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TKE03: Guidance on taking photos at night - The Photography Express

TKE03: Guidance on taking photos at night

Question: Guidance on taking photos at night

What’s up photographers and welcome to session 3 of “The Knowledge Express” (TKE)! Today I’m excited to share with you my answer to one of your questions and it is to give you some “guidance on taking photos at night”. But first let me thank you for all your questions and support so far with TKE, without your questions this section of the blog won’t be in existence. I’ll continue to work hard to provide you value and solutions to your photography needs in a quick and easy way. So without further delay, let’s dive right into todays answer.

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My 1st guidance on taking photos at night for you is to NOT use any of the camera’s standard settings like portrait, landscape, night photography etc. Further, I also do not recommend you using the Aperture priority (AV for Canon, A for Nikon) or Shutter priority (TV for Canon, S for Nikon) mode. All these modes are based out of your camera’s internal setting and it is going to be off during nighttime. The only mode I suggest you to use is the manual mode when doing night photography.

To share with you a little secret when I take photos at night, I always tell myself this: “My camera doesn’t know it is nighttime right now, only I do”. Whenever I think of this I remind myself to set up my camera settings carefully before I press the shutter release button.

My 2nd guidance on taking photos at night is to use a tripod. Usually when you take night photography it requires a shutter speed of longer than 1/60 second, which is the slowest shutter speed rate I recommend to handheld your camera before your photo causes blurriness. Using a tripod or even monopod will reduce vibration caused by the natural environment or from your hand. Once you get your camera on a tripod then you can use a longer shutter speed for a longer exposure. Which in term means a brighter photograph without blurriness. (If you need further understand of what I meant by shutter speed, visit here).

You may ask can I raise my ISO instead (Visit here for tutorial on ISO)? Great question! Even though raising your camera’s sensitivity to light is a way to get better results in night photography, this is usually the last thing I wanted to do because it will add noise to my photograph.

The 3rd guidance I want to give you is the secret formula below to take photos at night. I use it all the time and it works almost 90% of the time. However, this requires you to shoot in manual mode. Now don’t be intimidated with manual mode it is actually a lot easier than you think. So below are my steps:

1) Switch to manual mode (M for both Canon and Nikon, finally!) and dial shutter speed at 1/30 (when your camera is on a tripod).

2) Choose f8 as your f stop (visit here for tutorial on aperture).

3) Now check your camera’s light metering by pressing your shutter release button half way. The light meter bar is the big line at the bottom when you look through your camera’s viewfinder with your DSLR (check picture below).

Light metering

4) If the bar is pointing to the negative side, your picture is underexposed, you will need to choose a wider aperture (eg from f8 to f4). Do the opposite if the light meter bar is pointing to the positive side.

The 4th guidance I’ll give is to get external flashes. Not just one, but at least 2. This is a must if you are doing portrait photography at night. I have recently switched from my canon speedlite 580EXII to two Yongnuo YN560 III. I have absolutely no regret with this switch and planning ahead to get my third one soon in the future.

I hope this answered your question, feel free to send me a follow up email or ask me new questions. In the meantime, keep shooting photographers!

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About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!