Photography knows no sleep. Photo opportunities can happen anywhere at any time. Night time is no different. Have a new kind of night life with these photography tips:
• Shoot in Raw
Yes. This should come to no surprise. After all, RAW files have more bits, higher range of colors, and smoother transitions between them. During the night, the range of colors is extremely limited. That's why shooting in RAW is of utmost importance if you want to retrieve and enhance every bit of image information you can.
• Manual Focus
Auto focus can't function properly at night because the surrounding is less visible. It cannot fully distinguish objects and their distance from one another. The AF Assist might not be sufficient to aid in focusing. You might have to bring a flash light. To avoid frustration, use manual focus instead. You may set the lens to infinity and everything should fall into focus. Try a few test shots and adjust from there.
Logic dictates opening the aperture as wide as possible to let in more light. But it depends on your subject. A large depth-of-field is also perfect for night time shots. It keeps several elements in focus and allows more detail despite the distance. Doing so will mean less light so adjust your settings accordingly.
Consider increasing your ISO if the adjustments in the shutter speed and aperture are not enough. Keep in mind that a higher ISO value means more noise. Noise is most visible in the shadows. Since night shots are mostly composed of shadows, noise is more apparent. Hence, use the lowest ISO possible or the value that produces an acceptable amount of noise for you.
• Long Exposure
The shutter speed should be slow enough to allow ambient light to sufficiently reach the sensor. Use the Bulb setting for longer exposure times. This keeps the shutter open as long as the shutter button is pressed. You’ll need a shutter release for this. It is a great investment not just for night photography, but for all photography types. Preview the shot by taking a test image using a high ISO. Shorten the shutter speed then increase the ISO to the desired exposure value. If you're happy with the result, return the shutter speed and ISO to the original values to set the long exposure shot.
For long exposures, it's advisable to use a tripod to keep everything still. The slightest movement can ruin the shot. Plus, holding the camera for 30 seconds or so during numerous shots is tiring.
Aside from the tripod, use the self-timer to your advantage. Pressing the shutter causes camera shake, which is not ideal at all. To reiterate a previous point, a shutter release or remote trigger is a great investment.
• Metering and Histogram
Trying to capture more details in the dark areas might lead to overexposure of highlights. Use spot metering for the highlights to avoid it. Check the histogram to ensure that everything is well within the dynamic range. Most of the time, the images are underexposed. Our eyes adjust to the dark so the LCD screen appears brighter than it really is. Don't fret. As long as you check the histogram, any underexposed shots can easily be enhanced in post processing.
• Bracket and Blend
Sometimes the twinkling lights of the night are not enough. Another trick to capture a wider dynamic range is bracketing. This gets both ends of the color spectrum by shooting the scene with different exposure settings. Reveal intricate details in the dark and keep the highlights at bay. All the images are then blended or stacked in post process.
Night time has as much to offer as the day. So don't go to sleep just yet. Awaken a master photographer in you by taking a couple of shots at night.