Tag: tripod

Beginner´s guide to long exposure nature photography

Long exposure photography

is a technique that makes slow-moving elements (such as waves or the light trail of cars) appear in the photo mist like, blurry or elongated, while still, objects remain sharp and defined. The key factors for achieving this effect are low shutter speed and having the camera extremely stable. Using long exposure photography you can give a totally new dimension to your nature photos. I think you will love this technique and the photos you will achieve by using it. In today’s article, we will show you how.

Long exposure trails
This photo was taken at night using long exposure. The moving cars were too fast to be captured by the camera, but their bright lights were captured as light trails, giving a nice effect to the image.

#1. Use long exposure photography when you have moving elements in the frame

The effects achieved by long exposure are created because the moving object is captured by the camera many times during the time the shutter is open. We can achieve different effects depending on the amount of light the object is giving and its manner of movement, For example, a passing car at night is giving off light from its headlights and is moving relatively fast in a specific direction, so the effect we get is that we see the headlights as streaks of light outlining the path of the car the car drove through. On the other hand, waves, which do not give off the light, move back and forth on the shore and so they would make the water at the beach look like mist or a thick fog.

Long exposure_Clouds and water
In this photo, both the water and the sky were moving, but the buildings were static.

#2. To get a well-balanced image, add static elements in your composition

If everything in the frame is moving, you can end up producing photos with a dizzying effect. Unless you want this effect for creative purposes, I recommend you to include in the composition of the image at least one static element that will provide the viewers a point to rest their eyes. The contrast can also enhance the effect and make the image more balanced. A static object can be a rock, a tree, a house, a path… anything that does not move when you are pressing the shutter.

Long exposure_ Rocks and water
The combination of the static rocks and the buildings and the movement of the waves create a balance in this photo.

#3. You will need a tripod to avoid camera shake

As you will be shooting with low shutter speed, you will need to stabilize your camera somehow. One of the best option is to use a tripod. There are a lot of tripod models in the market. I recommend you to get a stable one which will fit your budget.

The tripod by itself won´t give you 100% stability. If you have a lens with image stabilization (also known as vibration reduction), it will be better than you turn it off when you have the camera on the tripod.  I know this last tip might seem contradictory, but these stabilization systems are meant for hand-holding situations and if you are using a tripod, they might cause shaking instead. Another tip is to avoid touching the camera or tripod while you take the photo. I recommend using the timer delay options of your camera to avoid the shaking due to the pressing of the shutter release. You can also use a remote control and avoid touching the camera altogether.

#4. Use filters to avoid overexposure

Nature photography many times takes place during daylight. If you want to take a long exposure photo, the first problem you will face is the overexposure. Sometimes even with the aperture closed as much as it can be and the ISO set to the lowest value, you might still have burnt photos. How to solve this problem? By using filters to reduce the light that gets into your camera.

Long exposure_ Overexposed

Long exposure_Beach sunset
The upper long exposure photo was taken without using any filter. As the sun was bright at that moment and the shutter speed was low, the image ended up being overexposed (burnt). The photo below was taken using an ND filter. As it stops light from coming into the sensor of the camera, the resulting photo is better exposed.

There are many different filters, but two types are especially interesting for long exposure photography: Neutral density (ND) and graduated filters. The first one is basically a uniform dark filter. There are different dark intensities. The more intense is the light in your frame, the darker your filter should be. The darkness of a filter is measured by the stops of light that they don´t get into your camera. The highest its stop number, the darker the filter is. Graduated filters are a variation of the ND filters. Their darkness is not uniform but increases progressively in a gradient.

Filters ND for long exposure
Filters can come in various shapes and types. Here you can see the left a circular ND filter, To the right at the top are 2 ND filters with 2 different stops (degree of light they can block) and in the bottom 2 graduated ND filters also with different stops.

 

ND filter example
The effect of ND filters is blocking light. As you can see in this overexposed photo., the area covered by the filter was corrected by it.

You can use one filter or stack several ones on top of the other. For example, you can use several rectangular filters in the filter holder or you can use one round filter on your lens and then add one or more rectangular filters using a filter holder.

