20 Night Photography Tips to Make Your Photos Stand Out

nightphotographytipsIf you enjoy the challenges and creative expression of photography, try taking your hobby outside with you in the dark.  Night photography requires a high degree of patience and a natural curiosity of experimentation. Journeying outside of the city is all about escaping the light pollution that surrounds our lives and trekking into complete darkness with only the moonlight and stars to keep you company.  Of course, you can also stay in the city and capture the eerie universe that rises out of the ground in the form of dark masses and intriguing architecture after most people close their eyes for the night.

Many photographers also report feeling a great deal of serenity when shooting at night.  If you are interested in learning the basics of nighttime photography, start with this beginner’s course.  Once you understand the basics, here are 20 night photography tips to make your photos stand out.

Tip #1 – It’s all about the tripod

Unless you are the steadiest thing on two legs, investing in a tripod is a must.  Even the slightest movement during a long exposure can make your photos blurry.

Tip #2 – The cable release

Cable releases are great because they help keep your camera still and in the same place.  This is ideal for multiple exposures and may be mandatory on an exposure lasting longer than 30 seconds in bulb mode.

Tip #3 – Invest in a good lense hood

This will minimize lens flares from light entering from outside of your frame.

Tip #4 – Learn some basic astronomy

Knowledge of the moon phases (i.e. rise and set times) will assist you in creating whatever night shot you want.  You can never be too prepared when dealing with Mother Nature.

Tip #5 – Set the stage

Get to your shooting location before it gets dark.  This way you will be able to scope out the scene, figure out your composition, and do some practice with your focus.  You can even use the extra time to take foreground photos while there is still enough light to see.

Tip #6 – Creating hard and soft light

The general rule of thumb is the larger the light source, the softer the lighting will be.  When you move around during light painting you can create a softer light than just standing in the same place and shining your flashlight.

Tip #7 – Spotlight time

Not only can you use the spotlight to help you setup your equipment but if you are trying to shoot something in the background and in the foreground, you can use your spotlight to highlight the object in the foreground.

Tip #8 – Move during light painting

Did you know you can step in front of the camera when light painting and you won’t show up as long as the light doesn’t shine on you?  Cool, right?

Tip #9 –  Your aperture at night

High apertures like your f/16 will not be able to get you full depth at night because there is not enough light.  Night photographers usually prefer to shoot photos at f/4 or f/5.6.  If you cannot get as much depth as you want, try taking a background and a foreground picture and overlapping them in a photo editing program like Photoshop.  If you are new to Photoshop, you can learn the basics in just 6 hours.

Tip #10 – Changing the white balance

By changing the white balance on your camera, you can potentially get better color out of the sky in your photos.

Tip #11 – Raw format

If you want more flexibility to changes things like color exposure or the ability to brighten or darken your images, consider shooting in raw format.

Tip #12 – ISO

When shooting night photography, photographers tend to use the widest aperture available and the lowest ISO possible.

Tip #13 – Show the Earth’s rotation

To capture the rotation of the Earth, you need to use an exposure of 15 minutes or longer.  You will also need a tripod and a wide-angle lense.  If you want to hone your skills with long exposure shots, we suggest taking this class with a focus on neutral density filters.

Tip #14 – Star trails

The Earth’s rotation creates star trails in photographs with long exposures.  Your camera will trace the stars’ movements and record them as streaks.

Tip #15 – The LCD screen lies

At night, your photo will appear brighter than it really is on your camera LCD screen.  Later when you get the photos home, you may notice that they are underexposed.  You can fix this by using a histogram when you shoot.

Tip #16- Friendly waters

When photographing a city at dark, bodies of water can be your best friend.  Water absorbs colors, softens them, and adds a lovely glow to your photos.

Tip #17 – Watch the moon

Just like in the middle of the day, night shots do not turn out well when there is a glowing ball directly overhead.  Try to think of moonlight like sunlight when planning your shots.

Tip #18 – Changing the white balance

By changing the white balance on your camera, you can potentially get better color out of the sky in your photos.

Tip #19 – Light pollution

In order to see the stars well, you need to get away from artificial lights.  A dark sky is necessary to take “night” photos without residual light creeping in and making it look like a daytime photo.

Tip #20  Long exposure noise reduction

This works by taking a 2nd exposure for the exact same length with the shutter closed.  This results in an image under the same conditions of just the sensor noise.

Summary

Shooting at night offers an array of challenges for everyone from the newest beginners to the most seasoned professionals.  Night photography allows photographers to appreciate the element of light and capture it in original and exciting ways.  If you want to start a new night photography project, learn how to capture sunsets with this specialized course.  So as the sun goes down, grab your gear and  head outside to capture the amazing world around us.