Tips on taking better night photos

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Gary Hendricks, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. Hi all

    I run a small website on photography. One of the most common questions
    I get asked is 'How do I take photos at night?' Now, I'm thinking of
    posting some tips here on night photography. But I'm not sure if its
    appropriate.

    Let me know guys? Thanks.


    **************************************************************
    Sincerely,
    Gary Hendricks, Basic-Digital-Photography.com
    The best digital photography tutorials and how-to guides:
    http://www.basic-digital-photography.com
    **************************************************************
     
    Gary Hendricks, Oct 19, 2005
    #1
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  2. Gary Hendricks

    piperut Guest

    Hi Gary,

    There are a number of photo USENET news groups for photo topics.

    rec.photo.digital for digital photography.
    rec.photo.35mm for 35mm photography.
    rec.photo.equipment.medium-format for medium format (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7)
    rec.photo.equipment.larg-format for large format (4x5, 8x10 negatives)
    rec.photo.digital.slr-systems for digital slr

    There are a number of other photo newsgroups.

    USENET is broken down in different hiearchies. rec is for recreation,
    sci for scientific, soc for socialogy.. talk for information. I
    think we have 9 major areas in the main part of USENET right now. It
    used to be 8, but I think they added one recently.

    Then each major group is broke down into a sub section ... photo,
    skiing, travel, politics, and each subsection is broken down into a
    group. There is most likely a group for a topic you want. However, if
    there is not one, there are steps to go through to create a new group.
    If you follow the steps, and go about it, and really want the group,
    and get enough votes ... it takes two to three months to get a group.
    If you don't give up part way through. A number of group proponents
    stop part way through.

    Anyway, for most photo posts you want to post them on the rec.photo.xx
    groups.
    (We get an post once in a while about .. taking a digital camera on a
    cruise, or they have a digital photo kiosk on the ship for 40 cents a
    print.)

    For the most part, post like "How do I take photos at night" would be
    better off being posted on a photo group.

    roland
     
    piperut, Oct 19, 2005
    #2
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  3. Gary Hendricks

    piperut Guest

    opps, I guess I should watch which group I am in... I thought I was in
    rec.travel.cruises, not a photo group.

    roland
     
    piperut, Oct 19, 2005
    #3
  4. Gary Hendricks

    Dirty Harry Guest

    lol
     
    Dirty Harry, Oct 20, 2005
    #4
  5. Gary Hendricks

    Dirty Harry Guest


    Use a tripod and low iso with a self timer or remote cable release.
    Bracket.
    Use long exposure noise reduction mode (Canon digital).
     
    Dirty Harry, Oct 20, 2005
    #5
  6. Gary Hendricks

    Mr.Happy Guest

    set the exposure compensation to +2, use ISO400 or above, set shutter
    to 2 or more seconds.
     
    Mr.Happy, Oct 20, 2005
    #6
  7. Gary Hendricks

    Hunt Guest


    Dirty Harry has given you some worthwhile tips, but first, the shooter should
    determine that the "scene" is worthwhile in the first place, then decide how
    they want to render/capture it. There are many aspects to "night photography,"
    and a determination of the desired finished product should dictate how one
    approaches it.

    Hunt
     
    Hunt, Oct 20, 2005
    #7
  8. Gary Hendricks

    ASAAR Guest

    If it's one of the most commonly asked questions there, it'll
    sooner or later be asked here. That will provide an opportunity to
    reply with your tips. If they're really extensive, it would be best
    to post just a few of the most relevant, and add a link to the
    remainder on your website. You could also keep the same number of
    lines in your signature/trailer by removing "Sincerely" and adding
    news of your latest addition. Even better, add another line showing
    the "friendliness" of the website:
     
    ASAAR, Oct 20, 2005
    #8
  9. : Hi all

    : I run a small website on photography. One of the most common questions
    : I get asked is 'How do I take photos at night?' Now, I'm thinking of
    : posting some tips here on night photography. But I'm not sure if its
    : appropriate.

    : Let me know guys? Thanks.


    The answer to the question of "how do I take photos at night" will range
    from "you don't" to "get a carbon arc search light..." :) Depending on the
    desired outcome the answer will vary greatly. The main problem is that
    photography (the process of capturing an image of the light present in, or
    reflecting off an object or objects) by definition requires light. And
    different methods of adding, multiplying or concentrating the available
    light will cause different results. Each solution will have its own
    strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disagvantages, etc.

    For example, if the intent is to capture the image of the light as it
    appears to the photographer, such as stars in the sky or the lighted
    windows of a house, any method that uses adding light will either be
    ineffective or destroy the intended outcome. On the other hand, if an
    accurate image of relationships between objects or an attempt to enhance
    the viewability of a dim image is the intent, the inaccuracys induced by
    long exposure, or by light enhancing devices could destroy the accuracy of
    the image that is intended.

