5 Tips for Capturing Stunning Nighttime Photography

Nighttime photography, long exposure shot of stars

There is always a distinct thrill when a photographer captures great photos, regardless if they are new to the craft or a professional. A true test for photographers is the art of nighttime photography. Here’s five things you can do to get great nighttime photography.

Switch To Manual Mode

The first step to nighttime photography is to switch your camera to manual mode. This mode allows you to select the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO.

What Do These Terms Mean?

  • The aperture refers to the control of the amount of light passing through the camera lens before exposing the film or image sensor.
  • The ISO refers to the sensitivity of the film stock or the camera’s image sensor.
  • The shutter speed is the length of time that the film or digital sensor inside of the camera exposes itself to light by the camera’s shutter.

Having control of all of these allows the user to gauge what’s best for each for the shot. This also requires that any image stabilization features be turned off.

Make Sure Your Camera Is Supported

In order to eliminate shaky shots, a photographer attaches their camera to a tripod or set on a sturdy surface. Nighttime photography uses less ambient light, but also requires longer shutter speeds to achieve a proper exposure.

Having a secure tripod allows for proper stability in the shot. If a traditional tripod isn’t available, one can use smaller versions or improvise a way to hold the camera steady.

Film In Raw Format

A DSLR camera records pictures and video in RAW format. This means images captured by the camera are minimally processed through the image sensor.

Shooting in RAW format enables the photographer to adjust the colors in the photos, as well as gives them more control over exposure and color balancing. This is possible because the image file is uncompressed. During post-processing, the RAW file format produces less color distortion, minimizes color banding, and reduces noise. In contrast, the JPEG format has a smaller file size, but limits any color correction and balancing in post-processing.

Select The Settings Accordingly

First of all, the aperture can be wide open at night, since the camera can allow more light in. However, for locations which do need a deeper depth of field, the aperture can be stopped down to keep the whole scene in focus. This will increase the exposure time, but results in a properly supported camera and clear image.

When it comes to the ISO, it’s best to leave the levels as low as possible. This is because a low ISO level limits the digital ‘noise’ in the dark areas of your photos. At higher ISOs, this can be visible in your final edits.

Additionally with shutter speed, one can actually let it go on longer than if they were taking pictures during the day. This is because there’s already stability with a tripod in use.

Pay Attention To The Histogram

The histogram on the camera is a graph of the pixel exposure in an image. The left side of the graph covers the shadows, with the middle covering the mid-tones and the right side depicting highlights and brightness. It will look like a bar graph with no spacing.

With night shots, it’s advised that one should ensure that the histogram reading be more to the right. Having it to the left creates a clipping effect that shows a loss of detail in the photo. The histogram allows the photographer to quickly and accurately see how their shot is exposed overall.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about nighttime photography interest you? The Institute of Production and Recording’s (IPR) Digital Video and Media Production program allows students to participate in hands-on exercises and real-world shows to apply the knowledge they have learned throughout the program.

Contact us today to learn more about starting a rewarding career in Digital Video and Media Production.