Photographs taken at night can provide a view of place that look spectacular when the night lights are on. To get the best from your low light shots, there are a few guidelines to follow that you may not typically follow during a daytime shot.
As you will be taking photos that require a long exposure time, hand holding the camera to get a sharp image will be virtually impossible, unless you set the ISO to a very high value.
If you must take that shot and you don’t have a fully extensible tripod in your back pocket then use some kind of support.
If all else fails and you don’t have a tripod, or any support near by and you must get the shot then bump up the ISO. 2) ISO - Keep your ISO at 100 (or the lowest setting on your camera) to reduce colour noise.
Compact cameras will always show a lot of colour noise, for many technical reasons which I will not go into here. You want decent sharpness and depth of field (DOF – how much is in focus), especially at night. If you need to take a hand held shot (see Tripod part earlier), then set the aperture to the widest your lens will go and focus on infinity. When the sun just sinks below the horizon, there is about a 30 – 45 minute time line where the light in the sky is changing quite quickly (getting darker). The street lights will start to come on and they haven’t had enough time to warm up to their orange glow! The speed of the shutter, or how long the camera shutter stays open, should be what you use to get the exposure at night.
Recommending a starting shutter speed will depend on the time of day and the subject matter. Set shutter speed to 1 second if at the beginning of the Blue Hour, 5 seconds if in the middle and 15 seconds if at the end of the Blue Hour. You really do need to practice these shots because what you will find is that when you look at the images on your computer, they will look darker. There are times when you do want to, or need to, shoot at full night when the sky is black.
I let the exposure burn in for just over a minute to get the London Eye and buildings as sharp objects, then I started zooming the lens, very slowly and continued zooming till the end. The concept and steps are exactly the same as if you are taking a landscape or architectural photograph.
Try and compose the view so that the light from a nearby street lamp, or other source, is falling on your portrait subject.
Increase your ISO so that the shutter stays open for the least amount of time whilst still getting a decent exposure without too much colour noise and the person is relatively sharp. By using your camera as a torch, you can light your subject or even light other foreground objects. Going trough these steps will help you to master the art of taking better photos of night sky. Light levels at night are very low hence a tripod stand is necessary to hold the camera still. Turn the auto focus mechanism off and then manually set the ring of the lens to infinity and opt the T-setting on the shutter control ring.
Using the shutter speed option you can decide on how long the lens aperture will remain open.
Going through this article will help you to learn the trick of taking photographs of night sky.
Self-portrait of the photographer, Travis Burke, shooting the Milky Way under Utah’s Delicate Arch, with a little creative lighting from a flashlight. Have you ever visited a famous spot for landscape photography such as Utah’s Delicate Arch or Bryce Canyon and found yourself jostling for position, barely able to snap what you’ve traveled so far to capture? While night photography can be intimidating, which is one reason why many photographers shun it, if you adopt a willingness to persevere and have patience, you’ll be snapping brilliant night photos in no time. The Milky Way Galaxy rises above the oldest living organism on earth, a Bristlecone Pine, high in the mountains of California. To capture Havasu Falls in Arizona at night, the photographer left the shutter open for 55 seconds while David Hatfield used a flashlight to paint light on the waterfall and cliff. In this night photograph of Eagle Rock in Warner Springs, California, the photographer, Travis Burke, used a 25-minute exposure looking east.
This image was captured over a 30-minute timespan above Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.
A self-portrait of the photographer as he tries to stay warm in 15-degree weather in the middle of the night in Arizona. This photo by NASA demonstrates why there is so much light pollution in the sky, and why there are few remaining places where people can get good night photos.
This photo from Wikimedia Commons demonstrates the difference between viewing the constellation Orion in a rural sky with little light pollution (left) and the urban sky (right). Some of the gear the photographer, Travis Burke, uses for night photography, including a Nikon D600 with 14-24mm lens, a bubble level on top of the camera to keep horizon straight, an intervalometer below it, a Nikon D300 with 10-24mm lens, Slik carbon fiber tripods, an air blower to clean off lenses, a Maglight flashlight for light painting, a headlamp with a red light so night vision isn’t lost when adjusting camera settings, and a Tamrac camera bag for safely getting all the gear to each location. Photos taken at night can produce spectacular results – in fact many cities present their best views after dark. 2: Choose the smallest f-number available and a relatively long shutter speed to record the lights. Always temporarily switch off any anti-shake or image stabilisation systems when using a tripod. Some cameras will also have difficulty focusing in dark conditions, so if yours is having problems, switch the lens to manual and focus on the lights. Another way to maximise available light is to increase your camera’s sensitivity by using a bigger ISO number.
As explained in the video, there’s just two tricks to successful night photography and one is keeping the camera steady. Most of the frame will be taken up by the dark sky surrounding the moon, and the result of this is that your camera will expose the scene for the dark sky.
If you’re familiar with ISO and shutter speed settings, you may prefer to use a third-party camera app which will allow you to lock the focus and exposure points separately, as well as selecting an appropriate ISO and shutter speed. The aim is to use a low ISO to avoid getting a grainy picture, and to use a relatively fast shutter speed to avoid camera shake.
