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Photographing Your Town At Night

Photographing Your Town At Night - Here's a quick tutorial that will show you how to photograph urban nightscapes.

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Photo by David Clapp


Gear Suggestions

Your DSLR and normal lenses are fine for this sort of work but long exposures are the norm so a good, stable tripod is recommended, that together with a remote release. 

Important non-photographic essentials include suitable clothing, protective kit for the camera, a watch for timing B exposures and a torch – a wind-up head torch is a good idea. It is also taking someone with you, for safety and for companionship during your time when you are hanging around waiting for the exposures to finish.


White Balance

Auto white-balance is fine but do feel free to try the preset, perhaps incandescent or fluorescent. AWB is fine and colour casts can add to the image anyway.



In low light the temptation is to whizz up the ISO scale and shot at ISO1600 and higher. Most cameras cope well at higher ISO levels now but even though this is true, it is still best to stick to ISO100 or 200 and go for high quality and long shutter speeds. By the way, windy days, bridges that gently move, traffic vibration, poor technique, wobbly tripods, can all result in blurred images so watch out for that.


Buildings And Lighting

Office blocks and lit buildings are obvious subjects – and if it is raining, even better, especially, if your chosen location has cobbled streets.

Stop down to small apertures and highlights come as pinpoints of light and that can effective. Including streetlamps can result in flare – if they are in shot, there is nothing you can do about it so just go with the fact. In fact, on rainy evenings with water droplets landing on the lens you can get some graphic flare effects.


Traffic And Light Trails

Light trails of moving traffic is a popular subject and it is easy to do. just find your scene, open the shutter and the moving traffic with its head and rear lights on will record as colourful lines. Popular places to try this technique is on bridges over main roads, roundabouts and busy junctions. Obviously, take great care with traffic and where you place the tripod.


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