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Thread: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

  1. #1
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    Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Hi, I bought my camera two weeks ago (Lumix G1), because I really want to learn how to take good photographs. This camera does have point and shoot, but I intend to learn how to use it 'properly'. I've read loads of stuff on the internet about focal length, DOF, AWB, etc etc, and all of this information is now swimming around in my head, looking for somewhere to settle.
    Anyway, last night was dark with a fairly clear sky, and a bright, although small, moon. There are fields in front of my house with other houses and trees in the middle distance. I though I'd have a go at taking some night photos. I had to aim at the houses in the distance as the camera wouldn't lock focus any higher (focus priority, I guess), and when I took the shot with the automatic settings, I got a shutter speed of around 8 seconds. I ended up with a bit of camera shake, but the wierd thing was that the photograph looked like I had taken a picture of a desert during the day. everything was orange. I'm guessing that this is the street-lights, so I turned the colour down towards the 'blue'. This resulted in a much better picture, but it looked more like a black and white photograph, rather than a colour one, but taken at night, if you get my meaning.
    I think I'm jumping in at the deep end here, as I've read that night photography is one of the hardest
    aspects, but I might as well start somewhere. What would be good settings to try in such conditions to get a reasonable photo that actually looks like it was taken at night, and not in a desert?!!
    Last edited by aardvark; 25th May 2010 at 02:00 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Hi Kevin,

    I think we'll need to see your example here, there are many ways to do this, but using TinyPic is probably the easiest, here's how.

    Certainly night photography isn't the easiest thing to start with, but it can be done, as Sahil proved when he joined a little while ago now.

    The "desert" look is probably, as you may have guessed, a white balance issue. Normally having the camera on Auto WB prevents things getting too bad, but Sodium street lighting usually fools this and it still ends up looking orange. There's more on this here and here

    It sounds like you need a tripod to successfully tackle longer exposures to avoid camera shake, but if you improvise with what's around, and use the self timer to start the exposure so you don't touch the camera at all, you can rest it on a large rock, a wall, a bench, or whatever is available.

    It might also help us to know if you are shooting RAW or jpg?
    and what PP software you are using?

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 26th May 2010 at 03:11 PM. Reason: correct spelling

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Hi Kevin, Welcome to the forum.

    First thing I'd recommend is that you get yourself a tripod. You will find many occasions, both night and day, where a tripod is essential.

    What photo manipulation / editing software do you have ? The first image you describe could easily have had the orange cast eliminated by referencing a white light source in the image.

    The characteristics of night photography can be challenging. Moonlight casts far more distinct shadows. Even though the Sun and Moon are presently the same angular size, the area of sky around the Moon is not bright like the Sun lit sky. This is what contributes to the harsh shadows. You will also find that lights which appear as white can be captured with a variety of color casts depending on the type of light source. I recommend that you avoid using a Which Balance setting of "Auto". In many cases, the camera will be selecting what it determines as the appropriate white point and you'll never know what it actually used. If you select any one of the "fixed" White Balance values, at least you'll know what setting is being used and then can alter the look easier in post processing. Shoot RAW, as this will capture a greater dynamic range, dark through to light, than a JPG making post processing less of an head ache. If your camera is capturing night scenes as day lit deserts, great !!! That means your getting a nice broad dynamic range to work with. In post processing, just "turn down the lights" as it were to bring the scene into your expectations.

    I suggest, if you haven't already, get something like Photoshop Elements (Cheaper than full Photoshop). You'll find the Gimp is free but it's limited to only 8 bits per primary color and that is insufficient for quality photography.

    Good luck, ask as many questions as you wish, remember that the only dumb questions are the ones which don't get asked. The key to successful photography is finding the technology that provides the capabilities you need and transcending the headaches that are bundled with it. No camera system, irregardless of manufacturer or cost, is perfect, all have their limitations and strengths. Learn the specifics of yours and you'll get where you want to be.

