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. 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.
Capturing sharp photographs is by far the toughest technical skill in street photography. People move quickly, you are often moving quickly, the light isn’t usually ideal, and you sometimes have to frame instantly and suddenly. There are many reasons to shoot with a wide-angle lens, but one of the main reasons is that wide angle perspectives have a larger depth of field. 28mm and 35mm are probably the most common focal lengths for street photography (50mm is used a lot as well, but it’s too much of a telephoto view for my tastes). Similarly, we generally want to use the smallest aperture possible (small aperture = larger number), for the same reason behind using a wide-angle lens, because there will be more depth of field.
Zone focusing is the technique of manually focusing your camera to a specific distance, say 8 feet away, and then photographing people as they enter that range of distance from your camera. This is one of the keys to being successful at street photography because auto-focusing can be a huge hinderance in many situations. A good exercise for this is to take a tape measure and measure two feet from your lens all the way up to 12 feet and try to memorize those distances away from you. By far my biggest pet peeve of photographers is when they don’t stop their own motion before taking a photo.
The stutter step is basically just a way of stopping your motion instantly while in mid stride to take a shot and then continuing that motion right after the shot.
During the day I much prefer to get closer to my subjects, but often when out at night I will step back somewhat and get further from my subjects.
When you step back, you don’t need to use as fast of a shutter speed to capture moving subjects sharp. When you’re shooting at night, seek out lampposts or artificial light sources and wait there to photograph people as they pass by. Some street photographers prefer to use flash to bring out their subjects and to make them sharp, even during the day.
This strategy is a little too intrusive for my tastes out there, but I love the look when other photographers do it. James Maher authored this 141 page eBook that covers everything about the genre, even down to specific post processing techniques that can bring the best out of street scenes. These are good general guidelines, but when you say don’t do this, I have to shake my head. I too zone focus with similar settings as you (28mm or 35mm instead of 45mm at F2.) These were general ideas to make it easier for most people to capture technically good shots at night. I probably could have added a section on what you mentioned, but that is a whole article and separate topic in itself.
I just picked up a secondhand Nikon 28mm f2.8D AF and your article has given me some inspiration as to how I can use it. I mostly take photographs in Asia particularly in Bangkok, so there should be plenty of opportunity for me to test out this lens and use the tips from your article. We are always looking for more interesting and insightful photography tips and techniques to share with our readers.
Over the last year I’ve become more and more enamored with night photography and the depth of colours offered by it.
The same composition rules that apply to day apply to night, except with night we have our long exposures to take advantage of.
The beautiful leading lines of Vancouver’s Public Library make it a photogenic building any time of day, but the diminishing light and soft cast at night makes it an even more attractive subject. Again, see how the water brings more light into our images, sections out negative space and can create gorgeous symmetry. I found myself in front of this statue wondering how on earth I could add the slightest detail to a part not facing a light source.
Okay, finally… another thing I love about night photography is that the only people in my shots are those who I want in them.


I hope this article has encouraged you to get out tonight and see how beautifully-different our world is under the light of the moon and streetlamps. For the twilight runner photo, I would bring a LED light with me just to light up the sculpture a little bit. Shutter speed and apeture isn't enough information, we would also need to know what ISO was used on these photos, and possibly color temp. I love shooting at night and the results can be so rewarding but I always forget how different it is to just simply shooting in daylight.
I took night photo few week ago,I notice that during the night do we need a fast shutter speed to able to capture the image? I need to shoot a football team and they are wanting to do the pics on the field in the evening under the lights.
Basically for the same reason you'd want a small aperture at any other time of day - depth of field. End of the day, it will be the balance of the 3 elements, ISO, Shutter speed and F-stop that produce the perfect photo.
These shots are definitely NOT post-processed (well, that's what I believe anyways) as this is the outcome when taking long exposured shots; beautiful vibrant colours and smooth textures. In the list of requirements, where they mention the lenses they use, I agree it seems like it was Canon sponsored, but the writer uses a Canon camera I can only assume. As a DSLR beginner, I have been advised by daughter who is a pro applied artist, to devote my first 2 to 3 years solid on mastering settings, techniques and composition, AND TO STAY AWAY FROM POST-PROCESSING as far as possible.
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. 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.
I recommend to use a long shutter speed, a steady tripod and grab yourself a nifty little tool called the shutter release cable.
The auto exposure bracketing method is a fantastic way to work out what settings are exposing your scene perfectly. There have been some times when I have used this method and found that the photo which are much light was actually the perfect exposure.
She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. When I take a look at other people’s street work, one of the most common problems I notice is that the photos are not sharp and not in focus. This means that if you miss your focus somewhat, there will still be a large range of the scene that will be sharp, which will give you some leeway to mess up and still get the shot sharp. If you have the time to autofocus or manual focus through the viewfinder then you should do it, but focusing these ways takes time, which isn’t often ideal for many of those fast moving situations.
What this means is that if someone is walking towards you then you can capture them at 10 feet away sharp and then as they get closer you can move the manual dial to 6 feet without looking to be able to capture them sharp at 6 feet away as well.
With more telephoto views with shallower depth of fields, it is much more difficult to guess distances and still get shots perfectly sharp. When subjects are a small part of a dark scene it generally looks more interesting than when they’re a small part of a scene during the day, and the backgrounds are often much more interesting. Bruce Gilden is probably the most famous flash street photographers, and Bruce Davidson is another photographer you should take a look at. Looking forward to going out soon to capture street photography with a better mindset of what to do. However, I wonder when you say 28mm & 35mm in the article, are they based on full frame sensor size or the APS-C? Master of the genre like Robert Frank, Danny Lyon or Gary Winogrand had made plenty of images that were blurred or the focus wa soft and they are absolute master pieces. I always find that night time photographs seem to look the best, but the lighting can be challenging.
While not always necessary (see further on for how to cheat on this), a tripod will give you the greatest flexibility to get the angles you need while keeping your camera steady for those long exposures.
Sometimes you’ll want to draw attention to or simply lighten up an important part of the foreground which is too dark.
Notice the green lens flare in the top corner – this may have been avoided by removing the filter or having a faster shutter speed. Another delight of night work is the way lights will fracture into stars on their own – no special effects here, just time.
It was a freezing night and I was biking around the park, so I took the headlamp off my bike, cupped it in my hands to make sure it wouldn’t reach the lens, and pointed it at the throat and chest area of the statue. This shot of the Rockefeller Center in New York City catches just the top of it, showing off the interplay of light in the surrounding buildings.


