How to Take Photographs at Night

Garden Glow-32Recent posts here are from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s “Garden Glow.” This consists of a number of lighted displays throughout the garden grounds. Between the displays, it is very dark. A photo of one of the displays may look like the photo to the right but you may want get more detail like the same picture below. Here are some steps to follow to get better night photos:

  • Use a tripod. You want to avoid any camera movements since the camera shutter is open for longer periods of time. Don’t scrimp here, more expensive tripods are worth it.
  • To reduce camera shake even further, use a remote release (if there is one available for the camera). Some remotes have a wire attached to the camera and some are wireless. The type connected to the camera would be best. If you do not have or cannot get a remote release, try a delayed timer. Some cameras have the ability to set a 2 to 10 second timer that will delay shutter release. Using this will allow the shutter to release without possibility of moving the camera.
  • Shoot in camera RAW to allow for more data to be recorded and allow for better editing on your computer (post processing).
  • Use a low ISO to reduce noise.
  • If you can, set your camera to Aperture Priority so you can control depth of field.
  • Suggested settings: ISO 100; f16; the camera should choose the exposure time. In this case, it was 30 seconds.
  • Post processing in programs like Picasa, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom will allow you to bring out detail hidden by the darkness.
  • More advanced photographers can try HDR (High Dynamic Range) methods which will allow more flexibility in processing the image. Here you would take three photos (more or less) at different exposures to find more detail in the scene. Software programs like Photmatix can be used to combine and edit the photos.

Do not worry about people walking in front of the camera while the shutter is open, they will not be in front of the sensor long enough to register an image.

I hope this helps. Night photography can be very rewarding and open new horizons in your photography.

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