Many people shy away from shooting at night, fearing their photos will be blurry, grainy, too dark or too bright. But there are a couple of things you can keep in mind to help you get great night shots.
Consider your subject – Are you shooting scenery or people? People are a little harder to shoot in low light, as they tend to move around, even when they’re trying to stand still! Using your camera’s built-in flash is an easy option, but if you want some unusual effects or something a bit different, switch to your camera’s automatic ‘night mode’ and try hold the camera really still while taking your shot. You’ll get a warm-coloured photo with swirled patterns in the background while the subjects should remain fairly clear. For scenery, you camera’s built in flash won’t work, but there are a number of other options which we’ll discuss next.
Use the right equipment – For capturing scenery, you’ll need a sturdy tripod to minimise shake and movement when taking night shots. A cable release will also help you avoid camera shake, as it eliminates the need to touch your camera to take a shot. As for the best types of lenses to use, lenses with the smallest f-stops are much faster and more effective at letting in light quickly. A 16-35mm f/2.8 is a good one used by photographer and Canon ambassador Chris Bray. A 50mm f/1.2 lens is also incredibly fast and will help you take great low light shots, and a wide angle lens always looks great when shooting big night time scenes such as cityscapes or harbours.
Stay focused – It will be hard for the camera to automatically focus on a certain area or object in the photo when there’s not much light, so manual focus us probably best. If you still want to use autofocus, use this sneaky tip and shine a torch onto the area you wish to focus on, and the camera will focus on the lit up part.
Use the right setting – SLR cameras are the best at taking night time or low-light shots, but it’s important to know how to adjust the ISO and f-number. For regular handheld shots, use the highest ISO and lowest f/stop possible to avoid shake when you’re holding the camera. Cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark II are capable of extremely high ISOs of up to 25600, and are great at reducing noise (the grainy appearance of a photo). For long exposure shots, where you’re leaving the lens open for a long amount of time, use the lowest ISO to avoid the shot being overexposed. If your photos are turning out too dark, turn up the ISO a little more. Similarly, a smaller f/stop will also let more light in and brighten the shot.
The most important thing to remember is to be creative with what you shoot. Cityscapes, dark houses, dimly lit restaurants – there’s no limit the amount of low-light or night time shots you can take, and with a few little tricks and techniques, you’ll get really great effects with your low-light photographs.
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