Winter is upon us! Daylight is steadily decreasing but fortunately the day does not have to stop when the sun goes down; neither does photography! Night photography can be a challenge, but it’s still all about capturing light. We have some simple tips and tricks to set you up for a night shoot.

Get prepared!

Night photography requires a bit of forward planning and some equipment like a camera with manual settings options, a tripod, a cable release and a flash gun. Before you pack your bags make sure you have selected locations with interesting light, architecture and storytelling potential. To create truly magical images, try starting off your shoot before, and after, during the golden hour (the first and last hour of sunlight) to capture that last bit of color over longer exposures.

Silhouette of a fisherman throwing his net with sunset.

Whether inside or out, always pay attention to the existing light. You can dramatically improve the lighting on your subject and obtain a more natural look just by directing them next to a display window for example, or any other ambient light source.

Night life

Get familiar with the basics!

A high ISO speed increases the light gathering capability of the camera’s sensor but it will also increase the noise in your image. When shooting at a high ISO ensure you get the exposure right, as increasing the exposure in postproduction will ruin the image; and here noise is not a bad thing, it is particularly pleasing in high quality DSLR’s. A high ISO also allows for a faster shutterspeed and a smaller aperture to get a sharper scene. For the best results shoot in Raw format, this way the images will retain the most ‘information’.

Portrait of a handsome young man

The key to capturing night scene lies in controlling the aperture and the shutterspeed. To avoid any motion in the image – for example in low-light portraits – a large aperture and a short exposure is recommended.

For city landscapes, a long exposure combined with a small aperture reduces the over exposure of any stationary light and reveals details in less illuminated spots.

The night view

When shooting at night you need to be especially careful to reduce camera shake. For advanced and long exposure shots, a tripod is necessary. But if you don’t have one at the time, or if the location does not allow you to use one, there are other options; beanbags, backpacks, a rolled up jacket can work very well, just be sure to have it level. The slightest movement can create unwanted camera shake, so shoot with the mirror locked up (within your camera settings). Also a cable release is advised, but if you don’t have one with you, try using the self-timer instead.

You can use a flash to “fill in” areas that need additional light. The direction of your flash will determine the atmosphere of your image. Using the camera flash will illuminate the subject from the front, but often flattens the image. To give a softer and more pleasing overall effect, use an external flash that allows you to play around the subject and find the perfect angle to illuminate elements lost in the shadows.

You can also experiment with diffusers, reflectors, or even a handkerchief to soften or bounce the flash and include more ambient light.

Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball

Like everything else in life, it will takes some practice before you will be fully satisfied with your night photography. Experiment and play about with your camera in the dark, the result is not always predictable but is it the fun part of creativity!