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Thread: Night time photography

  1. #1

    Night time photography

    Hi I'm slowly getting In to photography and love night time photos, I own a canon 600d, and getting use to the settings, any tips on settings as iv been asked to take pictures of my mates black vw at night, thanks

  2. #2
    rawill's Avatar
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    Robin

    Re: Night time photography

    Can I add, I want to take photos at night with out a flash.

    What ISO and speed settings might work. I am about to start experimenting.

  3. #3
    Rhoads238's Avatar
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    Jason

    Re: Night time photography

    Hey woody, welcome to cic! you are probably going to want to use tripod as that will allow you to use slower shutter speeds than would be possible to hand hold, allowing for more light to reach the sensor. If you don't have one you can raise your iso and choose a larger f stop to allow more light in. Just try bracing against something to stop the camera from moving. It would help to try this in an area with street lights or something to help as well.

    Robin, as already mentioned. Use of a tripod will be necessary. For night shooting i generally will shoot a moderate f stop, with a low iso and a long exposure time. White balancing can be challenging at times. Often scenes will contain a mixture of white balances so you will have to decide which you want to be white. Auto white balance can work but it often wont cover the full gamut of temperatures. For example there isn't a preset white balance, generally, for sodium vapor lighting like in those yellow/orange streetlights. You can compensate for that by setting a kelvin temperature in the realm of 2700 but of course you can always shoot raw and worry about it later.

    Hope any of this helps,

    Jason

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    Pavel

    Re: Night time photography

    Woody6791,

    Before discussing various settings, please tell us more about lens you use. Using kit slow F/3.5-5.6 lens will make your camera set ISO to it's upper limit or to values where noises are clearly visible. There is no other way since there is no light and camera will have to amplify pretty weak signal as much as possible. Camera automatics will be always amplifying under complex lightning conditions. Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Pavel

  5. #5
    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: Night time photography

    Woody and Robin,

    The answers depend on what you want to shoot. for example, night shots with star trails after astronomical twilight are somewhat different from city shots with artificial lighting in the same hours, and both are different from shots taken just after sunset. If you can be more specific about what you want to do, it might be easier to give you advice.

    True night photography entails a lot to learn. There are two e-books I have found that are very good introductions. One is Mark Bowie's The Light of Midnight, available here: http://www.markbowie.com/latest.html. Another, which I only found recently, is Alister Benn's Seeing the Unseen, available here: http://harvestinglight.net/seeing-the-unseen/. Both are packed with practical advice and examples.

    As mentioned, you will need a tripod. You will also want a remote shutter release, either a cheap cable release or an electronic one.

    Re lens speed: it is not always the case that you need a fast lens, although for some purposes you do. I'm going out on a night shoot tonight, and as of now, I plan to take only my EF-S 15-85 f/3.5-5.6 and my EF 70-200 f/4, although I might throw in an f/2.8 lens too (the fastest I own). I'll post below a shot I took with the former lens, at f/4.5.

    You will generally want to keep ISO as low as you can, which means long shutter times. the maximum your camera can handle will depend on the model and the outdoor temperature. YOu will have to experiment with that. Mine becomes unusable after 20 minutes on a warm night. Under most conditions, you will want to use subtractive noise reduction (called long-exposure noise reduction in the Canon world.) This takes a second, blank exposure of equal duration, computes the location of sensor noise, and subtracts it from the preceding image. Unlike regular noise reduction, it does not lose detail. In other cases, you may want to take a series of short images, in which case you have to make do without the noise reduction because it ties up the camera.

    Dan

    Night time photography
    Last edited by DanK; 4th April 2013 at 03:20 PM.

  6. #6
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Night time photography

    There are many different varieties of night-time photography as mentioned above. If I were desiring to photograph a black vehicle at night, I would place that vehicle in a location where there would be reflections of ambient light sources.

    Often night shots include lighted buildings such as this shot of the San Diego skyline...

    Night time photography

    Although it seems counter-intuitive, over-exposure is one of the biggest problems when shooting night shots that include lighted buildings. I will often use Auto Exposure Bracketing combined with a -1 stop exposure reduction which will give you three shots, one at the meter reading. one at 1-stop below the meter reading and one at two stops below. This will normally provide at least one perfectly exposed image and will often provide the basis for an HDR image.

