Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Night Photography Tips

Source: Digital Photography Tips

Night photography - capturing cityscapes

Night photography is great. And the results can be outstanding. So why are digital photographers often disappointed? Be disappointed no longer! Follow the tips here, get some practice in, and start producing some night time city photography to be proud of! The tips here will require some equipment. None of it is that special, or that expensive though. And you probably already own the most important piece of equipment - a camera.

Next to a camera, the most important thing you will need is some tips - and you'll find those below.

Night Photography techniques - the set up

When taking night time photos of cities, there are a couple of planning tips you will need to bear in mind before you take any photos:

First, you need a good viewpoint;

And second, you need either a tripod or a solid base to place your camera on.

The viewpoint - this depends a little on the type of shot you are after. My preference is for somewhere that is above the ground (a set of steps, for example), but not always. Sometimes the best shots can be had at ground level.

You need a tripod or solid base because your camera's shutter will be open for several seconds, and you need to make sure the camera doesn't move during those seconds.

Then, if you have a tripod, secure your camera upon it. If you don't, find a solid surface to rest your camera on; propping it up with something like a bag or jumper.

Once your camera is in place, make sure your shutter speed is set to a good few seconds. Start with about 15 seconds.

If you can't control your camera's shutter speed, set it to "night" mode.

Night photography - taking the photo

Once you are set up (camera on a solid surface, self timer primed), you are ready to shoot.

First, check your scene. Is everything in it that you wanted to be in it? If you are aiming to get streaking car headlights, is there any traffic around?

Once you are happy with things, press the shutter button.

Your self timer will count down. Special Note! - If you are waiting for something to appear in your scene, you will need to remember that your shutter speed will have to count down first - time for this.

When the shutter clicks, wait. And wait, and wait . . . until it closes again. Remember that this will be a few seconds.

Then wait some more. Because of the long exposure digital cameras take longer than usual to process the photo, so your preview on your camera's LCD screen may take a while to show up.

Night photography - what makes a good shot?

This is just my opinion, but here are a couple of things that I think make a good night photography shot:

  • Neon lights
  • Streaks of car headlights and tail lights
  • Available light

For both of these you need to plan a little in advance. Find an area where you can safely photograph neon lights.

Find your solid spot (or put your camera onto a tripod), and then take a few shots. Because neon lights flash you will need the shutter to be open for some time in order to catch all the flashes.

And for streaks of car headlights and tail lights - find a spot with a lot of traffic.

Try to get something in the background too - streaks of light on their own can be a little boring!

Then take your shot.

The longer the shutter is open, the more streaks you will capture. And of course, the more traffic there is, the more streaks will appear too!

The available light also has a part to play in making a good night photography shot.

Sometimes a scene looks its best when set amongst inky-black skies. Sometimes, a little light works best, so shots just before dark really sets in are worth a try too.

Try both, and see what captures the effect you are after best.

Night photography - final tip

My final tip is very simply this - practice!

You will find that sometimes a 10 second exposure gets the look you are after. Sometimes you may need up to a minute.

Practice, and you will soon get a feel for what you will need for any given situation.

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