Monday, 12 November 2007

Night time photography

Now is the time of year when we least think to get our cameras out as its always dark and the darkness brings with it a whole new set of problems when it comes to taking photos.

The first step in improving your photography skills, whether in daylight or night time is to read your manual, it will help honest :o)

The secret of night time photography is Long Exposure, a very narrow aperture (high f-stop) and low ISO. Combining these, will give you a huge depth of field and everything will be in focus.

Cameras set on automatic exposure will usually be fooled into grossly over-exposing the image because the scene will be dominated by the blackness of the night sky.

During the day, since there is so much light available, the aperture only needs to be open say, 1/500th of a second to accumulate all the light your camera needs to produce a high quality photograph.

However, at night time, with much less light available; the aperture needs to remain open for a much longer time period (from 1/2 to 30 seconds) to accumulate the amount of light needed for a good photograph.

Slow shutter speed =Aperture remaining open longer =Long Exposure

Most cameras need to be in full manual mode to be able give you the slowest shutter speeds but its best to have a look at the manual to see which shooting modes give you the slowest shutter speeds.

Adjust Camera Settings
The first thing to do is check that you can override the camera's automatic flash. Most cameras have a symbol that has a lightning bolt within a circle with a 45 degree line through it - just like a no entry road sign. This turns off the flash and ensures the camera makes use of its long exposure setting.

Next set your ISO setting to 100. The ISO refers to the camera's sensitivity to light. High ISO will make your camera more light sensitive but will add more noise to your photo. Set your camera to a lower ISO if possible, say between 50-100, for sharper detail. A lower ISO will increase exposure time but it will create a better photo.

Widen your digital camera's aperture to let in more light through the lens. Often, f2.8 is the widest opening for most lenses.

Since your flash is off, the shutter speed of your camera will be lower in order to get sufficient light. The shutter speed will be of several seconds. This is kind of low for camera terms.

Here are a few general settings that you may find helpful to get you started
Shutter speed f-stop
Fireworks 1sec f/2.8
Floodlit building 1/2sec f/2.8
Brightly lit street scene (maybe with Christmas lights) 1/15sec f/2.8

Another trick to taking better night time photos is to use a tripod. Because you will be using slow shutter speeds you need to keep your camera still for longer than you normally do so camera shake can have an adverse effect on night time photography. Using a tripod will ensure you don’t suffer from camera shake.

Now you should be ready to start taking some photos!

1 comment:

CloClo said...

Really great advice - I took a photography GCSE a long time ago with a manual SLR but hadn't really thought to look into what my digital compact will do. Off to read the manual now!