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Night photography tips and camera settings

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Night photography is a genre of photography that requires a lot of skills and patience. It can be exceptionally frustrating if you don’t use the right tips and techniques.

So before embarking on this beautiful journey amongst the stars with your camera, let us enlighten you on what you need to know to go in the right direction.

Here are a few things which you need to know if you want to master the art of night photography:

Why Night Photography?

Before going on this journey, make sure that you are aiming right. Ask yourself why you want to master this skill because if you do not have your goals straight, then the journey can become arduous.

To grasp this genre, you will need strong willpower as it can be a hard skill to master. This is because night shots take longer to expose.

Night traffic

There is a lot of focus on composition and camera settings, and it takes longer to hone your skills. It isn’t easy to have the right timings because night photography occurs in-between dusk and dawn, where the colors vary a lot giving you an array of shades.

This opens up opportunities as well as leads to confusion. So before embarking on this journey, read through these tips to have a smooth trip while excelling your shots!

Exploring the Unknown

Night photography has the benefit of not being affected by conditions such as weather and people. It is more like black and white photography as you are working on a black canvas, reflecting an array of colors.

Some factors wouldn’t be much of a problem, but others may affect a lot. The factors will influence here differently as the focus will be more on contract than color so that the principle will change. This will open new vistas and horizons for exploration.

You don’t expect to see results as nighttime images are a bit unusual, but that is the beauty. This is where your inner perception is needed; you have to look beyond the night sky to discover the extraordinary. You have to use a long exposure to see stars you hadn’t realized were there.

Night scenery

Not only is there so much to explore, but there are thousands of locations to choose from. You can try to find the best locations using two ways, either in the daytime and come back at it when the sun sinks, or you can wander at night and stop at the situation you find best.

The best thing about it is that you are in an unknown zone where you are starting fresh. There are no limits, connotations, and misconceptions. You can experiment all you want, and I think this is the best way to understand night photography’s beauty.

Keep yourself open to the unknown, and it might surprise you. Don’t become stuck photographing the thing you know – venture beyond so that you can break out and experience new things.

Aurora Australis

Settings for Night Photography

For night photography, a thorough understanding of the working of exposure is necessary. There is no space for lack of understanding, so master yourself in exposures. Remembered that three factors affect an exposure that includes ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, and each of them is used differently at night.

So do the most important thing. Just switch your camera from auto mode to manual mode to have full control of the exposure settings.

If you have low light, then this means that you will have to change your settings to compensate for it to get the right exposure. The settings will depend upon the conditions, and you might have to widen your aperture, raise your ISO and slow your shutter speed.

But most of your photos will need a wide aperture so that as much possible light is allowed. The result would be the shallow depth of field in a few cases, which doesn’t matter much because the lack of light is bound to some definition.

Sometimes you will find yourself in a setting where your subject moves away into the distance towards the point of convergence. To shoot in such situations, you will require a narrow aperture to produce a wider DoF.

These settings are essential as they let you get your way even when the conditions are not perfect. Especially when shooting in difficult conditions, set yourself up to focus about a third of the depth into the image to create the best field depth.

If you are in a very dark place, change your setting by raising your shutter speed and ISO. Simultaneously, decrease your aperture. This would result in ISO producing a grainy result in your image, which you can use to add a creative touch if you know your settings well.

These little things count a lot as they make a big difference and help you make the most out of the situation.

One wrong setting can destroy the whole composition, so ensure that your camera is well set according to the conditions. Don’t cry over imperfect conditions. You cannot change them, but the camera settings are changeable, so use them well to add creativity to make a masterpiece.

Evening in the woods

So the idea is to think before you shoot or end up crying afterward. Decide on what you want in your final image before shooting, like whether you want a deep DoF, grain, or light trails, and set the camera accordingly, and hopefully, you will not fail.

Work out the settings beforehand so that you won’t have to face any setbacks. Practice a lot as this enables you to master the setting, and within no time, you will be setting your camera by just having one look at your surroundings. Remember, there is no one right setting, so keep experimenting.

