If you are looking for some night photography tips to improve your night shots you have come to the right place. After dabbling in night photography for a few years now below are some of my night photography tips that I hope you will find useful.
USE A STABLE SUPPORT
The first of the night photography tips is to use a stable support. Light levels are exceptionally low during the night time hours and sharp hand held shots is not going to happen. It doesn’t matter how steady your hands are or how steady you think your hands are, there is no way you are going to get sharp handheld shots in low light levels. If you want to capture tack sharp night time shots and keep the camera shake at bay you are going to have to use some stable support.
Arguably the best support is a sturdy tripod however there are loads of other supports you can use to good effect including bean bags, table top supports, Gorillapods and the like. My go to support for night time photography is my trusty Manfrotto tripod however when I am travelling I will opt for the Joby Gorillapod (for a full review check this out) which is another awesome bit of kit.
If you are serious about night photography and taking night time shots you need some kind of support.
USE A REMOTE SHUTTER OR SELF-TIMER
Next on the list of night photography tips is to use a remote shutter or the camera’s self-timer.
The act of pressing the shutter button can move the camera or make it vibrate, which will resonate through to a blurry photo. The way around this is to trip the shutter without physically touching the camera and you can do this using a remote shutter release or the camera's self-timer.
Out of the two methods I recommend using remote shutter because when setting the self-timer it is all too easy to nudge the camera and change the framing or move the focal point, which is very annoying. Using a remote shutter cable eliminates this problem, and the good bit is that they are cheap bits of it.
You can choose a wireless remote shutter release (which are very expensive for what they are and also requires power) or a cable remote shutter release (which is better value for money and doesn’t require any power). I personally use a cable remote shutter release and I am more than happy with it.
DON’T BOTHER USING NARROW APERTURES
Next on the list of night photography tips is to forget about using narrow apertures.
Narrow apertures are best used to isolate subjects from the background by having a tack sharp subject against a nicely blurred out background. This method isn’t suitable for night photography and I would always suggest using an aperture where your lens is at its sharpest, typically around f8 – f11. When taking night time photos you will be using a stable support so you can use whatever aperture you want and not have to worry about camera shake.
I remember the first article/tutorial I ever read about night time photography was to use a lens with the widest aperture in my collection, and to use it wide open to let in as much light as possible. This little bit of advice turned out to be next to useless.
MAKE SURE THERE IS A SPECIFIC SUBJECT
Next on the list of night photography tips is to ensure there is a clearly defined subject.
Having a specific focal point/subject is crucial in night photography, and whilst you can get away with having no clear focal point during the daylight hours (think cityscape, seascape or landscape here) this is not the case when taking night time shots.
With night photography you need something to focus on, and the viewer is also going to need a focal point to attract their attention and draw them in to the image.
EXPOSE FOR THE SUBJECT
Next on the list of night photography tips is to expose for the subject.
This may seem like a stupid statement but the point I am trying to get across is that when taking a night photo you are not going to be able to get everything in the scene correctly exposed. Sure it would be nice, but in reality it never happens so it’s not even worth trying.
When exposing for a night scene pick out what you want in focus and set the exposure settings for that. If you leave you camera to sort out the exposure it will try and correctly expose the entire scene and as a result nothing will be correctly exposed.
Night photography is one of those times when you will have to use full manual mode for total control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Using a semi-automatic mode (i.e. aperture priority or shutter priority) and leaving the camera to calculate the other setting won’t work. Be brave, go forth and embrace full manual control.
If the subject, i.e. the focal point of the image is correctly exposed the rest of the photo will fall in to place.
Next on the list of night photography tips is to use manual focus.
Whilst the autofocus of modern day cameras is very good they are not great in low light and night photography. As the light disappears the autofocus will fail to lock and start to hunt. Even if you can get the autofocus to lock on to something it is not likely to be the area you want in focus.
When taking night time shots you need to ditch the autofocus and focus manually. Zooming in and magnifying the area you want in focus using the camera’s LCD screen is a great way of making sure you nail the focus.
So there we have it, my list of quick and simple night photography tips that will help you on your way to improving your night shots.
Other night time photography articles that may be of interest
Photos of the moon are cool, and whilst it is easy to get an okay photo of the moon it is way more difficult to get an awesome shot of the moon. If you want to get a unique shot of the moon there are a lot of things to think about and consider, and all of them are explored in this article “How to photograph the moon”. So please feel free to check it out.
If you want to get the best shot you need to use the best lens for the job, and the same can be said when taking night time and low light photos. “And the best lens for night photography is…” is an article that explores the best lenses for night and low light photography.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.