Night photography is not the easiest genre to conquer, especially when you are a beginner. If you try and shoot, but don’t get the desired results and wonder why your night photos don’t turn out as expected, keep reading this article. It includes basic tips on technicalities and your camera settings that you need to pay attention to in order to master night photography. Each of them are easy to implement on a DSLR camera and possible to use for mobile photography.
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If you have ever tried shooting at night, you probably know that even the slightest shake can make your shot blurry. It happens because there isn’t much light at night. If you want to take sharp night photos, you will need to use a tripod since longer exposures require steady gear.
A good tripod is useful for almost any photography genre, but it is a real must for night photography, so consider investing in one to take more technically correct and balanced shots. A smaller tripod will be able to boost your mobile photography as well since you can’t rely on your hands being fully steady.
Shooting with their smartphones, many people intuitively understand that you need to focus manually to receive a desired picture. On the contrary, many beginner photographers with DSLR cameras heavily rely on autofocus (some might simply not know you can switch between manual focus mode and autofocus on the side of your lens). While autofocus might work just fine under good lighting conditions, when there’s a lack of light, your camera might get ‘confused’ as to where to focus, so try shooting with manual focus at night.
What’s more, it’s generally a good idea to experiment with your camera’s possibilities in manual mode. Even if you are at the very beginning of your journey with photography, you can take pictures with different settings, probably read on some dedicated articles, and see what works best for your images.
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Have you ever seen magical-looking night shots with long trails of light? These are taken with slow shutter speed. Experimenting with lowering your shutter speed (and low exposures in general) might bring in intriguing pictures when you shoot at night. If your camera is stabilized, you will be able to ‘freeze’ the light in your frames with slow shutter speed.
For night photography, choose shutter speed of 1/30 and lower, up to several seconds. If you are outside your urban area and there are visible stars in the sky, you can set the shutter speed at 10 to 30 seconds to take a mesmerizing starry night shot.
If you’re shooting with your smartphone, many of them nowadays have a manual or pro mode where you can choose all the settings you need, including the shutter speed. If you don’t have such settings, you can easily find quite a few camera apps that can shoot slow exposure pictures with your phone camera.
For evenly lit and balanced night photography shots, you should opt for the widest apertures possible. A large aperture means your lens will be able to receive more light through it, even if the lighting conditions are dim. Remember that the wider aperture means the smaller number displayed in your camera settings, so aperture marked as f1.4 is a wider open aperture than f/2.8.
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Higher ISO (light sensitivity of your lens) often leads to noisy images, and it’s especially true for night photography. If you can, try shooting with the lowest ISO possible for images with less noise and more sharp ones. With the help of your tripod, it is safe to set ISO to 400 and up to 1600 depending on the lighting conditions. Since night photography is tricky, you should take some probe pictures ahead of your photoshoot and try out different ISO settings to see what your camera works best with.
Unlike with daytime photography when you have all the light you need to take a good shot, night photography is way more complicated. Unfortunately, you can’t just go out and shoot a great image, as night photography implies keeping in mind some technicalities with your camera.
Even if you shoot with your smartphone, most modern phones allow you to choose settings manually or even have a pro mode where you can set your ISO and shutter speed, and fix the exposure and white balance. Don’t hesitate to explore the technical limits of your camera and how you can use the gear you already have to improve your night shots.
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