Blog Home Contributor 7 Tips for Capturing Striking Night Photos

Tap into the magic of night photography with these useful techniques for capturing breathtaking scenes in the dark.

There’s something so captivating about night photography. A scene that can be unremarkable during the day can transform into something truly magical at night.

Shooting in the dark also happens to be one of the most challenging photography skills to master. With the light sources that you rely on during the day no longer available to you, you have to lean on technical know-how—in addition to creativity—in a big way.

Before you venture into the dark, equip yourself with these essential tips on how to manipulate your ISO settings, aperture, shutter speed, and more to get the most out of your night shots.

1. Shoot Manual 

Auto mode automatically sets your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings, but night photography requires that you dial in each setting to achieve the sharpest possible results.

Switch over to manual mode to have complete control over your camera.

2. Use a Wider Aperture

The single most important element in photography is light. Without light, you can’t see your subject or object in your photograph. And, the amount of light in a photo is controlled by your camera’s aperture.

Given the low-light nature of nighttime photography, it’s essential to use a wider aperture to let in as much light as possible. The lower the f-stops on the aperture scale, the wider (or larger) the aperture.

An aperture setting of around f/2.8 or lower is recommended when taking night photography.  

3. Use a Tripod for Long Exposure Shots  

Night photography typically requires long shutter speeds—around ten seconds or more—to capture as much light from your dark setting as possible. Determining the shutter speed all depends on how much light is available in your environment.

For example, urban night photography doesn’t require as much exposure time as a country setting. There are more sources of artificial light, so you can reduce the shutter speed between two-to-ten seconds.

In any case, it’s essential to stabilize your camera during these long exposure shots to ensure your photos are in focus. And, for that, you’ll require a sturdy surface or tripod

4. Lower Your ISO 

The ISO settings determine your camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO value means your image will be darker and have less grain. A high ISO number means your image will be brighter and have more grain.

Since night photography works with low-light settings, using a high ISO would seem to make the most sense, but doing so also increases the visual distortion or “noise” in your images.

Learn the limits of your camera’s ISO settings by taking several test shots at different ISO settings. Examine the results to find out at which ISO level your photos become too noisy. 

5. Use Bulb Mode 

For most cameras, the longest shutter speed is around thirty seconds. However, sometimes, thirty seconds isn’t long enough to make a proper exposure. Bulb Mode gives you the freedom to open the shutter for as long as you press the button, overriding the automatic functions set by your camera.

Since you can expose an image without any time constraints, Bulb Mode is a perfect setting to capture “lighting paintings,” a technique where you can write or draw in the air using a light source such as a flashlight. 

6. Shoot RAW

While compressing your image into a JPEG is the right choice most of the time, especially when looking to save space on your SD card, it’s best to avoid doing that when shooting nighttime photography.

Take RAW photos to avoid grainy shots and see the full range in your photos.

7. Step out into the Night

Look up at the stars. Bathe in the moonlight. Don’t forget to take in the beauty night has to offer. Inspiration will follow.

Nighttime isn’t the only time for cool photography. Let’s have some more fun with these inspiring gems:

Top image via FooTToo.