Most of us who are amateur photographers tend to pack up our cameras as soon as night falls, and light, the important prerequisite for taking a picture, fades. And yet some of the most spectacular photographs you are likely to have seen may be those of the moonlit night sky, or a stunning cityscape etched against an inky background. So how do you go about night photography effectively? Here are some pointers to help.
1. Pick your subjects
Some of the most effective and beautiful nighttime photos are those of the night sky and celestial objects such as the moon, stars and the clouds. Natural elements such as a thunderstorm, streak lightning (if you can capture it) can produce awesome pictures as well. The empty streets at night or even those with cars present another excellent photo op.
Industrial areas at night can create starkly attractive compositions – brightly lit factories, perhaps with a smoking chimney. Abandoned buildings can evoke ghostly and mysterious effects, particularly when lit only by ambient light of the moon. Water bodies such as the ocean, rivers, lakes or ponds reflecting the night sky or a cityscape or lights can produce spectacular results as well. Fairs and brightly lit amusement arcades also present lots of photographic opportunity.
2. Night time photography techniques
Auto focus doesn’t usually work in nighttime settings so use manual focus. In order to minimize shake and to enable longer exposure times, use a tripod and a timer device. Manual exposure will also let you achieve results that you may not with auto exposure.
Use longer exposure and multiple flashes or a mobile flash unit for lighting up more of a dark area, and also to create interesting bits of shade and light. Use a flashlight to create interesting spots of light and contrasting shadows.
Often colored gels are used in front of the flash to create interesting tints to light up the object being photographed and some interesting shadows in contrast as well. This requires not only skill but imagination as well; one of the reasons why professionals get results immeasurably better than those that amateurs usually tend to get.
3. Keep trying and experimenting
Simply reading about the theories of photography may not convey the sense of what you need to do to take night time pictures. So experiment and take photos using multiple attempts to achieve desired results. To get artistic results or the sort of results that you see in magazines and professional photographs can take time to achieve, after you have understood what exactly your equipment is capable of doing and when.