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Night Time Photography

By William Patino,  05.06.2015.

When it comes to photography, there isn't much more challenging and rewarding than capturing images at night. Read William Patino’s expert tips.

Night Photography

I remember the first time I set out in to the night to shoot some landscapes. Although the scene before me was amazing, my photos weren't. I soon discovered that almost everything I had learnt about shooting in the day had to be thrown out the window. From shooting the stars, moon, cities or even the aurora, night photography is in a league of its own but it's actually not as hard as it may seem. So here are a few quick tips to get you started.


Location is everything

When it comes to capturing images with stars, you need to be as far away from any town or 'light pollution' as possible. Any external light sources will only diminish the visibility of the stars. Even city lights many miles away will be picked up by the camera. Generally you will want to be somewhere you can't see lights in any direction.

If you plan on shooting a city at night, then you can almost rule out capturing a decent amount of stars in the sky. Instead, you will want to make sure the lights of the city are vibrant and plentiful. Perhaps consider using the lights from moving traffic as a way to compliment the scene.

Use a tripod

Once you begin shooting in low light, your exposure times will increase. Using a tripod will keep your images sharp and allow you to expose for seconds, minutes and even hours. There are a million different types of tripods out there; I recommend one with a ball head that is sturdy and not too heavy. Also, keep in mind that if you want to expose for longer than 30 seconds, you will need a shutter release cable or infrared remote control.

using tripod to take photo of villiage house william patino
using strong flashlight to take photos william patino

Bring a strong flashlight

Not only is this handy for getting around in the dark and seeing inside your camera bag but it is also going to help you focus your lens. How to focus at night is the main question people ask me. Here are five simple steps to get your night images tack sharp.

  • - Ensure your lens is set to manual focus
  • - Activate the cameras LCD screen
  • - Shine your torch on your main focal point
  • - Looking through your LCD screen ,locate your focal point and then digitally zoom in on it using the magnifying glass button
  • - Adjust the lens until you see the image become sharp

What settings?

Like all scenery, there is no concrete rule for settings to be used. This always comes down to the light available at the time of shooting. In saying that, if you are photographing stars, you will generally want to avoid exposures longer than 30 seconds. Anything over that will start to show movement in the stars from the earths rotation. Because you are restricted to shooting 30 seconds or less, you will then need to boost your ISO and open up your aperture (small f stop) in order to capture enough light. For astro photography away from light pollution I am generally shooting around ISO 3200 at f4 for 30 seconds.

If you are photographing a cityscape, there is much more light around and you will find that you can get away with a lower ISO and narrower aperture. This is going to help produce sharper images with a better depth of field.

settings to take photos william patino

Be patient

Patience and photography go hand in hand, especially when shooting at night. Make sure you are warm, comfortable and enjoying the process. Perhaps go out with a friend so you can pass the time together while you are waiting for the longer exposures to finish. Most importantly, make time to look up and enjoy the whole experience.

Find the camera that suits you and start taking those night shots!

*Images have been optimised for this blog

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