Live View is indispensable for nailing your focus, especially as you can do a digital zoom to manually adjust your focus. If you look above to the post I put above though, the shot where the path is illuminated (I included in my post) you'll see a shot with no PP at all.
I think your daughter gave good advice on being cautious with the use of PP, but don't completely limit yourself.
A dark sky creates an obviously nice negative space and can often be complimented with clouds lit by city lights, but whatever works. I would like to add something, when shooting with higher f-stop, it helps produce sharper images however the down side with higher f-stop are, longer exposure time which may increase image noise and starburst effect.
A simple tweak on exposure setting, white balance setting and noise removal will help in producing better quality images if you have used the right technique to shoot. Seems that it does not have the functions like long exposure, neither can I use another lens. But what I didn't agree with was the comment that if you can afford the 'L' series lens then go for it.
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.
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. If you have a good camera and a good lens and you are still not getting sharp images then you will have to sharpen your images in photo shop or light room. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time. The trade off is that you have to get closer to your subject than with a telephoto lens, but this usually leads to a better visual look anyway.
Despite what you might have been told, shooting at high ISOs for street photography is often the number one key to creating street photos that have a higher technical quality because of the flexibility it allows for your shutter speed and aperture.
It’s a great way to stop quickly and take a shot without drawing too much attention to yourself. Find the location, wait for the right light, and choose the perfect settings ahead of time. You can see this in the previous photograph, but getting even closer to the light source and shooting away from it is often a good idea as well.
When you are aiming for a sharp photo, of course you want it to be as sharp as possible, however view the finished photograph from a traditional distance that normal viewers will look at it from to truly gauge how the photograph looks.
I feel like you should be encouraging experimentation as opposed to saying no to this and that.
Tripodless, I turned on a 2-second timer, pressed my camera firmly against the base of a statue, and shot this one. I did some night shooting recently and was really bummed out that I couldn’t get enough detail in my shot. Seriously I know it sounds simple but the amount of times I've gone out without it and struggled. Keep the good work up, I wish I could afford all those tools to become a professional photographer!!!! As they were talking about wide angle, this seems a bit irresponsible to not explain further. This will result in some additional image information of the person appearing on top of the person. 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. You need a shutter release cable so that you can activate the shutter speed without touching the camera. A steady tripod is very important because it will hold your camera firm in the one position. This is why landscape photography professionals always use an aperture of F 22, all smaller, to be able to get sharp photos.
You should test out your cameras upper limits for ISO to see the amount of grain that you are comfortable with.
Simply turn on the live view, flick your lens to manual focus, and adjust your focus ring until you’ve got perfect focus.
The only issue is that I'm rural so I really need good moonlight and my options are limited to landscapes unless I drive to the city.
If not just for seeing where your walking, you're gonna need it to focus or at least see where that speedlight gel is you just dropped!
Find your balance of PP and the original that suits you personally and that's all that matters. 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. It is about a million times easier to get a technically good street photograph this way than by only taking spontaneous shots as you come across them. Try it out with whatever you’ve got as the only thing that will limit you is your imagination. In this shot, an otherwise drab crowd of skaters has turned into a blur of figures that adds movement and life to an otherwise still image. Last year I invested in a load of cheap gel hand warmers (the type you snap and they heat up). To shoot them without can get a bit grainy as the exposures are long (like 60-90 minutes in some cases or even longer). 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. In those cases, I just pretend to be a dumb tourist (instead of what I really am, which is a dumb photographer). I bought a load and wrap my spare batteries for my torch, camera and speedlights along with them. You can also open your shutter for only a couple of seconds depending on how much light you have.



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