    Shooting right before sunset at the magic hour will also be a good bet. You will then be able to include the shape of the buildings with the lights on...

    Night time photography

    I would not worry too much about color balance but, I would definitely shoot in RAW so I could adjust the balance to what is pleasing to me...

    A tripod is a wonderful addition to night photography. It will allow you to shoot at shutter speeds too slow to hand hold. Often cars in shots with slow shutter speeds can increase the artistic look by providing light trails. If you are using a tripod, release your shutter by either using a shutter release (corded or cordless) or tripping the shutter using the self timer. This will prevent camera shake induced by your finger on the shutter button.

    There are other ways to stabilize your camera, by resting on a wall, bracing against a tree, etc. Using a monopod can help with slower speeds but, will not allow the really slow speeds unless you secure the monopod to something. I always carry two lengths of double sided Velcro material; each about three feet (~ one meter) long. These are very light in weight and will often allow me to secure my monopod to a stationary object like a fence.

    Sometimes, you don't have a tripod with you or for some reason cannot use a tripod. I was to the rear of the crowd on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong Harbor assembled to watch the Hong Kong Light Show. Since I needed to shoot over the heads of the people in front of me, I could not use my tripod...

    Night time photography

    I boosted my ISO to 800 (which was the maximum I could safely use with a Canon 30D), set the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens wide open and turned on the IS. This provided an exposure of 1/25 second at f/2.8. I had the lens at 55mm for this shot. In this case, the f/2.8 aperture really came in handy. If I were shoting with a slower lens, I would have needed to use a slower shutter speed or a higher ISO...

    If you are shooting city scapes, generally the best time of the year would be the dead of winter because the buildings are usually illuminated since most of the offices are still open after sunset. The offices are usually closed at sunset during the summer so the buldings are not lit as well at night. Of course, in some areas, it is pretty darn cold at night during the winter.

    If you have some weather protection for yourself and your camera/lens, don't disregard rainy evenings for photography. The ambient lights reflecting of wet pavement can add a lot to an image.

    Also, cary a small penlight to help you with any camera adjustments and to prevent falling in the dark...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 4th April 2013 at 06:02 PM.

  7. #7

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    Frank Deland

    Re: Night time photography

    Nice photo, Dan. I especially like the look of the water.

    If you do not have a remote or cable release (get one!) you can use the shutter 2 sec. delay. The idea is to get your hand off the camera to prevent even the smallest shake. Some even secure the wire of the cable., so that it does not jiggle.

    Shoot in RAW and play around with white balance later. On scene, however, try tungsten for an all blue look that often works with a night sky!

    I have been playing around with using a spot light to lighten up areas for more detail. For example, in Dan's photo, over a 30 second or so exposure, if a spot light was blinked onto those trees on the right, they would be brighter showing more detail and still looking natural. It also might have reflected too much off the water. Not sure.

    Anyway, I think you will be amazed at how bright night scenes can be without flash, but with long exposures. What looks like total blackness in your viewfinder can result in quite a light image after a long exposure. Just experiment and be surprised! When Dan looked through the viewfinder, he probably did not see the movement of the stars. Try a 3 second exposure of the moon and it will appear blurred as it has moved. If you do not use a tripod, or some solid support like on top of a rock, you will get motion blur. But, this also means, you can create some neat effects with intentional blur.

    Remember to use manual focus. Cameras need light to focus on, so pointing it at a dark sky or other dark areas will not work. A flashlight can help. For example, shine light on to a nearby rock, focus on it with auto focus. Turn off the light, switch back to manual focus so that the camera will not try to search for focus again,, take the shot, and the focus should be fine.

    PS Before I posted this, Dan's photo was directly above. Great examples, Richard!!

    Don't worry about lack of city summer lights at night in Boston. The cleaning crews are often at work in the skyscrapers, the many hotels are well lit, statues have spot lights on them in the parks, streets are busy, too. Plenty of light! Get the star-burst effect on street lights using a small aperture.
    Last edited by rambler4466; 4th April 2013 at 07:02 PM.

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