Filter holder for long exposure
Rectangular filters are usually placed in a filter holder mounted on the lens.
How to place a filter for long exposure
The filter holders have slots into which the filters can be fitted easily.

Once in the field, I set the camera to the shutter speed I want in order to get the desired effect. Then I set the ISO to 100 and the Aperture that will give me the Depth of Field I want. I usually go with Apertures 8.0 or higher. To decide the filter or filters I need, I have to admit I do it by trial and error. I believe there is a formula, but when I am in the field, trying filters comes to me much more naturally. I start with the least dark filters and I progressively move to darker ones.

More than one filter long exposure
Filter holders have two or three slots that enable you to stack several filters on it.

#5. You might need to crop your image a little in order to delete the filters borders

When you use filters, and especially when you use several filters stacked, black halos or shadows it might appear in the corners of the photo. This is more evident if you are using a wide-angle lens or low numbers of mm. This can be solved easily. Just plan ahead and take a photo knowing that you will need to crop it afterward. I recommend you to how a look to Navanee Viswa´s tutorial to learn how to crop a photo using Lightroom.

Cubelles long exposure

Cropping long exposure
In the upper image, you can see black areas that are in fact the filter holder. The lower photo is the same one, after cropping it a little using Lightroom.

#6. You might need to deal with some color cast correction

Depending on the quality of your filters, they might add a color cast to your photo.

Color cast long exposure
This image has a purple tint due to the filter I used to take it. You can find better quality filters that don’t produce any color cast, but they are usually more expensive.

I am quite new to long exposure photography. When I decided to give it a try, I was not sure about spending a lot of money on my first filters. I got a filter kit that included a wide variety of filters in a really good price. Of course, they are not of the highest quality, but they still allowed me to experiment and discover that I do like this type of photography. As I use them quite a lot, I can think about investing in better ones in the future. For now, however, I stay with my cheap filters and I solve the color cast issue using Lightroom.

Long exposure edition
In the Develop module, look for the HSL/Color/B&W section and select Saturation.

 

Long exposure edition
Play around with the sliders of the colors that are giving you the color cast. In my case, I put down the purple and the magenta.

 

Long exposure edition
If you don’t like playing around with the sliders, there is another way you can correct the color cast. Press in the little icon marked with a blue rectangle.

 

Long exposure edition
This icon changed shape. This shape is also in your cursor.

 

Long exposure edition
Click in the area of the photo you want to correct and scroll down (because you want to decrease the color saturation. To increase it, you need to scroll up).

 

Cropping long exposure
Here you have the final corrected image!

If you prefer Photoshop, you can also use it to remove the color cast. Julian H explains how to do it in his article “How to remove color cast using Photoshop”.

#7. Keep your filters clean if you don’t want to spend a lot of time removing spots

Your filters might seem clean,but when you see the photo on your computer you might discover it is full of spots of dust or drops…

Dust in filter long exposure
That day I didn’t clean the filters and I ended up with a lot of ugly spots in my photos.

I remove them with Lightroom using the spot removal tool.

Long exposure edition
There are few dust spots that are quite visible in this photo.

 

Long exposure edition
But there is a way to see the dust spots even better! Select the Spot removal tool (blue square), click on “Heal” and in the lower part of the screen click on “Visualize Spots”. You will see your photo in black with white contours. The dust spots are the little round white spots. There are a lot in this photo!

 

Long exposure edition
With the Spot Removal Tool, select one dust spot. You will see that Lightroom selects an area from which it is copying the content. Repeat for each dust spot.

Believe me, if you have a lot of them, it can get really tedious. Look how crazy it can get!:

Long exposure edition

I have learn that it is better to keep a cleaning cloth with your filters and spend some time cleaning them before using (even when they seem quite clean). A minute of cleaning in the field could save you hours later (depending on how many photos you have) in front of the computer.

Long exposure cleaned from dust
Here the dust-free version of the photo.

#8.Take your time and enjoy nature

Long exposure photography is not fast photography. You need to set your tripod, choose filters (clean them), experiment different settings… I recommend you to take it as an opportunity to relax and enjoy nature. Sit down, bring something nice to eat and/or drink and have fun!

I hope you liked this article, please write me any questions or comments and have a happy shooting!