So you might find certain third-party apps that show ISO and shutter speed settings more useful when taking photos of the moon.
Long-exposure photography facing the North Star reveals circular pathways as the stars (relative to us) move around the pole. For star trails, I use the NightCap app because of its ability to take continuous back to back shots at timer-regulated intervals. The app also lets you choose between JPEG, HQ JPEG and TIFF outputs, however the TIFF isn’t available for the continuous burst mode.
You’ll definitely want to use a tripod or prop your phone up on a railing to keep it steady.

Star trail purists might give you a hard time for stacking (rather than leaving the shutter open the entire time for seamless trails on a single frame), but there just isn’t a way to manually keep the shutter open for this long on an iPhone.
Great right up lead to my purchasing – Havnt tried yet but I will when the darkness comes this evening. I guess you should just read the reviews carefully, unfortunately night photography is not my area of expertise. That’s so little money and the developers have done such good jobs, it’s worth buying both! I use an app called Longexpo and you can set the shutter speed to different speeds and even bulb.
You could try it but your picture might end up over-exposed due to the shutter being open for a long time. We are always looking for more interesting and insightful photography tips and techniques to share with our readers. The lights from the streets and buildings provide a unique atmosphere and highlight the subject matter.
As long shutter speeds are needed for low light photography, the colour noise will get worse over time. For you guys with compact camera’s, look at investing in a computer program to remove as much of the noise when you download to your computer. You may be lucky and get some colour as the light rays from the sun bounces around in the atmosphere and hits warmed gases and dust particles that scatter the light and create that sunset colour.
The longer the shutter is open, the more light that the camera’s sensor will gather over time and therefore the brighter your image will be.
What I mean by that is whether you are taking an image during the blue hour or at full night, and whether the scene you are capturing is well lit overall or has very bright areas and dark areas.
I will be constantly tweaking the shutter speed (slowing down or speeding up the time the shutter is open).
I check the image on the back of the camera to see if it is bright enough and use a combination of the histogram and highlight alert to tell me how well the exposure is. Set your camera to Aperture Priority and let the camera meter an average for the entire scene and then use Exposure Compensation on your camera to adjust the shutter speed.
The camera is tripod mounted and I change the shutter speed, aperture and ISO in this transition set to try and get the best exposures. It is possible for the light to change slightly from the first to last shot, especially with moving clouds, so be very FAST!
There is still some interest left in the sky so you can still get away with taking the shot. Over 3 minutes exposure time with lens zooming thrown in to make it a little more interesting. The only difference is you have a person in the foreground of the scene which you also wish to expose well.
What you should notice is that the shutter speed would need to stay open for a number of seconds to expose the background well. They should then be a little brighter than your background scene (due to the inverse square law). Still set the exposure for the background, but now you want the flash to go off at the end of the exposure time to finally light your portrait subject. Think of this as the flash going off at the beginning of the timed exposure (first curtain) or at the end (second curtain). The light from a flash is of a different colour temperature to incandescent or street light. Most smart phones will have an app that causes the screen to glow white and act as a torch. It’s an ability to foresee the end result in your mind's eye, and then to make it with the tools. Using longer exposures you can film or shoot good distant, dimmer objects such as nebulae or dim stars. One of the best methods of getting around this photographer’s nuisance is to visit these spots at night. Shining a flashlight all over the tree for a few seconds during exposure lights up the tree and creates a more dynamic photo. Photographing the stars is great, but having a foreground subject makes a huge difference in taking your night photos to the next level.
Three flashlights were used to illuminate the rock formation, with three people hitting the rock with light from different angles.
When taking night photos, you’ll want to remember that you want clear skies, low humidity, and no light pollution, which is caused by big cities and street lights. Unlike with your daytime shot, night photos can take anywhere from a couple of seconds to a few hours to create a single image. The stars appear to spin due to the earth’s rotation, while the North Star stays almost perfectly still in the middle.
The moon is extremely bright, since it is lit by direct sunlight, and much brighter than the dark landscape beneath it. The trick to successful night photography is to get much more light into your camera for a decent-looking image, as seen in the image above right.
One second is a good starting point and most cameras indicate seconds using double quotes, so look for 1”. If the camera is perfectly steady these systems can actually introduce wobbling as they attempt to counteract something which isn’t there. Increasing the sensitivity will however reduce your picture quality and may still not give you a quick enough exposure to handhold.
There's a fantastic selection covering every aspect of imaging over at Digital Photography School, and you can support my work at Cameralabs every time you buy one - thanks! With no optical zoom, it seems impossible to use the iPhone for true night sky photography. However, with a few simple solutions you’d be surprised how much fun you can have shooting the night sky with your phone! Because the moon is so small in the field of view, the camera won’t adjust the exposure settings to appropriately expose for the moon.
Because the moon is so bright relative to the night sky, what this means in practical terms is that the moon will be over-exposed. The native camera app won’t show you the ISO and shutter speed numbers, so it’s all guesswork.
If you take a long exposure photo of the sky, the stars will appear to make light trails or circles.