    The greatest tools for the photographer are imagination and flexability.
    If one idea won't work, maybe another will. Sometimes a solution that just
    pops into your head will turn out to be the "right" one at the time.

    Some of the methods for adding light can vary from placing hidden flood
    lights at strategic locations which will add lighting to the main
    subjects, to locking the shutter open and wandering around the image area
    using a hand operated flash to "paint with light" the subject. Sometimes
    the added light itself can be the subject. In this instance, a locked open
    shutter in a very dark location will allow a person or persons to move
    around the image area drawing glowing, apparently unsupported trails in
    the air with various light emitting objects. For example, on a dark night,
    a camera set on a tripod pointing down a very dark street, and a person
    dancing around holding a flashlight that is kept aimed at the camera or a
    light stick in a hand, will produce a glowing line that flows around the
    image following the "dancer". Each of these ideas will work and produce
    an image, but none of these images will look like the others.

    One other method of night photography is increased sensitivity. Either a
    "faster" ISO will be used, or a slower shutter speed, or larger aperture,
    or combinations of these. In some instances these are taken to extremes.
    For example if an image is taken with a shutter speed of 2 hours the light
    collected will be multiplied. But abberations from long exposures will
    appear and the numbers of them will increase the longer the exposure.

    Then there is the mechanical methods. A "night vision monocular" can be
    connected to a camera, allowing the "enhanced" image to be captured. Or a
    large aperture (telescope) device may be able to gather more light from a
    scene. A lens that is collecting light over a 4' diameter collector and
    concentrated with mirrors and/or lenses will be able to collect a brighter
    image, but a 4' diameter lens on your camera is definately not practical
    for hand held use. :)

    Night or low light level photography can be some of the most challenging
    situations. No one way will work for all situations. Each situation and
    desired outcome will require and eliminate many choices. So as I said, the
    most important tools are imagination and flexability.

    Randy

    ==========
    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
     
    Randy Berbaum, Oct 20, 2005
    #9
  10. Gary Hendricks

    Ron Hunter Guest

    By ALL means. That is a frequent question on this newsgroup, and a
    place to refer people in search of that information would be a service
    to the group.
     
    Ron Hunter, Oct 20, 2005
    #10
  11. Gary Hendricks

    Ron Hunter Guest

    Don't worry. Travel, cruises, and such are VERY popular among photo
    buffs. I, for one, have many photos on the internet documenting my
    cruises. They are quite popular, judging by the number of people
    looking at them.
     
    Ron Hunter, Oct 20, 2005
    #11
  12. Totally, like, really completely totally, a good idea, dude, and awesome
    in generosity. [Why I engaged in Valley Speak I dunno. To raise a smile
    somewhere I guess.]

    OTOH, there must be dozens of sites already to answer most questions.
    Another approach is to paste in a prepared text, sorta like a FAQ, for
    specific things.

    Gary- if you proceed your sig lines with a dash dash space return, it'll
    be set off by many Newsreaders, as well as being automatically snipped
    on reply [a good thing according to Martha.]

    As I've done here:

    Sincerely,

    --
    **************************************************************
    Gary Hendricks, Basic-Digital-Photography.com
    The best digital photography tutorials and how-to guides:
    http://www.basic-digital-photography.com
    **************************************************************

    Above pasted in. Post was by:

    John McWilliams
     
    John McWilliams, Oct 20, 2005
    #12
  13.  
    Ed Ruf (REPLY to E-MAIL IN SIG!), Oct 20, 2005
    #13
  14. Was this to illustrate that dashes don't work? to show you're
    iconoclastic? Something else I'm too stupid to divine?

    The dashes don't work as a sig delimiter if they aren't exactly as
    specified; e.g. no space before; two of 'em, followed by a space and a
    return.
     
    John McWilliams, Oct 20, 2005
    #14
  15. Gary Hendricks

    Cathy Guest

    Gary. I really enjoyed your website. There can never be enough tips on
    taking digital pictures.
    You have lots of good picture taking tips for a newbie like me. Hope you
    add some more tips sometime. Thanks.:)

    Cathy
     
    Cathy, Oct 20, 2005
    #15
  16. no need to break out into paranoia. A simple mistake on my part that sent
    instead of killed the reply after checking it.

    Funny though how you are netcopping sigs when there's been an ongoing
    off-topic political discussion under the Nikon D70 issues/questions Vs.
    Canon subject heading that is cross-posted to
    rec.photo.digital,rec.photo.digital.slr-systems,rec.photo.equipment.35mm,alt.photography
     
    Ed Ruf (REPLY to E-MAIL IN SIG!), Oct 20, 2005
    #16
  17. Gary Hendricks

    Alan Meyer Guest

    Looks like your eyes were reading the computer screen but
    your brain was cruising.

    Happens to me all the time.

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, Oct 21, 2005
    #17
  18. Gary Hendricks

    Alan Meyer Guest

    That's not a good idea unless you want to achieve
    a special effect unlike the actual scene.

