Photographing at night

As a photographer you will sooner or later find out what type of motives, or “genre” of photography, that you find the most enjoyable to shoot.  There’s rarely any shortcuts in life, and photography is no exception. I’ve changed “niche” a couple of times, leaving me with a wide knowledge, but with a somewhat dark hole in my photographic heart.
That was until I found out that long-exposures at night was my jam. Often combining my love for landscape-photography with the silent joy of nights, this turned out to be just the thing I’d searched for. So today I’m going to share with you what I’ve learnt so far about taking long exposures at night,  both good and bad.

If you’re now considering getting yourself into this type of photography, the first advice I would give you is to invest in a good tripod.  You will be dealing with long exposures, for my part often around 30 seconds, that are impossible to pull off else wise.
You could of course search for stationary objects around you to serve as improvised tripods, but by just buying one you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and less limitations.
The second advice is to get comfortable with shooting manually, as you’re now will be doing this a lot. Even as auto focusing systems keeps improving each year, you’re almost always better off by setting your focus yourself.  By shooting manually (the option marked as M in your cameras program-settings) you’ll get full control over the shutter speed and aperture, and you’ll soon learn what do work and what don’t.

_DSC0020Regarding lenses, I choose to shoot with primes since that’s what I use 99% of the time. This is partly because my primes have way better aperture(2,8) than my zooms (3,5-4,5), but it also forces you to move towards your subject and don’t just stand in one place zooming in.
The aperture also plays a big role since we’re dealing with a very limited amount of light for the camera to pick up at scenes during night. However, what aperture you chose depends a lot on your motive: a landscape photo will look better if shot with a higher aperture, day or night, while if your aiming for some sweet moonlight bokeh, you will have a harder time doing so with a f.3,5 than with a 1,8 or 2,8.Surely you could bump up the ISO, and thereby get good exposures, but despite the progress of the moderns sensors, a high ISO is rarely advisable.

My last advice for shooting at night is to dress accordingly to the weather. This might seem like a silly point since it seems so obvious, but you might end up standing out in the cold for a long time, and we don’t want you to get sick! ;-)

There’s a lot more to say about this type of photography, but i’ll save that for another day. Leave a comment in case you would like to read more posts like this, or if you have any questions.
Down below is a gallery with some of my latest low light shots taken during evening and nights, so that you can see a few examples of how it might look.

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13 Responses to “Photographing at night

  • Hi!! AREKU !!

    It is Haru Eternity @ 9 of3_JAPAN
    Japan language blog, thank you.
    Read the new article.(^^)b
    Night photography is difficult.
    I also challenge!
    I want to shoot a beautiful starry night in winter.
    But it takes time! (^^;)
    I need study!
    Also, expect your beautiful photos.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Haru, and thanks for your comment!

      Yes, learning nighht-photography can be difficult and will take some time, but it is also a wonderful experience that is well worth the time invested! ^^/

  • Hi ! AREKU ! (^^)b

    Thank you for your reply!
    Recently got ‘D300′ challenge to the photography of the night sky!
    But here a few days, not challenging bad weather.(> <)
    And I am studying 'D300'.(^^)b

    Reply is not necessary.
    Thank you.

  • The second photo with the moon behind the line is beautiful x

  • I see that most of your pictures are very noisy. If you don’t do this already, try photographing in RAW and then use Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom to edit your pictures (play around with noise reduction and luminance). RAW-editing is a great way to get the most out of your pictures without making them seem unrealistic. :)

    • Hello Madeleinein!
      I’ve been shooting RAW since about 2 years back, and never locked back, haha!
      My sensor is a bit noisy in itself though it behaves good in most settings up to 400, but it’s especially noticeable when I shoot longer exposures (like 30s as the photos in this post) even if I stay at 100. More modern DSLR have better noise-performances at lower ISO’s though, so another reason to step up my game.
      Sometimes I really wish I could load old 50’s with finegrains, haha!
      Thank you for your comment, and I will take a closer look at further noise reduction while doing post. :)

    • Waaaaait a second, Runda mackor? I recognize that!
      Hejsan! :D

      • Haha, hejsan! :D Kände att jag inte vågade skriva på svenska när allt är så engelskt här. x) Dåså, vet så många hobbyfotografer som helt missat RAW (inklusive mig själv under flera år) och det är ett allt för fantastiskt format att missa! Mycket trevlig sida i övrigt, Skåne är ett fantastiskt landskap för just landskapsfotografering. :D

        • Haha, jo det är mycket engelska då det är främst där publiken finns i mitt fall. ^^
          Ja verkligen, det är mycket uppskattat med omtanken!
          Tack så mycket! :D Haha, ja sedan bor jag rätt lägligt till det mitt ute i ingenstans, så föll sig rätt naturligt (pun intended) att man föll åt det hållet med just landskap ^^

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