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January 7, 2015
August 11, 2011
March 23, 2013
May 3, 2019
I have spent many nights over the last 8 years teaching photographers how to capture night photography images with their cameras. It’s actually not as difficult as you might think, and at the end of this post you’ll have exactly what you need to get the shot.
Step 1: Put Your Camera in Manual Mode
It’s actually easier to shoot in manual mode than any other mode when shooting night photography. Trust me on this, and flip your camera from automatic to the “M” for manual mode.
Step 2: Find a Tripod or Something for Support
It will take your camera a minimum of 10 seconds to record a night image. This means the shutter speed is at least 10 seconds, so if you were to hand-hold the camera, the photo would certainly be blurry. You need a good tripod or to at least set your camera on a ledge or something where it can remain perfectly still for 10 seconds.
Step 3: Set Your Aperture as Low as It Goes
How low your aperture (f-stop) goes will depend on your lens. Some lenses go lower than others. Your lens may go down to f/5.6 or f/3.5, or f/2.8, for example. If you are unsure of how to change your aperture, I’d search Youtube for “change aperture” and then the name of your camera.
You may be tempted to shoot at a higher aperture like f/11 or f/16 if you’re shooting a night landscape, but you need to make a compromise here in order to gather more light. As you get more advanced, you’ll learn there are ways to mitigate the effects of the low aperture.
Step 4: Set Your Shutter Speed to 10″ (10 seconds)
As you will discover later, you may need to adjust your shutter speed up or down depending on how much light there is in your landscape; however, 10″ should give you a decent starting place for making the photo.
It may seem CRAZY to be recording the image for ten seconds, but you’ll learn that this is not strange at all for a night photo. I have taken some night photo with exposures lasting over 30 minutes–just for one photo!
Step 5: Set Your ISO to 1600
As you increase the ISO, the image becomes brighter, but there is also more noise. This is simply a compromise you need to make at night to get a properly exposed shot. Most modern cameras can take a nice clean photo at ISO 1600, though.
Step 6: Take a Picture and Analyze the Exposure
Now it’s time to take a photo. You’ll see that it takes a LONG time for the image to record and to play back on your LCD screen. That’s perfectly normal.
You need to judge if the photo is too bright or too dark. If the photo is too dark, increase your shutter speed to 30″ (30 seconds). Then take another photo. If it’s still too dark, then increase your ISO to 3200. That will make the photo grainy, but that may be a compromise you need to make.
If the photo is too bright, then drop your ISO to 800. If it’s still too dark, then drop your ISO even further or reduce your shutter speed to 8″.
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