Many digital photography beginners I know stick rigidly to daytime shots, apprehensive about their rate of success at night. If you’ve delayed taking that next step, or find you just don’t seem to take many night time photographs, here are a few common sense tips that will quickly help you on your way.
* Of course, you should ideally have access to a tripod – a decent make and sturdy model makes a big difference. Absolute stillness is required to get the best of the slow shutter speeds you’ll need in low light conditions. It’s the best way to ensure consistently tack sharp shots.
* Flash will have no impact if shooting landscapes – so remember to turn this off. Switching to manual settings will cover this, and give you control over the final image.
* Try to shoot in the first half hour after sunset. This is necessary to prevent streetlights from stopping you capturing detail or colours in the sky, which will be the case once it is completely dark.
* Long exposure times can quickly drain your camera’s battery – so always take along a spare, fully charged battery – just in case.
* Sounds strange, I know, but setting your camera’s White Balance to ‘daylight’ will make your skies seem a deep and rich blue colour, whilst also rendering any bright lights with a warm, yellowish tinge.
* I find that taking along a small torch can be of help. Initially, I always used to forget this, and struggled with the settings and adjustments I was trying to make at night.
* Try experimenting with your camera set to Bulb (B). In this case, after the shutter is depressed, the aperture remains open until the shutter’s released again. If possible, it’s best to use a remote or cabled shutter release to ensure the sharpest images.
* Remember that longer exposure times may lead to somewhat grainy images. One way to combat this is to turn on your camera’s Noise Reduction setting, if it has one. Alternatively, post production in Photoshop (or equivalent) allows you to carry out filtering to reduce the noise. Do this carefully, though, to prevent loss of detail.
* If you’re interested in capturing moving vehicles’ light trails, try shooting at dusk. This will help retain some sky colour. You’ll find this adds interest to the shot. An exposure of around 15 seconds usually does the trick.
If in doubt, just get out there and start taking shots. You just won’t know how good you are unless you try. Remember, especially if you are a digital photography beginner, if you don’t get it right first time, just keep plugging away until you do. It’s all digital – so just keep practicing until you, or anyone you have judging your pictures, are pleased with the results.