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Thanks guys, I think it's just a case of taking experimental shots and then relating them to the theory I'm learning. (I deleted the shots a I took, so can't upload them, but if I get more unusual images that I find puzzeling (and I will...!!), I'll put them up).
    I'm just taking .jpg at the moment 'til I get a bit more experienced, then I'll start on the RAW with post production. I have a piece of software called SilkyPix which came with the camera. I also have a full version of PhotoShop, which I believe, can use a downloadable RAW plug-in (Would that be better than SilkyPix?!). More stuff I have to learn how to use!!
    I think I'll leave night shooting and just concentrate on the easy stuff for the time being (cat in the garden, flowers, etc) and just see what happens when I alter the settings. An evening course at a college might not go amiss...
    Hope you're ready for loads of questions !!!!

    But just for the record vis-a-vis my night photograph, I think I've learned from the examples in your reply that auto mode will probably not work in this case, nor will AWB. I should use a low ISO (My auto-mode photo selected ISO400 I seem to remember), a relatively fast shutter speed (NOT 8 seconds!!), and tungsten WB.
    I assume also that a small focal length combined with a small aperture would give me greatest view angle with most depth of field? Then I have to start thinking about exposure, so slower shutter speed. oh that's where the tripod comes in!! (I've read a few articles discussing whether or not focal length actually affects DOF. I'll have a look at the tutorial on this site....I think the consensus is that it doesn't, zooming in just magnifies the out of focus parts of the background......)

    Anyway, thanks again!
    Last edited by aardvark; 25th May 2010 at 03:09 PM.

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    I have SilkyPix and Photoshop, for me, I just prefer Photoshop.

    Yes, Photoshop does come with Camera RAW which allows reading and processig a multitude of camera formats.

    I do recommend that you read through the CiC tutorials, might save you that night class tuition. What's nice is the tutorials are very complete, more get written and added all the time, and they stay here when ever you need to refer back to them.

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    but it can be done, as Sahil proved when he joined a little while ago now
    You remember that?? I am impressed, Dave

    Long exposure with camera set to auto mode? Am I missing something here. Actually, I am recovering from a bad hangover, so could not read all of the text.
    Kevin, set your camera to Shutter Priority mode (generally displayed as 'S') and try varying speeds. And yea, using self-timer would really help. Hope to see some of your night shots soon.

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    You'll find the Gimp is free but it's limited to only 8 bits per primary color and that is insufficient for quality photography.
    Mmmm? Agreed, it's not as good as 16 Bit and we're all waiting for the 16 Bit version to appear. But ....!

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Kevin,

    Check out this thread for ideas.

    How to photograph the moon?

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Actually , I think I had the camera set to Aperture Priority when I got the long exposure time. That would make more sense...

    Anyway, I'll try again...

    On a joyous note, I actually managed to take a 'potrait' picture of my big toe last night, with the background all blurry, using the 'M' mode set to f/5.6 and 1/6th sec rather than just switching to the 'portrait' mode or using auto. I even managed to work out the correct white balance setting. I know it's not much, but I was ecstatic! When I repeated the shot in 'portrait - indoor' mode, the picture was the same. Finally the theory is kicking in - it's really satisfying when it all starts to come together!! (Told you I was a beginner!!)

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by aardvark View Post
    Finally the theory is kicking in - it's really satisfying when it all starts to come together!!
    Yes it is.

    And just keep reminding yourself of that when the next phase of 'I'll never understand this, I'm going to pack it all in', hits in .... as it will. These 'ah-hah' moments will come along as you get more and more into it and your understanding and knowledge develops. Just keep enjoying it.

    ps: Should've added - And I'm sure it's a lovely big toe!!
    Last edited by Donald; 26th May 2010 at 02:50 PM.

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    Re: Night time shots - I'm a beginner!!!

    Yes, it's not bad, but I think I need to get around to more interesting subjects!!!

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