 

How to take great photos from unusual angles

When you take photographs of your subject, how do you usually hold your camera? Do you always photograph people or places directly, or do you dare to experiment with unusual angles? Though the beauty of a great photograph isn’t completely determined by specific angles, there are ways to enhance an image’s mystery, effect, and overall composition using unique camera positions. To do this, it’s important to embrace new ideas. Even in the world of portraiture, where flattering angles are valued, there’s space for camera angle experimentation. Here are tips on how to experiment in a way that will provide you with amazing results and valuable creative experience:

Don’t use your tripod

Instead of depending on your tripod for your camera’s stability and safety, use flat platforms in your home. Tables, couches, and books can all be great substitutes for a tripod. If there are other objects on your platform, don’t remove all of them; instead, leave a few to make your shot more interesting. Foregrounds have the potential to frame any shot beautifully. Additionally, raise your camera a little by placing something soft underneath the lens. This will provide you with an interesting angle which you can use to take photos of people, self-portraits, etc. To avoid damaging your camera, make sure that anything you place it on is completely safe. Though experimentation is wonderful, you don’t want to end up with broken equipment. This is why it’s safer to experiment without a tripod in your own home.

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Using less equipment to take eye-catching photos will be challenging. When I first began experimenting with self-portraiture, I had neither a remote nor a tripod. As a result, I had to run back and forth with the hope that my results would be sharp. My tripods were often tables, chairs, and armchairs. When I acquired both a remote and a tripod, I was thrilled. The contrast between using a flexible tripod and a simple table was shocking, and it allowed me to greatly value my new possessions. Sometimes you have to take a step back from your professional equipment and rediscover the value of everything you own. This challenge will shape you into a better, more flexible photographer.

If you’re not fascinated by the idea of temporarily abandoning your tripod, consider using a flexible one. Tripods like the GorillaPod can be attached to almost anything, from street lights to branches, and they can give you more creative opportunities no matter what kind of photographer you are.

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Shoot from a low angle

Out in nature, there are many plants and objects which can serve as brilliant foregrounds. Even shooting through branches will give you unique results. Combine this with a low angle and you’ll get unusual and eye-catching photographs. To achieve this effect, carefully hold your camera slightly above ground, finding interesting elements to shoot through while keeping the focus on your subject sharp. Though manual focus isn’t as easy to work with as autofocus, mastering it will save you a lot of time and frustration, especially when shooting through things like plants. Other things you can shoot through are fences, hair, and even your own hand. Don’t be afraid of being spontaneous, and make sure you give everything a chance to be a part of your work. In doing this, you’ll discover the beauty of objects that once seemed dull to you. This will stop you from taking details for granted.

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Look up

If you live in a city filled with towering buildings, let your camera look up. It’s easy to look ahead and ignore the endless amount of photogenic things around you, especially when you’re outdoors. Change this by taking the time to find unique buildings and photograph their vastness. In addition to familiarizing yourself with architectural photography, you’ll learn how to find beauty from every position.

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The more you experiment with angles, the more interesting your portfolio will become. You’ll find value in taking cinematic photos from low angles and in shooting everything above you. Furthermore, you’ll learn and cherish the knowledge that as a photographer, you are completely limitless. No matter where you go, be it a popular location or an abandoned village, you’ll find ways to pour your unique style into your photographs.

Happy shooting!

How to Capture Fireworks Photography

Throughout all history, humans have been fascinated by Fireworks, we all like the feeling of watching this combination of colors and explosions. This is not different for photographers, any photographer at one stage or another, dreams of shooting a great firework celebration, and who wouldn’t, so how to master Fireworks photography? This task for many of you that have not tried it might sound cumbersome and difficult to achieve. But don’t believe this myth with a few tips I will discuss in this article you will be set to go out there and start shooting Fireworks with great results.

This task for many of you that have not tried it might sound cumbersome and difficult to achieve. But don’t believe this myth with a few tips I will discuss in this article you will be set to go out there and start shooting Fireworks with great results.

fireworks photographyNikon D3100 ƒ/10 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:2s  ISO200

As many of other photographers when starting trying any technique, we try to think the more and more expensive equipment we get, we will get better results, this is not true. Is possible to get great results with non-high-end equipment.

