night time photography tips

Just a couple of night time photography tips from a recent photo shoot at a local carnival. I had been wanting to see how my new Canon 5d Mark iii would perform doing some night time photography. I walked to a local Labor Day Weekend carnival to test my new camera and do a little relaxing, fun photography.

The only photography gear I carried was the Canon 5d body, a 24-105 zoom lens, my Rocketfish carbon-fiber tripod and a remote shutter cord. I also had a brand new 16 gigabyte memory card, a freshly charged camera battery, and a small, pocket, LED flashlight.

Poor composition in a nighttime  photography shoot
(This nighttime photo was taken with an exposure of 1.3 seconds at f7.1)

It does have some interesting colors and blur patterns, but I think the composition is lacking a bit. The three amusement rides in the photo above all have about the same visual weight and there is no center of interest to grab our attention.

When taking nighttime photos it's easy to pay attention to the shutter speed, the exposure and the focus and forget about good composition technique. I did a better job with composition in the photo below. I used the railing on the left as a leading line into the photo and used the trees in the top corners as framing devices.
Good composition from the night time carnival photography shoot
(This nighttime photo was taken with an exposure of 1.6 seconds at f11)

Even better composition here. Similar to the one above it but with an added burst of color and blur from the amusement ride behind making it a better night photograph.
Link to Larger Night Photo
(I used my camera's self timer. My shutter cord was broken)

The biggest challenge in night time photography is to pay attention to all aspects of good photography. Many of tend to focus just on the required equipment and camera settings. It is important to experiment with the exposure and composition so that you get a variety of results. You are more likely to get a successful photograph by changing perspective, composition and lighting when dealing with an abstract form of photography.

Most night time photography is done by using a bulb exposure or bulb mode on your camera. The obvious night time photography tips involve equipment choice and camera settings. First is the equipment list.

  1. A tripod is a necessity, unless you want photos with intentional blur.
  2. A shutter cord is extremely valuable, although when you hear my story, you'll find out what I had to do when my shutter cord didn't work. You can use your camera's self-timer function
  3. My Flashlight was needed. It was very dark where I set up and I had to make many camera adjustments while shooting.
  4. A zoom lens allows you to change perspective and composition.

I actually used my aperture priority mode and set my exposure compensation to underexpose between 2/3 to 1 + 1/3 stops. The camera's meter can get fooled by all of the very dark areas of the night and over-expose the lights from the amusement rides.

And of course, Joe-Pro Photographer had a shutter cord that wasn't working. I had to use my camera's self-timer on all of the photos. Pushing the shutter button manually will cause camera shake and image blur during the long exposure times that are necessary with night photography.

The last of the night time photography tips is given to you with a word of caution since I am a real camera and technical geek. Use your camera's histogram to check your exposure.

You can just look at your LCD screen and get a rough idea of how your camera handles the unique lighting conditions involved with night photography. Learning to understand a histogram can really help you improve your digital photography.

I really like to use the histogram to judge the specific highlight and shadow values, sometimes even in the three different color curves for red, green and blue light, but hey, like I said-I am a camera geek.

Above all else I hope this article has inspired you to try some night time photography as well.

As my friend Walt says, let's try it: "Just for Kicks"

Happy Night Shooting!


night time photography tips links

Youtube Video on Shooting Night Photos

Back to Nighttime Photography

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