Night Photography Made Easy
Long exposure photography can create dynamic, and sometimes, surreal images full of motion. Whether there is a sense of tranquility, apprehension with regard to the unexpected, or an element of surprise, night images can also evoke a true sense of emotion.
Photographers who specialize in night photography are indeed a special breed. This should not be so surprising when one realizes how much in-depth understanding of light is necessary to capture that perfect photograph. Additionally, there are some rather basic tips any newbie night photographer should know. This, and more, will be covered in this edition of “After Hours Photography,” with a few night photography exercises tossed in to allow you to practice that which is covered. After all, practice – and I do mean a lot of it – will enable you to create magical night imagery!
First thing first, and that is – Know Your Camera! Whether shooting landscapes, or urban settings, trundle through the darkness not only looking for the perfect scene, but experimenting along the way. A thorough understanding of your camera, and what all of the buttons do, is essential for night photography. The last thing you will want, with little light with which to work, is to fumble with your camera and its controls. Not knowing can only make for stressful, difficult photography.
** Take a moment, and have a look at your camera controls. Pay close attention to the Mode Dial. This is where you will set how you will photograph. M = Manual, and this is where I assume you have your camera set. Most DSLR’s today only allow you to keep the shutter open for 30 seconds. For longer exposures than 30 seconds, you will need to know B, or Bulb.
The Exposure, or Shutter Speed dial will be essential to locate, as well as Aperture. If you choose to experiment with ISO (ASA), you will need to be familiar with this button. A more in depth explanation will follow a bit later.
After this, the Playback function may be important to you, and the LCD Screen can be your illuminated guide to all you need to know to make proper image taking decisions.
Invest in a Camera with Low Light Capabilities Must you buy a top of the line DSLR? If you can, great. If not, what is essential is a camera with Manual Mode, film or a memory card, and a tripod.
Additionally, you will find a wider-aperture prime lens will allow more light in while capturing an image, and bring down noise levels. For instance, a 24mm f/1.4 is fantastic for night photography, but can be a bit pricey. If you are just starting out, consider a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is typically reasonably priced. The difference between f/2.8, and f/1.8, is quite remarkable as the wider aperture allows an abundant amount of light in for ideal night images.
Cable Release. Remote Control. Self-Timer! With long exposure photography, even the press of the shutter button can cause slight camera movement. The result will be image blur. If you want a clear, crisp image then do not take the chance by pressing the shutter release button with your finger.
The use of a cable release, remote control, or self-timer (10 seconds is good) will fix this.
Tripod! Tripod! Tripod! or any Steady Surface.
Night photography requires a slow shutter speed, which means the camera must experience no movement to avoid camera blur. None. Nada. Zilch!