On nighttime shooting

In How to

As the light starts to fade from the sky, the all magical golden hour passes for another day. I’m telling you, this is not the moment to be done, not the time to tuck your camera back into your bag. No, no – instead, you need to pull out that tripod and get going! Whenever I’m given the chance, lately, I’ve been trying to get out to do more nighttime shooting. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve mastered it, not by any stretch of the imagination, but here are a few tips that have helped me in this little journey.

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If you’re trying to aim for the colors of a sunset (or sunrise), and want to throw your foreground into silhouette, be sure to meter for the light, and allow your silhouettes to fall into complete shadow.

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To capture night skies with stationary stars, here’s my strategy: If you’re in a dark place – as in, really, pretty dark, need to use a flash light to really see where you’re going, what you’re doing, etc. – I start at ISO 3200, as wide-open an aperture as I can, and about a 25 second shutter speed (not 1/25, but actual 25 seconds). Be sure your focus is set to manual focus, and take a look and set the focus ring to infinity (sometimes you have to be a little bit before or after where it’s actually printed – play around with it). I like to use a two second self timer to eliminate the possibility of my hand hitting the shutter bumping the camera around. Most recent cameras also have a setting that can be switched on called “long exposure noise reduction (NR).” Go ahead and flip that on – at least with my Nikon, it takes an additional 20-30 seconds to render the preview image on the camera back.

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I’ve only shot the Aurora Borealis once (just this past weekend!), so I don’t know that I can really give a ton of advice there. I started with my night sky image settings above, and tweaked from there. I ended up making a faster exposure with a much lower ISO because there was just more light available (plus the aurora was reflecting off the surface of the lake).

Have you tried your hand at nighttime photography? What are your favorite or go-to tips and tricks? What’s on your bucket list of nighttime images to shoot? I’d love to hear about it!

All the best,
Alison

6 Comments

  1. That first image is magical! Night photography is definitely on my play list. Thanks for the tips and inspiration.

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