To give the stars enough time to travel a tiny bit between shots, set the interval to around 15-20 seconds. I usually keep mine plugged in so it doesn’t drain the battery too quickly (which can happen in about 10 minutes in the winter). You basically want to take the brightest pixels from each frame and layer them into the final star trail photo. So if you lock it under one kind of light and then change the lighting it will keep the previous white point.

I’d like to keep the shooting and editing just on my iOS devices as it gives a more seemless workflow. Perhaps you were on vacation and saw a postcard of cars whizzing by the Eiffel Tower, streams of light from the headlights in the foreground and the beautiful monument in the background. DSLRs have a mirror, which, when you look through the viewfinder, reflects the image from the lens, so you can see what the lens is seeing. Think about the effect you want to create; long shutter speeds to capture the foreground and background movement and making sure your camera is steady and that there are no vibrations, which could blur your image. After hardly 18 months of DSLR adventure, now I begin to realise what it takes to obtain such a shot. That way you are not holding down the shutter for long periods, which reduces any shake and subsequent blur. I change the shutter speed every two minutes or so, typically going slightly longer each time. Remember that because most of the scene will be dark, the camera will over expose so dial down by 1 stop. No one can stay perfectly still for even a second so they will appear slightly blurred as they try to stay still.
When the flash goes off at the beginning of the timed exposure the camera will still be gathering picture information of the person after the flash fired. If you are using the traditional camera then load the camera with a high speed film (Min ISO 200). You may even put it in a mode wherein the shutter will remain open until the shutter release is pressed again. Also notice the star trails, which begin any time you use an exposure of 60 seconds or longer. Be sure to have all your batteries fully charged and to bring plenty of warm clothes to stay comfortable as your camera is capturing the light. The world is beautiful at night, and if you gaze up at the sky long enough, you’ll probably see a few shooting stars or maybe a satellite or two. To replicate what the human eye sees when it views a moonlit landscape, photographers must take two separate images with two separate exposures and blend them together.
Manfrotto models are widely regarded as the best around and allow you to separately buy the legs and the head unit. In this tutorial you’ll discover some handy exposure tips for improving your iPhone photos of the night sky, as well as how to create wonderful star trail photos.
Once you’ve tapped on the screen to set focus, simply swipe down to reduce the exposure. A tripod helps, but might not be necessary especially at faster shutter speeds and if you have a steady hand.
The North Star is the only star that appears to stay in the same place because it’s very close to the north celestial pole above the Earth. Take back to back photos for at least 20 minutes to see some decent trails – the longer the better! It will lock both the shutter speed and ISO at the same time, and I don’t believe there is a way to lock only the ISO independently.
For distance subjects there would be no point in using flash as the light from the flash will only travel a few meters. That is, when an image is not taken using the general principles of photography, errors occur. In fact, as your photography skills grow, you will find that it is almost impossible to live without a tripod. You’re not too concerned with capturing depth of field in the foreground and background. This will result in some additional image information of the person appearing on top of the person. Taking Photographs of night sky is comparatively difficult than the photographs of sky taken in daylight. You can set the shutter speed to the bulb setting, or can set it at a range of settings between 2 and 40 seconds.
To make sure that you actually capture the sky pictures you need to ‘bracket’ your exposures.
While it will take some trial and error to figure out how much light you should shine on each object, as a general rule of thumb try lighting the foreground object for a few seconds (usually less than 10 seconds) during the exposure.
You’ll see the sun icon on the exposure slider and the image will begin to appear darker as you swipe. But, if it’s properly exposed, you should see differences in dark and light patches on the face of the moon.
It’s a small cord that can be attached to your camera, which allows you to take your finger off of the shutter release button, dampening vibration.
Meaning, if you have a shutter speed of 10 seconds and within those 10 seconds 35 cars speed by your image, in your foreground, you’re going to capture a lot of streaming lights. Although you could shoot very early in the morning when the sun is just about to come over the horizon.
It will be trial and error to take a shot, check if the subject is bright enough, if not then change the exposure compensation and quickly take again.
My advice is always colour balance your subject correctly and let the background turn orange.
However surprisingly any one can take the best quality wide angle photographs of the night sky by using single lens reflex 35 mm traditional film or digital cameras. Optional: if you have telescope or telephoto lenses then you can connect it to your camera.
If you left the light on the entire exposure time, it would completely overexpose the foreground object, as the light is so much brighter than the rest of the scene.
This sky is lost to most modern folks, who often cannot see a single star thanks to light pollution and city haze.
The result is what you see here, and what Yahoo audiences saw during a rare blue moon event. When the flash goes off at the end of the timed exposure, any low light image information that the camera has gathered of the portrait subject will be overwritten (somewhat) by the brighter person that was illuminated by the flash at the end. An alternative is to use a colour balance gel for your flash so that the light from the flash is the same temperature as your background.
If you set your shutter speed to over 60 seconds, the stars in the sky will begin to look like they are moving, and your photo will depict star trails, which can be a desired effect (see below). You also want to evenly distribute the light over the entire object and not just illuminate one spot. The shutter speed and aperture will work together to give you the sort of image you’re looking for.

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