Night Photography Tips for Focusing

The word “photography” gets its name from the Greek roots for “light” and “drawing.” When taking this simple fact into consideration, it makes a lot of sense that working with a camera without a strong light source can be an incredibly difficult task. However, few things can be as beautiful as a clear night sky.

Here, seasoned fine art photographer Gabriel Biderman offers some advice on how to overcome some of the most common challenges artists new to night photography face:

“Night photography is probably the most meditative and zen-like style of photography out there.”

Although wandering blindly into the darkness can certainly be an intimidating feat, following these four simple steps can make all of the difference in how successfully your night photography shoot turns out.

1. Thinking Ahead

When working at a specific location for a night shoot, one of the most beneficial things a photographer can do is arrive ahead of time. With a little bit of sun on your side, the task of scouting a location becomes much easier. Get a feel for the landscape, seek out interesting landmarks, and contemplate your shots to avoid stumbling through the night.

In addition, be sure to bring all of the equipment necessary to execute the images you have in mind. A steady tripod is a must to allow for the slower shutter speeds necessary to capture depth and detail.


2. Finding Your Focus

Getting your subject in focus can be one of the most challenging technical aspects to a night photography session. Luckily, there’s a simple trick that you can use to ensure that your scene will be captured clearly.

Using a bright flashlight, find an object to focus on in your general vicinity. By using the light to create contrast in your frame, you’ll be able to properly utilize your camera’s auto focus feature. Hold the shutter down halfway, allowing the lens to lock onto your chosen subject. Once the camera has adjusted itself, switch over to the manual focus. That way, you won’t have to worry about the camera readjusting itself moving forward.

3. Working with Multiple Exposures

Sometimes, a single image can be astounding in itself. However, there are instances in which multiple exposures of a nearly identical scene can be used to create an image that far surpasses what the camera can capture in a single frame.

Stacking shots of a scene taken consecutively using a post processing software such as Photoshop can result in a more defined final product containing less noise and more contrast. If you suspect that you might be interested in digitally compositing  your images, consider investing in an intervalometer to reduce break times between exposures.


4. Keeping an Open Mind

As with any photo shoot, one of the most important things you can walk into a situation with is a willingness to think outside the box. Although working at night presents some limitations, there are also plenty of opportunities to be creative that arise from shooting in the dark.


One way of further enhancing an image and adding some personal flair is to experiment with light painting. This can be as simple as examining a previous exposure and subtly opening up a darker shadow with a small flashlight. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s possible to use light painting to add dynamic movements and color to an otherwise bland image.

What are your best tips for night photography?

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