For many, night photography can be intimidating. The medium itself is dependent on light reaching the camera’s sensor, so venturing out into the darkness presents a slew of technical issues to overcome.
Thankfully, it’s possible to overcome these hurdles with the proper equipment and camera settings that can compensate for the lack of light. Whether your goal is to capture stars or streetlights, there are a few essentials any photographer venturing into the night should have in tow:
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Prolonged shutter speed.
Boosting your ISO can lead to significant digital noise, and often times wide apertures aren’t enough to properly expose a scene in the night. Therefore, the most effective way of allowing light to reach your camera’s sensor is to keep the shutter open for a longer period of time. Often times, you’ll need to expose for at least a few seconds.
A sturdy tripod.
With shutter speeds longer than 1/60th of a second, it’s nearly impossible to avoid motion blur holding a camera by hand. The easiest way to remedy unsteadiness is to secure your camera to something stable. If you don’t have a traditional tripod, it’s easy to craft a makeshift substitute with something like a bean bag.
Self timer or cable release.
When using a slow shutter speed, even the slightest touch can sabotage your chances of capturing a clear image. By purchasing a remote cable release or utilizing the camera’s built in self timer features, it’s possible to take a picture without even touching your camera’s shutter.
Believe it or not, these three things can make a notable difference in the quality of your images.
Once you feel a bit more comfortable with night photography, try applying one of the following approaches to your images:
- Try to capture motion. Although you want to keep your camera still, recording movement during a long exposure is a great way to add life to a composition.
- Use a narrow aperture. This may seem counterintuitive to letting light in, but the depth and detail provided by a high f-stop is well worth the sacrifice.
- Make sure your subject is well lit. You don’t want whatever it is that you're shooting to get lost in the darkness – unless, of course, you’re trying to create a silhouette.
I hope that this information makes the notion of stepping out into the night a little less scary.
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