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Night photography tips and tricks

Isabella Santoro

Photography Editor

Photo by Isabella Santoro

It can be difficult to capture just the right photo of a scene at night. The reasons why can range from it being darker outside to cameras needing time to adjust to the darkness. But it's easier than you think to capture the perfect photo of a skyline at night or even a scene of fireworks on the Fourth of July. Here are some tips and tricks to make your nighttime photography exquisite.

First and foremost is to make sure to use the exposure best fits the scenery outside. This works best for darker images such as the sky, especially when taking photos of the stars and moon. It’s best to see if you can find any light around your scene, but if you can’t, you will have to adjust your camera's settings accordingly.

The kind of exposure that works best for nighttime photography is long, and this is essentially when you use a long-duration shutter speed to get that beautifully clear image you’re looking for. I take most of my photos on a Nikon, which has a circular, disk-like feature that works as a dial to make sure you’re using the right method for your photo. A Nikon has a lot of options and many other brands of cameras do as well. Some of them require a flash while others don't. Finding which one works best for you may just involve trying out all of them and then looking back at the photos you’ve taken to see which one fits your end goal.

Another tip to keep in mind is avoiding lots of movement and noise around you. If not, it will be a whole lot harder to capture a sharp image, as during the night, the object you want to capture will not be as easy to decipher. To remedy this, use a tripod so your camera will not shake or experience a lot of movement.

Tripods can be rather expensive, so if you’re not able to get one, you can practice shooting in a way where you’re not moving much. Leaning on something may help as well. During my photos, I'll usually either lean on something to steady myself, or position my feet in a way that helps me capture the most stable image. This will both prevent shaking and keep your image in focus.

Using your camera in manual mode is another effective way to ensure a clear and sharp image of a nighttime scene. This mode will give you control and the ability to adjust almost anything, including your flash and focus.

Flash is also a crucial tool for nighttime scenery since it can brighten dark images, but you must be careful and not use either too little or too much flash. There are ways you can control the way your camera flashes. One way is the shutter speed. However, it's important to keep in mind some settings with flash will click fast and create a blurry image if there's too much movement. Other settings will click slower and capture a different, but sharper image since the camera is taking time to adjust to the setting around it. I would suggest finding a slower shutter speed for nighttime photography.

If all else fails, filters and adjustments are an option to look at. You can use a light filter to make your dark image appear brighter and vice-versa.

If you’re using a phone camera, there are many filters that will darken or brighten any image. An iPhone camera has filters such as Vivid and its many variations. iPhone settings on the camera app also have both exposure and brilliance tools to help perfect your image.

On a handheld camera, filters can be found that do the exact same thing, but if you want to edit it a different way, removing your SD card and putting it in a computer to view the image on a larger scale will help.

You can find a photo app on a laptop or a desktop that will have a wide variety of filters and effects. The best part is that you can play around with it, and for SD cards. If you add a filter while editing on the computer, it won't change the original image on your card when it's put back in the camera. This helps if you’re not sure whether you want an edited image or not.

Remember to have fun with it. Photography doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s all about testing the waters to find what you like best.


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