In the world of photography, amateur or professional, here’s what we’ve seen too much of: Pictures of sunny days. Sunsets. Fall leaves. Bridges. Wedding photos on the beach. Puppies in fields of sunflowers. Soft focus senior picture style portraits with over-enhanced colors. Black and white engagement pictures with her lips colored red. Vignettes-a-plenty.
Blech. That list alone leads into reason number one for taking photos at nighttime.
Reason #1 For Taking Photos at Nighttime: Few People are Doing It
While there might actually be a good number of people out shooting in the middle of the night, there aren’t quite enough doing it to make us roll our eyes at another run-of-the-mill photo. And, we aren’t the type to latch onto something just because no one’s doing it — honest. That being said, nighttime photography isn’t cool just because it’s lesser known, it’s cool for other reasons (see below) but it’s a great opportunity to get out and explore a different side of photography. Your camera’s shutter speed is tired of living up in the thousandths of seconds, so why not give it a chance to open up for a while?
Reason #2 For Taking Photos at Nighttime: See What Your Camera Can Do
Any $100 point and shoot can take pictures at high noon. You shelled out the money for your DSLR for a reason, right? Right. So, put it to work. Your camera has some pretty spectacular settings that are hard to take advantage of in broad daylight. Maybe you’ve got a crazy wide aperture, ridiculously high ISO and out-of-this-world noise reduction capabilities. There’s no better way to show off/use these features than by waiting until the sunsets to start shooting.
Reason #3 For Taking Photos at Nighttime: The Lighting is Spectacular
Night lighting is completely underrated. It’s surprisingly easy to photograph (no need to worry about blown-out highlights) and there’s little editing involved. With the right settings, you can get reasonable detail in the shadows and just the right amount of light to illuminate the photograph. Starting just after the golden hour when dusk is settling, the lighting is just enough that you can still handhold. These photos typically have a surreal dark blue sky with an orange glow from streetlights and deep shadows. It’s pretty breathtaking.
Tips and Tricks
If you photograph after dusk settles, you’ll need a tripod to ensure that your pictures are perfectly crisp. If you don’t have a tripod handy or don’t own one, you can set your camera on any steady surface (cars, fence posts, tables, chairs, streets) for an interesting change of perspective.
Opening your aperture all the way typically works best if your camera has the capability to manually adjust to the proper shutter speed. You can also do the opposite if you’d like to play with light painting or long exposure times. Adjusting the ISO helps if you are in situation where you’d prefer to handhold and are working with a sufficient amount of light. You can shoot manually if you’d like, but your camera should have excellent auto settings for nighttime on its own.
Try to avoid using the flash, as it usually washes out the natural lighting. Don’t be afraid to leave the shutter open for a long time and don’t panic if your camera takes a while to process the picture. You won’t have to do much editing or post-processing if your camera captures the light properly.
Grab your flash light, have a fun light painting session or just step up at an intersection. You’ll be glad you did.