Sometimes taking a photo is not as easy as focusing on the subject and then clicking the shutter. Factors to consider when taking any photo include ambient and artificial lighting, zoom factor, camera position, focus, composition, and often times several other factors. Fortunately, with the advent of digital photography, experimentation through trial and error is not the costly endeavor that used to be the norm with old school film photography.
Perhaps, one of the most difficult forms of photography to master is night DSLR photography. This is because not only is the subject often times hard to find, but also because extremely low light levels require much longer exposures, which in turn require the digital camera to be rock steady. Below are some tips that any amateur photographer can use to master night photography.
The first thing to keep in mind is to choose the location well. Get familiar with the terrain during the daylight hours so you don’t stumble or trip when there during darkness. Also, remember that you will have valuable equipment with you, so be cautious about the areas you choose to venture into at night. Safety is paramount. If possible, do your explorations with another person for additional safety.
Batteries often discharge faster in cold conditions that can be present during nighttime hours, so it is best to carry spare batteries and also be sure to fully charge your batteries before going out on nighttime shoots. You should also be sure to bring along a good case for your camera as moisture during the night can easily permeate to your camera.
The best camera to use for night work is a quality DSLR since it will have manual exposure settings. Point and shoot cameras will leave too much to chance when it comes to handling low-light conditions. Another requirement is a sturdy tripod with rubber feet to minimize slippage on damp or inclined surfaces. A cable release will also be needed to enable you to hold the shutter open during longer exposures.
The most important factor in conducting nighttime photography is the requirement for longer exposures. As mentioned above, you will need a good tripod along with a cable release. After several nighttime shooting sessions you will develop an instinctive feel for exposure times based on the ambient light levels.
Use of flash
If the ambient light from the moon and surrounding artificial sources such as street lights and light from nearby homes and buildings is not sufficient for even an extended exposure time, then it may be necessary to supplement the light with a hand-held flash. More extreme forms of artificial lighting such as movie lights and even torches may be required depending on the situation and artistic objective of the shot. This then becomes a photographic technique known as “painting with light.”