The Secrets of Night-Time Photography
By Matt on 25th Jul, 2012
If you love photography but are a little unsure about shooting at night; don’t worry, help is available. Below you can learn some of the secrets from the members of ‘Night View’ - the club for night-time picture specialists. From capturing fireworks to shooting cityscapes, you can now discover the full potential of your creativity and your camera.
When selecting a lens, a wide-angle lens is more appropriate than a telephoto lens; this gives you a complete light trail instead of partial trails. Keep in mind that ultra-wide lenses - below 20 mm - will result in wider and much clearer light trails.
For the White Balance setting, it is best to select fluorescent or tungsten mode. The sharp contrast of the white light trail and the pitch-black night sky will really grab attention. Also keep in mind that the colour of light trail becomes whiter as the colour temperature decreases
Regarding exposure, a slight underexposure is desirable. In some cases, you may also need to emphasize the light trails by making the background darker to bring out the dynamic quality of the car's motion. You therefore need apply an exposure compensation that is 1 to 2 stops darker, instead of relying on the optimal exposure value.
Considering the nature of the shooting, I recommend going out with two or three friends instead of taking pictures alone. Finding a car driving along a mountain road late at night is quite difficult, so you may need to drive your own car to take a picture instead of waiting for one to come by. If you have a friend or two who will press the release cable for you while you are driving, this would be perfect. Make sure to check the path of motion and composition of the picture beforehand. Finding a perfect composition in complete darkness only by relying on your senses is not an easy task. I also recommend visiting the site before sunset to check various possible motion paths and decide how and where to take pictures with possible light trails in advance.
One of the merits of taking night-time pictures is taking pictures of glamorous city lights.
Generally, you should use the lowest ISO to take your pictures, with an aperture setting of F8 to 13. When taking a picture of a fully-lit building, you should also set the shutter speed from 2-6 seconds to 8-13 seconds.
To capture clean and vibrant light effects, I use the clear mode on my camera. I also use a fish-eye lens with extreme angle of view because of its unique characteristics.
When an object is too close and I can’t move backwards, it is time to use the fish-eye lens to take a picture. Some people avoid this lens because of the distortion, but I rather like the interesting effect. One of the strengths is that it allows the reconfiguration of objects that can’t be photographed using other lenses. As shown in the above picture, tall buildings or multiple objects can all be contained in one picture, which is another strength of the lens.
For taking pictures of fireworks, you need a camera equipped with bulb mode, zoom lens, tripod, remote control, and black paper board or a hat. Since we do not know the exact spot where the fireworks will detonate, it is better to use a wide-angle zoom lens instead of a prime lens for flexible screen composition.
Since fireworks can be much larger and detonate at a higher level than expected, using a wide-angle lens becomes a must, especially when taking pictures from a close distance. Use the zoom lens to secure the desired angle of view or composition. After the angle has been decided, you can change to a prime lens for a clearer picture.
You can get much clearer firework pictures during the early stages, because the fireworks later on are often covered with smoke that prevents better shots.
Instead of taking pictures of only the fireworks, you can get better shots by including the cityscape in the background. To do this, check the exposure of the cityscape first. Then take the picture using the bulb feature. You may use the paperboard to cover the lens when it is adequately exposed. Then expose the lens when the fireworks detonate to take a picture with both the fireworks and the cityscape.
Inspired to get creative?
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