down to 15 seconds or longer, or even have a "B" (bulb) mode.

Think about Depth Of Field and Infinity! (the point where ALL is in focus)
If it's a lighted city skyline you want a greater DOF, so try starting at f/6 –f/8 and then setting your shutter speeds from 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute ... you’re using digital, so take as many as you need.

Adjust your aperture and shutter speeds before trying for faster ISO's.

Hot Tip: If you're shooting city lights, try switching your White Balance to "Incandescent" or "Tungsten". It will cool down the warm cast from all those burning lights!
And about now I bet you're glad for those fingerless gloves and hot coffee!

The following are my first attempts at night photography. They were taken at the Glass Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

1 comment:

Nancy and the fatties said...

What a great post. Thank you for the tips - I am getting ready, finally, to upgrade from my point and click to a REAL camera so this is very helpful.
happy holidays!