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|Category:||Landscape and Travel|
Night photography - When you've got your sunset don't think you have to pack your kit up and head home.
Photo by Will Cheung.
Your most important piece of kit if you're heading out at night is a tripod as it's impossible to work hand-held when you're dealing with very long exposures. Take a look at Manfrotto's range of tripods if you're in the market for one or try your luck in our exclusive competition where you could win a Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod.
If you have one, pack your remote release to help minimise shake or make use of the camera's self-timer if you don't. A non-lockable release is fine if you just want to use the camera's slow shutter speeds but if you want to you the B setting, to keep the shutter open for as long as you like, you'll need a lockable release. Your standard lens will do just nicely but take a telephoto along to get you close to lights on top of buildings and illuminated signs. Pack a torch, wear suitable clothing and take a watch along for timing when using the B setting.
It doesn't have to be totally dark for you to have a try at night photography. Late dusk when there's still a little light left in the sky will give you scenes with less contrast as the light that's still in the sky will illuminate areas not lit by artificial lights. If you do want to head out when most people are tucked up in bed take someone else with you for safety and they can keep you entertained while your long exposure ticks along. If you're not very patient you could, of course, use a higher ISO however, sticking to ISO100 or 200 will give you better quality images.
How long your exposure will be depends on what you're photographing. If the light, such as street lamps, is your focus you'll have a much shorter exposure than if you were photographing an illuminated building when you're photographing light that's reflected. If you have both types of light in one scene go for the longer exposure as if you don't, the only detail will be the lights, you won't see a building. This does mean you'll get flare from the street lights but this isn't necessarily a bad thing as overexposed street lamps, particularly if it's a damp night, can look really good.
You may get a few metering problems as areas of darkness which are occasionally illuminated by bright lights can confuse your camera. If you find your scenes too dark or the lights have washed the scene out use the compensation setting to adjust the exposure and try again. Don't meter from a dark area either as this will just cause lights to be overexposed.
Keep an eye on your white balance as different lights can have different colour casts. Shop windows will be fluorescent while street lamps and buildings lit by flood lights are often tungsten which give a yellowish cast to images. But you may find the colour cast adds to your image anyway.
Other techniques to try at night include:
- Light trails of moving traffic
- Light painting
- Fairgrounds at night – use a slow shutter speed to create pictures a wash of vivid colours.
- Cityscapes taken from an elevated point to give you a sweeping shot of twinkling lights.
Don't forget to enter our exclusive competition where you can win one of six Manfrotto 190XPROB tripods!
You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.