    If anything, you really want to set the exposure
    compensation to a negative number. Without that,
    the camera autoexposure may attempt to render an
    overall dark scene a neutral gray - i.e., give it
    more exposure than it should have. Adding still
    more will make it look very light.

    Some cameras have a "night mode" that will lower the
    exposure for you.
    I mostly agree with that one. But if you have a tripod
    and there is no movement in the scene, you're better
    off with a low ISO and long exposure time for a cleaner
    image.
    I'm not sure about that advice either. You need
    to meter the scene if possible, or let the camera
    do it. The best exposure time might well be less
    than 2 seconds.

    Alan
     
    Alan Meyer, Oct 21, 2005
    #18
  19. Guys,

    Here are the tips I was thinking of:

    Tip 1: Use Long Exposures
    The key to successful night photography lies in a long exposure.
    We're talking about exposures measured in seconds. When a long
    exposure is used, more light is allowed into the camera, allowing the
    details in your night photo to be captured.

    The problem with using long exposures is that you may shake the camera,
    resulting in poor pictures. The way around this is to use a tripod. I
    prefer to install a tripod with a shutter-release cable to ensure that
    I don't jolt the camera at all.


    Tip 2: Take Control Shots
    One problem with digital cameras is that there are always some pixels
    on the image sensor which are bad. When taking day photos, these
    defects are not discernible. However, they are pretty obvious in night
    photos. How do we correct these? Here's a simple way - take a
    control shot, then use image editing to subtract out those bad pixels.

    This is how it works. The next time you're out to take night photos,
    go ahead and snap a picture of Scene A, as you normally would. Then,
    when it's convenient, take a photo of the exact same Scene A again,
    but with the lens cap on.

    Now you will have two images, one night shot and one control shot (with
    the hot pixels). Load them up in say, Paint Shop Pro. Switch to the
    control shot and select Edit and Copy from the menu. Next, switch to
    the night shot and paste the copied image as a new layer. Then, select
    the new layer and change the Blend Mode to Difference and click OK.
    You'll get the correct night shot with the hot spots subtracted out.


    Tip 3: Try to Capture Motion
    With a long exposure, you have many creative options when it comes to
    photography. This includes capturing motion. For example, have you ever
    wondered how those professional photographers shoot pictures of trails
    of car lights as they zoom down the highway at night? It's all due to
    long exposures. Try to keep this in mind the next time you're taking
    a night photo - you don't have to restrict yourself to still
    images.


    Tip 4: Play with the Aperture
    In addition to shutter speed (which determines exposure time), you can
    play around with the aperture size of your digital camera. There are
    two scenarios here. If you set a long exposure, try to use a small
    aperture to avoid overexposing any stationary lights. in the picture.
    On the other hand, if you set a short exposure, try using a larger
    aperture to avoid any motion in your shot.


    Tip 5: How to Use the Flash
    As a general rule, I turn the flash off when taking night photos. There
    are some exceptions though - one specific example I can think of is
    trying to shoot a subject in the foreground, with motion trails of car
    lights in the background. In this case, bring along an external flash
    unit and shine it on your subject manually. Set a long exposure, then
    have your subject wait until the picture is taken.


    Tip 6: When to Take Night Photos
    When's the best time to take night photos? I usually like to take
    them during dusk when colors and details are easier to capture. I'd
    recommend that you do some research on the evening before the photo
    shoot. Decide on the location, then come back the next day to take the
    photo at dusk.

    Hope they are of some use to you guys.

    *****************************************************************
    Sincerely,
    Gary Hendricks, Basic-Digital-Photography.com
    The best digital photography tutorials and how-to guides:
    http://www.basic-digital-photography.com
    *****************************************************************
     
    Gary Hendricks, Oct 21, 2005
    #19
  20. Gary Hendricks

    ASAAR Guest

    That's a good tip if the camera allows a cable to be attached.
    Most cameras these days don't - at least none of my digital cameras
    allow it. Other than using the self timer, another consideration is
    the amount of time the shutter is open. If it's longer than 10 or
    15 seconds, a slight amount of initial jitter may not be noticeable
    in the final image. So when manually pressing the shutter release
    button, if the shutter speed is less than 3 or 4 seconds it might be
    worth closing the aperture by a couple of stops to increase the
    shutter time. Assuming the subject is stationary enough.

    And of course do this after first making sure that the camera
    doesn't have the ability to map out bad pixels. :)

    I haven't taken very many night shots, but when I have, the white
    balance was usually way off initially. This is easily correctable
    by most cameras, but I wonder if there are any tips for setting the
    white balance for cameras with very limited options (such as only 1
    each for daylight, indoor [tungsten] and custom). Even if you could
    take a 20 second shot of a white/gray card, there are often several
    artificial light sources of varying colors. Unfortunately, these
    "limited" cameras probably don't allow RAW images.
     
    ASAAR, Oct 21, 2005
    #20
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