After Dark: The Basics of Night Photography

August 07, 2019

Stepping out into the darkness offers photographers a great chance to capture the beauty of the city and nature at some of its most striking moments. But once the sun goes down, even the most experienced photographers find it a challenge to capture all the stunning details.

Follow these basic tips will give you a head start on shooting after dark.

Finding the right settings

If you've only ever shot during daylight hours, there can be a slight learning curve to get it right in the dark. But with some slight tweaks and a bit of practice, you can take control of your images and produce great results!

One way to do this is by using manual mode. Although it can be intimidating for new photographers, manual mode provides you with the greatest range of possibilities when setting up a late-night shoot as you can individually balance the aperture, shutter speed and the ISO.

Learn to use your camera in manual mode:
Understanding Your New Camera Class

When setting your aperture, it's best to use a low f-stop such as f/1.4 or f/2.8, as a wide-open lens lets in the maximum amount of light to capture as much detail as possible. The next step is to find an appropriate ISO. While a higher ISO results in a brighter image, the more you increase the setting, the noisier your image will look. It's good practice to start around ISO 800 and increase gradually if the photograph is still too dark. Ideally, you should be able to increase to about ISO 3200 without degrading your image.

Finally, choosing the correct shutter speed is imperative to getting a great night-time shot. However, the precise speed depends greatly on your subject. For instance, astrophotography requires a shutter speed of upwards of 20 seconds, while capturing a cityscape might use a much faster speed of between 1/160 and 1/60. Don't be afraid to experiment and take a few test shots to find the perfect mark. 

Equipment that helps capture the dark

Whether you're shooting landscapes or cityscapes, having a tripod is an important addition to any evening photo-shoot, with some shots virtually impossible to capture without one. If you ever have to use a shutter speed of more than a few fractions of a second, then a sturdy tripod is the best way to get sharp images that look incredible. Meanwhile, you might also consider getting an external flash or a shutter release, which are straightforward pieces of equipment that'll only improve your work.

Just because there's no more sunlight, doesn’t mean you have to stop shooting for the day! With night-time offering a whole new world of scenes to capture, learning the ability to shoot at night is a rewarding way to take your photography to the next level.

Interested in learning more, come along to our free lunchtime seminar with Olympus on Thursday 16 August. Follow the link for more details. 

Book yourself in to our special upcoming After-Dark Night Photography photowalks:

  • Friday, 9 August 2019 - 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm
  • Friday, 13 September 2019 - 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm

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