For shooting fireworks you will need just the basics:

So Fireworks Photography How to?

Let’s start by discussing one by one the basic equipment required to go out there and start shooting.

15268271246_029310f947_bNikon D3100 ƒ/10 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:10s  ISO200

What Lens to use?

Most of the cases over 90% of the time I would recommend going wide, use a wide angle lens anything from 14mm~28mm.

Unless you plan to shoot the firework event from a really long distance (like a mountain or hill) to get the city skyline, but this brings other difficulties and this would require better and more expensive equipment.

The main approach of this article is based on the basis of shooting fireworks events from mid to close range distance, so go wide.

fireworks photographyNikon D3100 ƒ/8 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:4s  ISO200

Believe me, after you are stuck in the crowd looking for a good spot you will need to anticipate how high the fireworks will go over your subject, and you will need a wide angle lens for sure.

There are many wide angle lens that offers great quality for the price and performs great for fireworks photography and also other low light conditions. The first that comes up, if you are on a budget but want to get wide angle lens here are two I have used:

  • Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM (Good wide angle lens, fair quality and good results. Not for full frame sensors, Price range 450€)
  • Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 Aspherical AE AS IF ED UM (Very Good Lens for the price, Strongly recommended if you want also to do some astrophotography. Not AF, Price range 400€)

There is no need to have large aperture lenses used for low light photography.

Is wrongly believed that a large aperture lens f/2.8 or less is needed for fireworks photography this is why most of my fireworks photos are shot in the lens sweet spot aperture around f/8~f/11.

frieworks photography

Nikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:4s  ISO200

Tripod

Off course you will need a tripod, but which one? There are many good tripods out there. If you are into long exposure photography, night photography or any other that will need the use of a tripod, I suggest you buy from the beginning (if possible) a good carbon fiber tripod, because these tripods are really light and easy to carry around.

Look for versatility when looking out for a tripod, the different settings that will let you use it in different types of photography. For example, I use a Benro Carbon Fiber tripod that also can be set up as a monopod and different positions.

If you are on a budget any tripod will be good to start shooting fireworks events, remember is most likely that you will be moving around crowds and going light is the best way to go.

fireworks photographyNikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:10s ISO200 (not so good location due to crowded show)

Shutter Release

For remote shutter release, as many long exposure photographers will tell you to keep in your bag a wired shutter release. And why is this? from experience many of the wireless shutter release I’ve tried they tend to fail at one moment or another. In fireworks shows is critical you get your camera ready to shoot as soon as you want.

So if you like to carry around cordless shutter release is ok, but soon enough you will know the importance of taking your old fashion wired shutter release.

There are many white brands for any camera cheap shutter release you can choose from.

fireworks photography

Nikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:4s ISO200 (not so good location due to crowded show)

Camera Settings

Contrary to what you might believe, for fireworks, there is not need to have a fast lens (great aperture), you will always try to shoot on the sweet spot of your lens, this is usually f8-f11.

All photographers have their own tricks and you will get yours with practice, here are my favorite settings for shooting fireworks:

  • Always shoot in manual mode
  • Set your aperture in your lens’s sweet spot. I usually use f8 (as you can see in the examples)
  • Use low ISO settings 200-400, don’t go too high usually most bright fireworks with lots of white will tend to blow your exposure.
  • Set your focus to manual and focus at the subject distance, since you will be using a fairly good depth of field focus won’t be a problem.
  • Use your shutter release as soon you see the fireworks go up and hold the exposure until they have exploded.
  • Avoid shooting smoky parts of the show when you get too much smoke mixed with the fireworks is usually a blown out exposure not so easy to manage in post-production.

You can’t go wrong with these settings. Remember always to get really early to fireworks shows to get a good place and plan your shoot. So get out there and start shooting!.

When And Why You Shouldn’t Use a Tripod

The tripod can be your best friend when you are out shooting. It helps keep things stable, which is vital if you are doing nighttime or sports photography. It will get rid of the blur, and it will just make things easier for you because of that stability. At the same time, it can actually be a hindrance. First you have to carry it around, and you have to take extra steps to get photos when you have it. It is important that you know when to use a tripod and when not to, and what are the pros and cons of a tripod.

