Prevent dark, blurry, and underexposed nighttime photos. Knowing some simple photography tips can help you capture stunning, unforgettable pictures after dark.
eosdoc.com gathered the following night photography tips to help you capture clear, sharp, and well-planned nighttime images.
1. Set Your Camera to ‘Manual Mode’
While it may appear counterintuitive, night photography is much more simplified when your camera is set to manual. When your camera is in automatic mode, it will continuously attempt to focus on points of light. Manual mode gives you control to focus where and how you wish without the camera overcorrecting.
2. Keep Your Camera Stable on a Tripod
Regardless of your steadiness, it’s highly unlikely you can remain motionless for the time required to capture sharp nighttime images. To eliminate movements and/or vibration, mount your camera on a firmly positioned tripod.
Note: If you don’t have a tripod, visit your location during the day looking for a ledge or other flat surface where your camera can remain still.
3. Should I Shoot Raw or JPEG?
Something special about digital photography: most digital cameras can process their own images (sharpening, color balance, light correction, etc.) as it converts RAW information into a JPEG format. When you shoot RAW images, your image should be saved unprocessed.
During high-paced events like weddings that require a lot of pictures quickly, your digital camera will almost always perform more efficiently shooting JPEGs (raw exposures take much longer to save).
However, RAW format is recommended for nighttime photography, as it lets you adjust color and gives you greater control over exposure and color balancing. This is possible because the image file is saved unprocessed and uncompressed.
4. Shooting in “Bulb Mode”
Most digital cameras in manual mode will only work for exposures up to 30 seconds (depending on its make and model). If your image needs a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds, switch your camera to Bulb mode. For nighttime photos, you should generally shoot in manual mode but be familiar with the advantages of Bulb mode.
- When you press the button, the shutter opens
- When you release the button, the shutter closes
You can eliminate any shake or movement in the exposure using a tripod and a remote shutter/cable release. While in Bulb mode, your exposure can last several minutes long.
5. Adjust the Aperture
The aperture is defined as the opening in a camera lens that permits light to enter the camera. This setting is expressed in “f-numbers” like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/16, etc.
- Higher value apertures like f/16 mean less light is getting into the camera
- Lower value apertures allow more light into the camera and are better for low light situations
Your camera’s aperture can be controlled either directly on the lens or on the camera itself. Test shots will help you determine the best setting for the circumstances.
6. Adjust the ISO
In film and digital photography, an ISO setting reflects the sensitivity of the film or image sensor. ISO will be displayed on your film and/or camera as 100, 200, 400, etc.
- A 1600 (or higher) ISO is recommended for very low light circumstances
- An 800 ISO is recommended for most indoor pictures with ambient lighting and no flash
- A 400 ISO is recommended for pictures on cloudy days or with window lighting
- A 200 or 100 ISO is recommended for pictures taken in bright, sunny locations
Increasing the ISO value on your camera is comparable to brightening an image on your computer. The main difference is raising the ISO value on your camera (when taking the shot) will almost always increase your image quality rather than just brightening it.
7. Adjust the Camera Shutter Speed
The shutter speed reflects the length of time your film or digital sensor remains exposed to light by the camera’s open shutter. This feature is typically measured in fractions of a second.
- A shutter speed of 1/100 second or 1/320 second works well for images taken in well-lit conditions
- increasing the shutter speed reduces issues you may experience with blur and camera shake
- A shutter speed setting of 15 seconds to 25 seconds or greater is highly recommended for nighttime landscapes, skylines, or sky shots
Note: The slower the shutter speed, the more light will reach your film or digital sensor.
While ideal camera settings change from environment to environment, ideal settings for night photography include; an open aperture (f/4 or higher), a higher ISO value (starting at 1600), and the longest shutter speed available on your equipment.
Tip: Take multiple test shots at varied setting values to determine the settings that best accomplish your needs.
In this article, you discovered seven tips to help you elevate your nighttime photography without worrying about blurry or overly dark results.
Knowing the capability of your equipment settings and some top-tier advice, you can capture flawless images at any time of day or night.
Without knowing how to set and adjust your camera, you may get lucky every now and then, but you will likely end up taking blurry, inconsistent images.