It’s Christmas time and the lights are on.   It’s a great time to have a go at some night photography.  So here’s my top ten tips for those who are new to night photography.

  1. Time of day is critical.  The aim with night photography is to balance the fading daylight with the artificial lights on buildings and/or Christmas decorations.  The ideal time to shoot most scenes is about 20 minutes after the official sunset time.  Check the sunset time on – the window of opportunity lasts for about 20mins.  During this time the sky will be recorded as a vibrant blue colour.
  2. You will need a tripod – find one as sturdy as possible.  If you want a light weight one, look for one with a hook on the base of the stock so you can hang your camera bag on it for extra stability.
  3. A lot of your exposure will be several seconds so turn off any vibration reduction/image stabilisation you have on your lens or camera.
  4. If you have cable release or remote control use it so you don’t knock the camera when taking your shots.  If you don’t have one then enable mirror lock-up on the camera and set a 2sec self-timer.  The mirror will go up when you press the shutter release then 2 seconds later, after any vibration has stopped the image will be created.
  5. Set your ISO to 100 or as low as it will go on your camera.  Don’t use auto ISO.
  6. If you are wanting to capture light trails from car head/tail lights you will need an exposure of about 15secs or longer.
  7. Shoot in manual mode.  Set your aperture initially to f/8, then adjust the shutter speed until the little pointer in the viewfinder is in the middle.  If the shutter speed isn’t long enough – close down the aperture a couple of stops to say f/16 and increase the shutter speed.
  8. Take a test shot – examine it on the back of your camera, adjust the shutter or aperture if it is over or under exposed.
  9. Keep checking the images as you take them, the light is changing and you will need to adjust your settings.  If the light is changing quite rapidly, you may want to work in aperture priority mode.  The camera will adjust the exposure time for each shot as the light changes.  However you may need to use exposure compensation to adjust the exposures depending on the scene you are photographing.
  10. Warm clothing and gloves.  It’s winter and you will be standing around for a long time, wrap-up warm!


(Click to see images full size)

For more examples of my night photography round Manchester take a look at this album: