6 Tips For taking awesome night photography

Updated: 12 March, 2016 seen 525

I don't call myself a photography guru, actually I believe photography is a know how instead of I'm a guru photographer - beware of me. Today I'll share some findings I have learnt during past 170 days in frames of my 365 days photo project (take one picture every day).

Here is the fun fact - actually for the first time this year I was doing some cycling trip in Tbilisi at night (less vehicles) and I wanted to make just some Tbilisi night photos (see: Practicing Photography: Doing Night Shots - Tbilisi By Night) , so I could later write an updated article about night cycling in this gorgeous Caucasus city.

I took a tripod and thermos filled with hot coffee with milk. When I was on site to take some photography, after installing tripod (and watching how illegal fishermen puts nets in the river of Mtkvari almost in city center... yeah, it's Georgia!), I discovered my battery is almost dead (I hadn't charged it since last photo shooting). While deadly empty battery indicator flashed over my camera's back lid I still managed to take some photos (with long exposure).

Later, back home - overlooking my catch - I realized - my night photography has improved a lot, and that is the reason I decided to share some tips how you too could make much better night photography. See how my night image looked a year ago: Tbilisi By Night - Cycling Old Town To Didube

You don't need to own a fancy high end DSLR camera to capture night, any beginner level DSLR camera will be fine, even most modern point and shoot cameras (with manual mode) will be able to capture awesome night scenery.

1. Shoot in Manual mode

Manual mode is your best friend (and worst enemy, if you don't know how to use it). If you want to became a better photographer - always shoot it manual mode, don't take shortcuts using auto or P mode. Don't shoot in AV or TV mode - shoot in Manual mode. Learn Manual mode as quick as possible, and there is no better way to learn it by actually shooting in it.

One of the many Tbilisi bridges in night

One of the many Tbilisi bridges in night (5.0 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm zoom lens)

Set your aperture to largest available (the smallest f stop), allowing maximum of light to end up on your cameras sensor. 

2. Use a sturdy tripod

This should actually be placed as number one for successful night photography. Without a sturdy tripod there are 95% chances you will fail at night photography, because for taking decent night scenery your camera sensor needs more time to capture scene. The above image is exposed for 5 seconds. Without a tripod I wouldn't be able to get a tack sharp image. Use a tripod as much as you can even in bright daylight.

3. Search for the light

it doesn't mean there is no light available at night, there is no natural light, but if you are shooting in city there are plenty of light streams (lanterns, shop windows e.t.c)

Lantern and a restaurant

Lantern and a restaurant (1.6 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm zoom lens)

As more light source is available, the less time is needed for your camera sensor to capture scenery, I was able to capture above image from a tripod just in 1.6 sec (instead of five seconds for the first image)

4. ISO 100

To make the most of night image use the lowest ISO settings possible (as a rule of thumb ISO 100), as it might sound tempting to increase ISO - don't if you are shooting from tripod. You might increase or set your ISO settings to AUTO only if you are shooting handheld (which is not the best idea for awesome night images)

5. Compose your scene

Embankment of Mtkvari in Tbilisi

Embankment of Mtkvari in Tbilisi (5.0 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100, 18mm zoom lens)

Shoot from angles, shoot with strong foreground - experiment for best results. Don't just press shutter release button as a tourist in New York city, take your time, think what are you willing to capture. Make it work. The better you will compose your scene (and properly expose) the less time you will need to post process your images.

6. Post Process

Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular software photographers use nowadays. Get Lightroom, master it, and post-process your images.


Now it is your turn - what are your most recommended tips for awesome night photography? Leave a comment bellow!