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3.4: Taking Photos at Night

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    In the city at night, streetlights and neon signs create exotic images which look nothing like their daylight counterparts. We have lots of opportunities to take photos at night. Night photography requires different photographic approaches. In this chapter, we will talk about various night photography skills that synthesize the basic knowledge you have learned so far.


    A bridge at night

    Photographing people

    The basic skill of how to take photos of people was shown in lesson 1, such as making a good composition, changing EV, using fast shutter speed mode, using burst mode, extending focus. Here are other basic skills that especially apply to night photography.

    • Use of flash
    • Red-eye reduction
    • White balance setting

    Appropriate distance of flash and softer light from flash:
    • A flash is absolutely necessary at night. When using a flash, you should think about the appropriate distance for using flash. The distance between the camera and people should be less than seven feet.
    • If your subject is too close to your camera, the photo may be too bright or have a washed-out effect. You can use tissue or post-it notes to make the light from flash softer when it is necessary to use flash and your subject is very close.

    Use red-eye reduction:
    • You have learned how to reduce the red eye effect in the previous lesson. At night, you should turn on the red-eye reduction mode in your camera.

    Change white balance setting:
    • When you are taking photos indoors, consider what kind of illumination is used. After taking photos, review your photo and change the white balance setting if necessary.

    Photographing landscape

    We have also talked about basic skills of taking photos of landscapes in daylight in lesson 2. The techniques shown below can make good landscape photos at night.

    • Tripod
    • ISO value or EV value
    • Aperture and shutter speed

    Preparing a tripod:
    A tripod is especially important for take a good photo at night. It is better not to use a flash because of the limitation of distance. In night photography, you will set a low F value and use a slow shutter speed. Then, you should steady your camera. Generally, if the shutter speed is slower than 1/30 of a second, the subject will be shaken. In addition, using the self-timer function prevents the camera from shaking when pressing the shutter button.


    Increasing ISO value or EV value

     As mentioned in part 1, ISO is the sensitivity setting. You can take a picture in low light circumstances with a high ISO value. You should consider, however, the distortion in your photo. Review the photo after taking a picture. You can also use a higher EV setting to increase the amount of light.

    Using a lower aperture value:

    If you want to make sparkling streetlights as the picture on the right below, use the aperture priority mode. Once the F number is low (the aperture is more open), the light on the bridge tends to spread out as in the photo shown on the left below. In contrast, once the F number is higher (the aperture is more closed), the light appears to sparkle as in the photo shown on the right below.


    F = 3.0 F = 8.0

    Making the shutter speed slower

    While the shutter is open, the lights will be expressed as lines by afterimage of car movement. At first, you should select the shutter speed priority mode and change to a range between one second and four seconds. Take a photo using the self-timer function and use a tripod to steady the camera.


    The shutter speed = 4

    This page titled 3.4: Taking Photos at Night is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by .

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