There is definitely a huge range when it comes to tripod quality and there are tripods for every need. From the cheapest tripod to the most expensive, they are going to do their job and help you when you need it. Knowing when not to use them is important because for something like street photography it won’t really help you. When you want on the spot photography, the tripod is not something that is going to help. If you are looking at getting long-term exposures or you are waiting for a photo, then the tripod is great.

So, let’s dive in and learn what a tripod can do for you, and what it can’t do for you.

tripod-1

The Positives

There are many positives to using a tripod, depending on the types of photos you are going to get. These advantages are:

Stability

The tripod gives you one thing more than any other and it is stability. The three legs make sure your camera is stable, and they will ensure there is no camera shake. Camera shake can cause your photo to be completely ruined and the longer you hold a camera, the more it is going to shake. When shooting landscapes, say, you need to have a stable camera to get clear, dramatic shots that capture distant settings and changing skies.

Long exposures

When you have a long exposure photo idea, stability is very important. If you move, even slightly, it will cause the entire photo to be ruined. A tripod will allow for the perfect long exposure and it will guarantee that you will have no movement when you are shooting.

tripod-2

Versatility

Want to get a photo from up high, or from down low, without having to contort yourself? That’s where a tripod is going to come in handy. It will get those extra levels for you. It will allow for some really great photos from some really great angles. For dynamic photos, angles really are a great way to make ordinary things look amazing.

Videos

If you are shooting videos, you are going to need to have a high quality, sturdy tripod. The smallest amount of shake can make your video look poor, unless you are going for that gritty look like you would in a documentary maybe. If you are doing time-lapses, you will also want a tripod because the smallest movement can mess up the entire time-lapse video.

tripod-3

The Negatives

As with anything, there are drawbacks to using a tripod. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a tripod, but understanding these negatives can keep you from wasting time with extra equipment when you don’t need it.

Slows things down

There’s no way around it, having a tripod is going to slow you down. You have to set up the tripod before you get the shot and that may cause you to lose that spur of the moment pictures.

tripod-4

Cheap tripods

The cheapest tripods are not always the best to buy because they may wobble, and they may not have a level for you to see that everything is even. They also break easily and can result in you just spending more money for a better one down the road.

Limited places

Carrying a camera around is one thing, and most people don’t care about that, but if you are photographing a crowded place, or in a tourist attraction with a lot of people, the tripod may get in the way. People will bump into it and it will become a hassle. Some places don’t even allow tripods because of the tripping hazard that they create.

Clumsiness

The tripod is a clumsy contraption. You have to carry it around, it may result in you accidentally hitting people, and it is just going to be in the way. The best thing to do is to only bring a tripod with you when you know you are going to use it. Otherwise, forget about the tripod and just get pictures with your camera and keep things simple.

tripod-5

The tripod is a great tool for the photographer, especially in a studio setting, but you don’t want to use one if you don’t need to. Choose to use one sparingly, and only when you know that it is going to help you. Don’t complicate things for yourself any more than you need to by having a tripod you don’t need.

Must Have Accessories For Landscape Photography

Imagine you’re standing at Glacier Point, shooting the beautiful morning sun as it rises behind Half Dome. Sipping on hot chocolate, you adjust your settings accordingly to the flooding light. The air is wet and there’s a faint vanilla scent from the surrounding Jeffrey Pines. You screw in your Graduated Neutral Density filter and take a couple shots. The sun is rising slow and you are in no rush, savoring each moment you have, just you and the camera this morning. Nothing else matters.

Landscape Photography

Compare this to someone who ran up, took a shot, and then ran back to their computer for post-processing. They don’t care about crafting the perfect image in the camera, they know they can fix it in post. No hot chocolate for them, no smell of the Jeffrey Pines. No memories other than the photograph.

Where would you rather spend your time? Perfecting the image in camera on location, or spending the majority of your time behind a computer trying to fix the image in post? This answer should not be difficult. What draws photographers to landscape photography is the promise of long afternoons hiking up to the perfect spot and setting up the camera, the sole focus for the next few hours is to get the shot, nothing more.

