Night Photography

One type of photography I enjoyed the most over the years is night photography, some things just look better at night. Some of the following are either handy or a must have to create images that stand out that bit more.

  • Tripod – This certainly makes life much better, especially in doing long exposures.
  • Camera with manual settings – very handy in having the ability to manually set the ISO to a low ISO number, the exposure to either a set time or manual time and setting the aperture to desired amount.  Auto settings often set the ISO to a higher number and try keep the shutter speed as fast as possible.
  • A experimental mind – Nothing like thinking if I change this or change that, what effect will it give?  Simple changes to various settings in a camera can give you a very unique look.
  • Timer / Remote Shutter – Very useful in the shorter exposure shots, even with a tripod you can get camera movement from pressing the shutter.

The following shot is of the Golden Casket Light Sphere at South Bank, Brisbane. Settings f/8, 30 seconds and ISO 100.




Working out exposure times when changing settings.

This is much the same as if doing it during day time shooting, if you have a correctly exposed photograph and want to change either the aperture or shutter speed.  For every step change in one, you need make the same step change in the other, as in if increasing shutter speed to need open the aperture size in the same step count.  For example if a ideal setting was 1/100 sec, f/16 and ISO 100 and you wanted to a shot with f/22 you would need change shutter speed to approximately 1/25 seconds to keep the same exposure. On my camera that equates to 6 step changes in aperture and 6 steps in shutter speed.

So if I was shooting at night and say if a correct exposure at ISO 100, F/1.8 and 1 sec and I wanted to shoot at f/8 I would then be using 13 steps with my aperture and would then need change shutter speed the same amount of steps, which would give me 30 secs shutter speed, as in the above example.  With these examples I was still in the range of settings that can select on the dials of my camera, so how would you work out times where require manual timing?

One quick method is to take note of the shutter speed changes for each step, then working out the pattern of the changes made.  On my camera the steps are 30,25,20,15,13,10,8,6,5,4 and 3.2 seconds on the shutter speeds. If I was wanting to go from f/8 to f/16 which is 6 steps on the aperture I would be wanting to change the shutter speed 6 steps which would give a rough value of 60 to 90 seconds, the 90 due to possible patter change to 10 second step change near the end.

Different scenes with different lighting amounts will require different amounts of exposure, the following was at f/8, 78 secs and ISO 100. From some of my earlier experiments in night photography.


Hopefully the above information is helpful to anyone venturing out into night photography for the first time.  Changing the ISO you would use the same basic formula, though I have found keeping the ISO at 100 or close to it gives the better image quality.  Same cameras can handle higher ISO figures better than others, which is good if trying to take photos hand held as can increase shutter speed fast enough and still get a reasonably good image.



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