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.

The road to the Climatron

Like the road to OZ, this scenic path is part of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Garden Glow exhibit.

Sections of the grounds are decorated with lights and are open to the public to wander wherever they wanted.

This is a three shot HDR photo processed in Photmatix and Lightroom. Except for light displays, the paths were unlit and very dark. Photomatix brought out the path and trees around it. Lightroom helped with the detail.  The photo was was taken with a Nikon D7100 and a wide Sigma 10 – 20mm 3.5 lens. This photo took about 3 minutes to capture.

Missouri Botanical Garden Gatehouse

The Missouri Botanical Garden now decorates their grounds for Christmas with lots of great exhibits. Their “Garden Glow” has now become an annual event and brings thousands of people to their facility. The nice people at the botanical garden had a special showing this evening for photographers only. I spent several hours roaming the grounds and here is the old gate house for the Shaw estate:

Everyone loves Santa

Every year I am honored to be the photographer for Guardian Angel Basset Rescue’s “Photographs with Santa” at St. Louis’ Museum of the Dog. This is a fun event where dog owners line-up to have their Best Friends photographed. This produced one of those classic photos shown here.

Guardian Angel (GABR) is a very successful Basset rescue organization in the Midwest. Every year they host the Illinois Waddle in Dwight, Illinois (just Southwest of Chicago), a two day event where a 1,000 Bassets gather to have fun and gather in the street. This is something you have to see to believe. If you do not have a Basset, you can stop by the event in September and pick-up one!

Reba and Dobber

The Beacons

In a few short weeks this lake will be frozen solid until April or May. This is the Beacon’s Resort Boathouse, a very large structure which is a centerpiece of Lake Minocqua in Northern Wisconsin. An early morning during a heavy fog provided some surreal scenes.

The Beacons

Kirkwood Station

The holidays mean travel to meet friends and family and nothing signifies travel better that Kirkwood Missouri’s train station. I drove to Kirkwood late in the afternoon to photograph the station at sunset. This photo was taken well after sunset and the resulting photo was dark with a few highlights showing. However, I used the RAW mode which captures all light available, including features you normally cannot see. Post processing a single photo in Photomatix and finishing in Lightroom brought out the wonderful colors and sunlight.

Feel free to share.

© E.L. Engler Photography

St. Louis Art Museum

Here is a shot of the St. Louis Art Museum (with King Louie on the horse). This is a three shot HDR photo to bring our the texture in the clouds and wonderful lighting on the statue and building. The camera is on a tripod and the lens is open long enough to see movement in the stars.

St. Louis Art Museum

Red Boathouse

You do not have to travel across country to visit a scenic area. One beautiful area in the Midwest is Northern Wisconsin and its Northwoods. Lake Minocqua hosts many attractive well maintained boathouses and is worth visiting just to see the these structures. Here is a large red boahouse that always makes a great subject for photographers. This is a three shot HDR photo, processed in Photomatix and Lightroom to bring out the color and the storm clouds.

Minocqua, WI

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