You might discover that different settings can produce various images, and you might find them all beautiful. One more thing worth mentioning is that in low-light photography, the camera’s exposure meter is irrelevant, so ignore it at night. Please don’t waste your time over the histogram, as it appears completely different when in the dark.

Handheld vs. Tripod

The most asked question regarding night time photography is whether to use tripods or not. Well, according to us, the use of a tripod is an excellent choice. It allows for long exposures and enables you to experiment with cooler effects.

But there are a few things you should keep in mind before going for tripods. First of all, you have to make sure to weigh it down and shelter it from winds because even a slight movement will blur your image. Secondly, utilize a shutter release cable or remote controller to eliminate the chances of camera shake and jarring the camera. Then turn off image stabilization as it is counter-intuitive.

Winter night

And don’t use tripods all the time. Some handheld images have their charm, so do not try to substitute them with tripods completely. Just bear these things in your mind before going for a tripod. And if shooting handheld in which you are more restricted because you have to hold the camera still for a long time, raise your ISO as high as possible to shorten this time.

Night Photography Ideas and Techniques

Night photography and be fun if you know the right techniques. Here a few tips which you can apply to create some cool and creative images which you can’t achieve during the day:

Make the best use of reflections, which are very hard to capture in the day as they are dependent on the light source in the scene, and during the day, the natural light makes it difficult. At night, there is no natural light, so you can create a breathtaking reflection by controlling the human-made light.

Make use of as much color as you can because these will merge to create a beautiful reflection on the water. You can create a contrast between smoothness and sharpness by using moonlight as your consistent light source at night to produce some very alluring effects which are only possible during the night.

Take sky photos as they offer a variety of effects. Capture moments like movement in the clouds, star trails, and other details hidden amongst the stars to capture exceptional images that are not visible to the naked eye.

Stars over mountain Night photography

This all might look challenging to you at the beginning, but believe me, when you take the first stem, the beauty captures your heart, and there is no going back. As you take one step, the rest of the journey unfolds beneath your eyes, and you learn the rest gradually by experimenting.

From manipulating ISO and aperture to controlling shutter speed and lightning, everything becomes easy if you practice a lot. Just keep these four things in mind, and you will be good to go!

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6 thoughts on “Night photography tips and camera settings”

  1. Avatar of Sherry S.

    Great article! Photography is something I’m interested in getting more advanced in. So far, i’m just using my android smartphone and adobe lightroom to edit! It takes some fantastic photos sometimes but it horribly fails at night time photography and this explains why! Needing to be able to manually control ISO, aperture, exposure and shutter speeds is critical. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that night photography has the benefit of not being affected by conditions such as weather and people in the picture itself (not in reference to them causing difficult conditions to shoot in lol). That’s one less thing to worry about! Thank you for all the little tips and photography secrets! I’m excited to put them to use when I buy my first professional camera (and tripod!!). 🙂

    1. Avatar of condruzmf

      Hi Sherry,
      It always pleasing me to hear that the information I’m sharing is easy to understand and makes
      sense. Thanks for the good feedback on that, cheers

  2. Avatar of Todd P Matthews

    Thank you for these tips. I’m looking to start taking my own pictures and I definitely needed an article like this to benefit from. While I’m still very new to the photography scene, I’ve wanted to do my own work for my writing business. Strange as that sounds, my novel settings take place in areas I grew up in and would love to take pics of areas that I mention in my works. Night pics would just add to my repertoire.

    1. Avatar of condruzmf

      Thank you! No, these pictures are not mine … I lost my back up drive with all my photos about a year ago 🙁
      Since the COVID, I am not traveling anymore, so I need to use what I can find on pexels.com and similar sites.
      All the photos in my gallery, those are all mine 🙂 For free use, by the way.
      I am giving for free, as I am using other people photos when in need. Cheers 🙂

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