Ted's Tips for the Best Night Photography

26 April 2022

If you're anything like us, you can't get enough of your camera and you want to document everything you do, everywhere you go. You've probably found this relatively easy during the day but nighttime is a different story. 

From gear tips to general advice read on to find out how you can capture stunning photography after dark.

Don't be too quick to raise the ISO

We know it's tempting to push that much-touted high ISO performance of your new mirrorless camera to the limits but you should hold off on exploring high ISOs as much as you can. Even on the best camera gear, the higher ISO settings do result in an increase of image noise to some degree, so you are not capturing the best possible images that your camera is capable of if you always choose to raise the ISO.

In some cases, you must use a high ISO and your modern camera will do an admirable job but we suggest starting low first and only increasing when necessary.

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

Get used to tripod shooting

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

Thanks to the availability of fast lens gear and stabilisation systems, many of us have forgotten all about the usefulness of the humble tripod; don't feel too bad, it's only natural to opt for gear that is more portable and comfortable to carry. Now is the time, however, to rediscover what has made the tripod a mainstay in photography for so long.

With a sturdy tripod in your kit, you can set your camera in place and use whatever shutter speed necessary without dealing with blurry images.

This is not just handy for nightscapes and general shots of your local city nightlife but can also be put to use for more advanced techniques that utilise long exposures, such as astrophotography and star trails. There is a huge range of tripod options available and you can easily find one that is portable and easy to carry despite being capable of handling a generous amount of camera gear.

Top tip: Pairing a tripod with a remote control can drastically reduce camera shake, as you can avoid touching your camera at all during the capture stage.

Find a tripod at Ted's today

Use a lens with a fast maximum aperture

It’s no secret that lenses with a fast maximum aperture are best for low light shooting. You can take advantage of this larger aperture and save yourself from increasing the ISO too much or using a slower shutter speed, which increases the incidence of motion blur and camera shake in your images.

If you are using a zoom lens, you don’t need to use an option that is ultra-bright, as these lenses are typically quite expensive, but you should attempt to use a lens that has a decent aperture throughout the zoom range and doesn’t drop off drastically at the long end.

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

Top tip: The three key settings of your camera, ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture, work in unison together and are referred to as the exposure triangle. To find out how you can master these adjustments, we have a blog on this very subject here.

Take a look at some fast glass

Know what you want to shoot before you begin

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

The only thing more frustrating than wandering around desperately trying to find things to photograph is doing it in the dark and the cold. We recommend you have a solid plan in place which includes where you are going to go and what you want to photograph. 

For increased success we suggest looking at plenty of work by other photographers for inspiration, doing dry-runs that involve just walking around your chosen area to see if it is of interest, and scouting for locations in the comfort of daylight. Even having a small idea of a street corner that you want to set your gear up at or a building or streetscape that is visually appealing can save you plenty of time on your shoot.

Plan for the conditions

The changing climate that often occurs when moving from the comfort of the indoors to the brisk night air can often result in our camera lens fogging up, which obviously makes it tricky to capture sharp and detailed images. There are a few steps that you can take to prevent this from happening, with the most effective being to allow your gear 10-15 minutes to acclimatise to your surroundings before you turn it on and start shooting; Some people go to more extreme measures of affixing hand warmers to their lens.

Caring for your gear is obviously important at this time. We find attaching a lens hood helps protect it from dew, while a cleaning kit that includes a microfibre cloth is essential for wiping away any residue so you can take your photograph.

Another accessory that will take a hit in cold weather is your camera battery. They will not be able to hold their charge as long when they get cold, so be sure to carry a few spares and keep them warm by putting them in your pocket when they are not in use.

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

Think of your own comfort

Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography

While the functionality and care of your camera gear are important, you should still consider your own comfort when you plan for your nighttime shoot. Check the weather forecast and if it looks like a storm may be on the way, you should obviously reschedule your shoot for another day. If it is just chilly, however, make sure you dress and pack accordingly because if you are not feeling safe and comfortable you are more likely to call an end to your shoot early, which obviously means no more beautiful nighttime photos.

If there is some chance that your night shoot will take you to an area of low visibility, make sure you remember to bring along a flashlight to light your way and prevent any accidents from occurring. If you get caught out you can use the flashlight of your smartphone, but as you are probably aware this can quickly chew through your phone’s battery, and you always want to have your phone charged up and ready in case of emergencies.

Cool nighttime photo ideas

Sometimes we have the gear ready and the technical knowledge to get us through but we just can’t think of anything to shoot! If you are stuck with this dilemma, here are some great nighttime photography ideas to try out.

  • Night portraits - Bring along a model and a flash gun and try to capture some dramatic night portraits. Browse through a modern fashion magazine for inspiration.
  • City lights - Your local city probably looks the best at nighttime. The lit-up buildings, streets and bridges provide plenty of photo opportunities, and the best part is they are available every night.

        Ted's Tips for the Best Night PhotographyTed's Tips for the Best Night Photography
        • Empty streets - Empty streets introduce a sense of mystery and intrigue to your images.
        • Motion blur - It’s quite simple to use your camera’s long exposure abilities to create dramatic motion photography. You can try your hand at photographing bustling crowds as they quickly shuffle by, or even find a spot to photograph passing traffic, using the headlights to create light trails. Don’t forget to mount your camera on a tripod when attempting this as you want your subject’s moving to cause the blur, not camera shake.
        • Astrophotography - Obviously, nighttime is the best time to try your hand at astrophotography. Astrophotography brings with it a whole new set of tools and techniques, which you can read all about here.

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