Last week we covered the essential gear for night photography. This week we discuss the nuts and bolts of the technical side.
To compensate for excessive darkness, you camera needs more light than normal. This is achieved with extended exposures and appropriate apertures – without a tripod, you cannot have an extended exposure.
Don’t be intimidated. Night photography plays by the same set of rules as daytime photography – just with a few tweaks. You are controlling shutter speed, aperture, focus and ISO. Here are some pointers.
Shoot in manual (M)
- Low light situations will fool most cameras.
- Shooting in manual gives you control of shutter speed, aperture, focus (if needed) and ISO.
The darker it is, the longer the shutter speed
- Shoot with a shutter speed between 3s and 25s depending on the available light.
- As a rule of thumb, shoot dusk with a 4s exposure and anything pitch black should be shot with a shutter speed 25s or longer.
- Not long enough? Switch to “bulb” mode. This keeps the shutter open for as long as you like. If you’re going to shoot in Bulb, a remote release is a must, as it keeps your hands from shaking the camera.
Control your depth of field with aperture
- Large aperture = more light allowed in = shallow depth of field = smaller focal range. The f-stop represents the size of the aperture, the smaller the F-stop, the larger the aperture. (Confused yet?)
- A smaller aperture = less light allowed in = deep depth of field = larger focal range. Shoot between a F8- and F11 to keep everything in focus, near and far away.
- The problem: Most cameras cannot auto focus in low light situations.
- The solution: Use your flashlight to illuminate the object you are shooting, grab auto focus, turn the flash light off, and you are good to go.
- Looking for something more dependable? Use manual focus.
- ISO represents your camera’s sensitivity to light.
- In both film and digital systems, keep ISO low to reduce the amount of unwanted noise within the picture.
- The lower the ISO, the truer and inkier the blacks will be.
- Rule of thumb: If you double your ISO you will need to reduce your shutter speed in half to get an equivalent exposure
- Shooting in the dark is all about trial and error.
- Play with the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO levels until you get that incredible image that only your camera can see.
Unless you’re a night photography prodigy, practicing and being patient will improve your shots. Trust me, they’ll be worth your time and effort. Please feel free to link to some of your favorite night images in the comments section below.