Night Photography

night-sundown-photoUnderstanding night photography.

No sun, no fun? Don’t kid yourself. A lot of us think of night time being dark and dreary and prefer to stay indoors – but do you realize what you are missing out on. When light starts to fade it’s the perfect time to grab the camera and explore the magical scenery that the night brings us.

Urban landscape can be a real bore to photograph during the day; the dull grey buildings are lifeless and can sometimes leave you feeling as stiff as the buildings themselves. But when light from the day starts to fade our cities and towns are turned into a magical vista of outstanding light jumping out to be photographed.

So do you have the skills to take successful night time portraits? If not, the following tips are here to help you improve.

The first thing to decide is what film to use. If you are shooting static subjects such as buildings or street signs a slow film is recommended – the Fuji Velvia with an ISO of 50 or 100 will work best. If you are shooting fast moving subjects use a fast film – ISO 400

There is no lens that will help to get better night time images. It is best to carry a variety. Make sure you have a telephoto lens. This will help to zoom in on buildings and get rid of any unwanted dark areas.

Use the same composition rules that you use when taking landscape pictures.

Lead with lines: leading with lines into the main part of the scene will draw your viewers attention into your image. These lines don’t have to be straight. Lines, such as streetlights, the light from moving traffic, or any fences that are brightly lit may work successfully.

night-sundown-photo2Foreground interest: Simple foreground objects will give your night-time image a greater sense of depth. This is the same as if you are photographing a landscape image during the day.

Natural frames: Frame your scene with the elements all around you. This will focus attention on the main part of the picture. Example: If you are taking an image of a building use the dark buildings around it to frame your image.

Remember, always use a tripod. Your exposure time is going to be long – it’s impossible to get sharp images at night with a hand-held camera.

Exposure: This is probably the hardest part of taking night time images. How do we calculate the proper exposure? Colour temperature varies when working with artificial light, so different exposure times are necessary. It’s best to bracket your shots to get the perfect result. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of film to get the perfect result.

If you are interested in photographing the moon, use an ISO of 100 – shoot with a shutter speed 1/125 and use an aperture of f/11.

Safety: When working at night you need to be visible. This is for your own safety. Don’t take risks for an image. A lone person walking around a building may draw attention. Seek permission, if possible, before you start your photo shoot. Stay clear from restricted areas.

Many buildings are best photographed at night, if possible get shooting when there is some detail left in the sky. You don’t need the most expensive camera on the market to get great night images – bring plenty of film and a good tripod.

About the Author
TJ Tierney is an award winning Irish Landscape photographer and a freelance writer. To view or buy some of his images visit his on line gallery @

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