My Journey Into Long Exposure Night Photography

When it comes to compact cameras and DSLRs, there is absolutely no comparison. As great as the technology has become, the compact digital camera is great for happy snaps, but if you want to create fabulous memories and have the capacity to blow them up, use them in slideshows, and create great artwork from a simple photo, the SLR is definitely the way to go.

"Dubai Marina" captured by Mylene L-E. (Click image to see more from Mylene L-E.)

“Dubai Marina” captured by Mylene L-E. (Click image to see more from Mylene L-E.)

Canon and Nikon have created a range of SLR cameras that now possess the same ease of operation as the compact digital camera. Yes, the size and weight are definitely an issue, but when you make the change to a high end DSLR camera and see the difference in quality, I promise you will never look back. I have always been that annoying person in the group snapping at anything and everything that moved. The digital camera was a godsend for me. When it used to cost around $15-$20 to get a roll of 24 photos developed and you had to throw at least a quarter of them away because they were out of focus, over exposed or just plain awful, the investment in a digital camera was a no-brainer.

I have had around three compact digital cameras and recently invested in a Canon DSLR; it is the best investment I have ever made. I now spend hours of an evening playing with my photos, creating slideshows and photobooks for family and friends, and have learned to absolutely love it.

A friend of a friend came for a weekend away and he happened to have an SLR camera. Photography was a bit of a hobby for him. I was standing to the left of him and we were taking photos of the same thing. Late in the evening, we uploaded all of the photos and I was absolutely blown away with the difference in the shots. It was at that moment that I decided it was time for an upgrade!

So upgrade I did. I bought myself the SLR camera and then realized how much more to photography there was than just aiming the camera and pressing the button. For the first 12 months I left it on Auto and reveled in how clever I was with getting great photos. Then I came across a scenario that the Auto function would not deal with. There I was at this beautiful wedding overlooking the city of Melbourne at night with my DSLR that could do anything, so I dutifully popped it into nightscape mode, pressed the button, and ended up with a blur of light that was unrecognizable as anything. So I pressed the button harder, changed the setting to auto, back to nightscape, over to portrait and nada, nothing, absolute rubbish! It was at this point I realized that maybe I should learn what some of that other stuff does!

I booked myself and a girlfriend on a night photography course on the banks of the Brisbane River at Southbank. The results of just that tiny bit of knowledge were absolutely amazing. A little knowledge is an extremely powerful thing. So here I am going to share with you this little amount of knowledge. Obviously, there are so many variables when it comes to photography everything here is general and I’ve simplified it for us novices.

"HDR - View Terrbonne" captuerd by Rina Kupfer. (Click image to see more from Rina Kupfer.)

“HDR – View Terrbonne” captuerd by Rina Kupfer. (Click image to see more from Rina Kupfer.)

Night Photography:

Night photography presents special challenges and it is all to do with the level of exposure. The experimental approach is often the quickest and best solution. Much longer exposure times are required when shooting at night, making it all but impossible if not using a tripod. The photo above was taken using a tripod. The shutter speed required to take this type of shot can be up to 30 seconds.

  • Always use tripod (this is because of the slow shutter speed requiring total stillness).
  • Use timer button (as actually pressing the button ‘shakes’ the camera, using the timer overcomes this problem.
  • Change from Auto function to Manual.
  • Set your aperture to around f/5-6.
  • Set your exposure to around 3-4 seconds.
  • Take heaps of photos using different exposures and apertures to learn what works best for what you are trying to photograph—the best way to learn is to do!

A final major tip when it comes to photography, be sure you are enjoying it! Don’t make it a chore and don’t make it too hard, just relax and enjoy the moment.

About the Author:
Taniah Howard previously wrote for usingyourcamera dot com.

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  1. Kent Forrest says:

    I take exception to your whole premise. You should check out the Panasonic Lumix LX7, the Sony RX100, the FujiFilm range of compacts, and any number of mirror-less ILC cameras like the Olympus OM-D, or Panasonic’s GH3. You may even want to spend sometime in the press releases of Olympus and Panasonic to understand why they are moving away from DSLRs.

    I love my Nikon DSLRs (I own 2 and 6 lenses), but day to day carry a Lumix LX5 on a wrist strap most everywhere I go. I can print 16×20, larger with many shots. DSLRs have certain, very specific advantages. But you overstate several that you reference and you leave out the few ones that can really matter (i.e. extremely shallow depth of field, handheld lowlight, long telephoto, etc.).

    This article would cause the believing reader to choose a DSLR over a compact for all the wrong reasons.

  2. Kevin Prideaux says:

    Have to agree with Kent Forrest, there are a whole range of camera’s with the functions of DSLR’s, one other point that irritates me about articles such as these – “Canon & Nikon have produced a range of SLR’s……” – what about all the other brands of DSLR’s – you should have simply said “Manufacturers” it leads the uninitiated to think they have to buy a Canon or Nikon to achieve these results.

  3. Cadu Lemos says:

    Kent Forrest is absolutely right. Maybe the author wrote this article a few years ago…totally disconnected with today’s reality. I would add also the G1x from Canon with a big sensor as another option of rugged compacts.

  4. Tash says:

    I have to say that I think this is a very poorly written opinion piece, disguised as an article, and I am surprised it has been published at all. You argue that DSLRs are better than compacts because the user can blow up the images and create great art work. You compare them like purebred to mongrels, which is not only offensive in itself, but also ignores the `horses for courses’ approach to cameras. Worst of all, you do it having owned a grand total of three compacts and one DSLR.

    Photography is not a one size fits all approach and DSLRs cannot be the best for all purposes, nor is it the only option for those wanting to create great art.

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