Night Photography Tips

These night photography tips are based on my own experience, with a bit of  history thrown in, plus a selection of some stunning shots made by other photographers.

Camera data is included in the captions beneath each shot so you have enough information here to venture out when the lights are low - the mystery of the night awaits!


Famous Night Photographers

Some photographers are well known for their work in the field of night photography as they have devoted themselves almost exclusively to this area.

Photographers who have worked at night include Bill Brandt who photographed the Second World War and post-War England; and Lee Miller, also a World War II photographer whose work included a famous night image of the burning of Hitler's house.

Ansel Adams is also well-known for his photograph "Moonrise Over Hernandez" which was shot by moonlight.

Starting back in the late 1970s, you can find  photographers such as Steve Harper, Richard Misrach, Arthur Ollman and others who worked almost exclusively at night. And from the 1980s we have Michael Kenna and Arthur Ollman (who became head of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego).

Keep an eye open for these fascinating photographers if you want to expand your knowledge of night photography.

Night Photography Tips 1: When is the best time?

Dusk is a very popular time for making night photography and I recommend you visit your chosen location the day before and just walk around looking. Plan to come back the next day a bit before dusk so you  have time to set up your shot. You can get great results at this time of day and it makes it easier to read your camera's controls!

Above: Grande Arche de La Défense et Fontaine by Atoma

Pentax K100D, 3/5 sec, f/8, 35mm, ISO 200

Night Photography Tips 2: Use Long Exposures

Low light digital photography is so much easier than low level film photography because long exposures are needed which often require a lot of trial and error to get right. With digital of course, all your shots can be reviewed and the exposure adjusted accordingly before the next shot is taken.

Above: Notre Dame de Paris by Night by Atoma

Pentax K100D, 8 secs, f/5.6, 28 mm , ISO 200

Night digital photography allows exposures that are several seconds  long (for example, the photograph above of Notre Dame in Paris had a shutter speed of eight seconds) so that details can be captured. This means you will need a tripod to avoid shake and preferably a shutter-release cable so you don't actually have to touch the camera or you can use the timer.

Night Photography Tips 3: Bridges by Night

If you live in a city, chances are there is a river near by and rivers always have bridges which are usually lit up at night often in quite dramatic ways. There are also great compositional opportunities as bridges have interesting geometrical shapes and rhythms.

Above: Shelby Street Bridge by Night (Nashville) by Ryan Kaldari

Camera Data Not Available

Make sure you get a good angle for your shot as there may be lots of extraneous things like telegraph poles, railings, street lights and so on. If you can, try a low-angled shot to blot out all those annoyances.

Night Photography Tips 4: Reflections

While you are down by the water's edge making great photographs of the bridges, take a look at those wonderful reflections! Again, shutter speed is crucial but it mustn't be too long or you will burn out the highlights. Plan to be on the opposite side of the river to a great group of buildings so you can create a 'sky line' type photograph.

Above: Perth Skyline at Night by Mark Ryan

Olympus FE110 X705, 2 secs, f/5, ISO 250, 17.4 mm

Night Photography Tips 5: Everything in Motion

Yes, more long exposures especially when capturing motion as in the picture below of car light trails. This photograph is 13 seconds. So don't just think in terms of still images, try implying motion through the use of really long exposures - it's great fun, give it a go!

Above: The Beacon Hotel at Night, Miami Beach, Florida by Sandor

Canon EOS-1D Mark II, 13 secs, f/11, ISO 50, 17 mm

Night Photography Tips 6: Foggy Mysteries

I love the shot below, taken on the sort of night when you could be forgiven for thinking there really wasn't enough light to make photographs. Detail has been lost, the photograph is simplified down by the fog to almost monochrome. There is still a hint of colour in some areas making it all very mysterious! So don't be afraid to experiment in unusual weather conditions, you never know what you might create!

Above: Seattle's Space Needle and Fun Forest on a Foggy Night

Camera Data Not Available: Photo by Chris Blakeley

Here are a couple of other related articles that might be of interest to you:

  1. Black and White Night Photography
  2. Night Street Photography

Recommended Reading

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