Night Photography does take a certain level of patience than daylight requires, but capturing some dramatic night shots can be highly rewarding and show a completely different view of a scene compared to during the daylight hours.

Here is the ultimate guide to night photography to get you started off in the world of night photography and which aspects you might want to focus on.

Tripod

tripod

The most important thing with night photography is keeping your camera as still as possible, most night photographs are going to be longer exposure than shots in the daylight so shooting handheld is a no-no.

Pick a tripod that is right for your kind of photography, whether it be lightweight for carrying around or a heavy duty one for extreme conditions. I have a few tripod recommendations that can help you decide which one is best for you.

Manual Focus

Auto focus works great in bright conditions, the camera is looking for contrast between 2 objects, however this is virtually impossible in the dark.

If you are not used to shooting in the dark then manual focus may be foreign to you, try using the screen on your camera and zooming in the help you find that sharp point of focus.

eyepiece cover

A problem with DSLR cameras when shooting at night is that when the camera is detecting the amount of needed exposure for a shot. The camera is taking in information from the light coming through the lens and then deciding how much exposure is needed.

The problem comes when there is a lot of light behind the camera, the light can leak through the viewfinder and affect the camera judgement of the scene.

So I would recommend you cover your eye piece if there is going to be a lot of light behind the camera, your camera will usually come with a cover and sometimes they are attached to your strap. If you don’t have one you can purchase a eye piece cover or just use a dark t shirt of cloth draped over the back of your camera.

Lens Fogging

One of the issues with shooting at night is that is often quite cold, which in turn will make your lens cold. Once your lens goes below the temperature of the dew point then the glass will begin the fog up.

This can be more or less of a problem depending on the weather and your location, so check the forecasts before heading out to give you an idea. Ideally a low humidity night will give you a lot less hassle, and lens fogging won’t be such a problem.

The main thing you need to make sure is that the lens doesn’t get too cold, you can do this a number of ways by wrapping heat pads around the lens barrel or using heat lamps or any other ingenious ways you can think of to keep the lens warm.

Light Trails

Lights Twinkle over Wellington
You can create some dramatic looking compositions using light trails. Light trails are caused by any light in your shots that is moving, as the exposure time is so long the light will leave a line across your frame of where the object traveled.

One of the more common ways to create light trails is from a cars lights as they drive through your shot, you can get some really dynamic visuals and a sense of movement into your frame.





Star Trails

Stars trails are very much similar to light trails, the same basic concept is present. It is a light source moving across your shot, but this time the light source is the stars.

In order to capture the movement of the stars you will usually need to shoot at shutter speeds greater than 30 seconds. This does depend on the lens you have mounted onto your camera, but generally you will be shooting at greater than 30 seconds.

If youre looking to capture a star trail across the entire sky I would recommend looking into using Deep Sky Stacker, there are many tutorials online to help you create a star trail effect.

Milky Way

Milky Strewn Across the Sky
The Milky Way is a great subject for night photography in the sky, depending on which months you are shooting it can be a great feature to add to your composition.

You will have to shoot under a certain shutter speed to get the galaxy nice and sharp in your shot, the speed is dependent on your camera and which lens you’re using.

I have written a more in depth post on how to take photos of the milky way here which should help get you started.

Reflections

Lights of Activity
Lights are ever present in night photography unless you’re shooting out in the countryside away from any civilization. The great thing about lights at night is that they are bright and vivid and can make your photos really pop.

The contrast of the lights against the rest of the scene make them great for reflection type shots, whether it’s against some nice calm water or the glass of a building.

 

Have you shot at night before? Have I convinced you to give it a go? Share your images from your latest night photography expeditions.