To ensure you can maintain this lifestyle, you will need a couple accessories in your camera bag. While you can find lists of up to 30 must have accessories, you really just need a few essentials to get started, the rest is up to your creative vision. You cannot buy that, nor can you buy experience. So get out there!

Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography Filters

Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is great for stopping down the entire image. It will reduce glare from reflective surfaces, like water or even from leaves, by stopping down up to 3 stops, depending on which filter you purchase. A polarizing filter will also help to increase saturation in an image. While you may think these are easily replicable in post-processing, there are certain aspects of reducing glare that will be difficult to adjust in Lightroom, requiring more advanced knowledge of the program.

Neutral Density Filter

While you may be able to get away with not carrying a polarizing filter in your bag, a neutral density filter is a must. These filters are offered anywhere from 3-10 stops on average. What’s great about a neutral density filter is it’s ability to block out light, which will allow you to adjust one or more of you camera settings to more of an extreme. You can see this in an image of a waterfall or river, where the water is blurred, the result of a long exposure. The neutral density filter allowed for the slow shutter speed, while still maintaining proper exposure in the image. This is something you could not achieve in post-processing.

Landscape Photography

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

A graduated neutral density filter works in much the same way as a neutral density filter, but as the name suggests, the filter intensity fades from one end to the other. The purpose of this is for scenes where the sky is too bright when exposed for the landscape. We’ve all seen images like this, where the sky is blown out. Just having a graduated neutral density filter can make the difference between an ok and mind-blowing landscape photograph. While this can be applied in post processing as well, getting it right in camera will ensure the most natural looking image, while allowing for more time in the field and less at your computer. Where would you rather process your image? In front of a beautiful landscape or inside on your computer. Again, not a hard choice to make.

Landscape Photography

Other Must-Have Accessories

Tripod

An essential accessory for landscape photography, a tripod will allow for those beautiful long exposure shots of star trails and blurred waterfalls. Even if you are shooting a classic landscape image, a tripod is essential to have, in case exposure requires a slow shutter speed. This will happen often, when you want the entire sweeping landscape in focus. The wide aperture requires a slower shutter speed, and increasing ISO introduces more noise into the image. When shooting blurred water to create a dreamy landscape, you’ll need to pair your neutral density filter with a tripod, otherwise there’s no way to achieve this look. When deciding which tripod to get, first confirm what you need. Does it need to be lightweight? Will it get wet? Does it need to hold up heavy lenses? Once you know what you are looking for, then you can narrow down your options and decide which to buy based on price point. There are options at every price point now.

Landscape Photography

Remote Shutter Release

Pairing well with a tripod, a remote shutter release will ensure there is no camera shake when taking long exposures. Even with a camera on a tripod, the act of pressing the shutter can cause unwanted blur. Remove shutter releases are inexpensive and small, not taking up much space in your bag. It really adds no extra bulk to carry one along with you, you’ll be happy to have it. It could even force you to become more creative with your shooting, trying multiple long exposure options where you normally would shoot handheld. It could add a new dimension to your photography.

Landscape Photography

While there are more accessories you can carry in your landscape photography, these are the essentials. Don’t get bogged down thinking you need a ton of gear just to get a good image. You can take beautiful photographs without even using the above. The most important is to get out there with what you have and start shooting. Buying more accessories will not make you a better photographer if you don’t know your camera. As your skills grow, so too can your equipment, but for now, keep it simple and enjoy the journey.

Night Photography Essentials: Part Two – How To Shoot?

Previously, in the first part of this article, we discussed the phases of the night and how to make sure you are photographing in the right time of the night. In this part, we will make sure that you are technically prepared to shoot in during nighttime.

Besides keeping a tab on the phases of night, it is equally important to know how to operate your camera in these situations, the pieces of gear that are necessary for these conditions, and some techniques that will come handy for better shots in general.

Equipment

DSLR

. Of course, you’ll need your camera. A DSLR camera is recommended (or a mirrorless one of equal grade) but any camera offering manual settings and decent lens and sensor would do. Having manual controls, good lens and sensor (by good I mean at least as good as an entry level DSLR with at least a kit lens), is quite important to nighttime photography due to the lack of light.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Tripod

Since you won’t have enough light for handheld shots 90% of the time, a tripod is something that is considered a must. Bear in mind that while a tripod will remove the shake induced by you, if the subject moves, there is nothing the tripod can do about it.

Remote Shutter Release

Since you’ll be shooting longer exposures most of the time, you’ll need a way to trigger the camera without touching it. This is due to the fact that no matter how sturdy the tripod is, it won’t remove the shake induced by you pressing the button. If you can’t get your hands on a remote shutter release, you can use the self-timer for the same purpose. Depending on the stability of the tripod you’ll need to decide between the two second or ten-second timer on the camera.

Spare Battery

Since you’ll be doing longer exposures, which eat up bigger chunks of your battery life, you can find yourself running out of power faster when compared to regular shooting. Therefore, have a spare battery or two with you at any time. And have them charged, of course.

batteries
Photo by Rob Nunn, on Flickr.

Flashlight

Since you will be shooting in the dark, after all, it would be good if you could see where you are going, or make sense of the camera controls and buttons faster (if you don’t know them by muscle memory). It doesn’t have to be a dedicated flashlight, more often than not the flash on your smartphone will do the job.

Camera Control

Manual Settings

. This is quite crucial since the metering usually aren’t as accurate in low light as they are in the normal light. Therefore you’ll need to control every aspect of the camera yourself. This is also to your advantage since different settings will produce different results for the same exposure.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

ISO

You should have the ISO at the lowest value possible. Especially if you are shooting landscape/cityscape shots, where you can have longer exposures without any issues. In this case set the ISO to the base value which is usually 100, with some older cameras it is rumored to be 200, but you can test this easily by taking two shots at 100 and 200, and compare the noise levels.

Aperture

If you want the light sources in your pictures to have light streaks (looking like stars and such) you should close down the aperture. The more aperture blades the lens has, the more streaks the light sources will have. This phenomenon usually appears after f5.6, or even more with some lenses. However, since you’ll be shooting on a tripod, stop down the lens a stop or two, to avoid the vignetting and softness from a wide open aperture. Somewhere in the range of f/5.6 to f/11 the lens should be the sharpest (also called the sweet spot), but you should test this out for every lens.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Shutter Speed

Having a fast shutter speed in low light is basically science fiction, except if you push the ISO to ridiculous levels, but then the images will look rubbish. If you need to photograph people in low light, you’ll need a flash or another solution to illuminate the people enough so they won’t be dark or blurry. Otherwise, don’t be scared to use long exposures. Even if bulb mode is necessary for exposures longer than 30 seconds.

Tripod

Instead of just having one, you should also be able to use the tripod accordingly. If it is not necessary, don’t raise the center column of the tripod upwards – it is better to fully extend the legs first, and afterward, if necessary, the center column. It shifts the center of gravity and it becomes less stable when the camera is hanging higher than the meeting point of the legs. Additionally, the last parts of the legs, the thinnest ones, should be used only if it is a make or break moment. They are thin, thus they will shake more. That is why more advanced tripods either have two poles per leg or are quite thick even at the thinnest points.

DSK_6089
Photo by Doo Ho Kim, on Flickr.

Remote Shutter/Timer/Mirror Lockup

In order to get the sharpest image possible, you need to minimize camera shake. As mentioned before, you can use Remote Shutter release or the built-in self-timer. As an additional measure (especially on full frame cameras) you can use mirror lockup mode. This basically lifts the mirror up before taking the shot, leaving time for the camera to stabilize from the vibrations. It also works with shooting in live view, since the mirror is already up.

Image Stabilization

If your lens or camera has image stabilization, and it is set on a tripod, it is wise to turn it off. The tripod is stable, and having the lens elements magnetized into a float position can induce motion where there isn’t any. Especially for Nikon users, since Nikkor recommends this in some of their lenses.

Summary

Now that you know what you need and how to control the camera in situations like these, you can get properly started in photographing at night. I am going to say it again: don’t fear the night, if you know what you are doing, and if you are doing it correctly, you’ll be able to take great shots after the sun sets.

In the third and final part of this article we will discuss how to handle specific scenarios using the information you’ve read so far.