Shooting at night opens up a whole new world of photographic opportunities not available to us in the daylight. Cameras can see things our eyes cannot by accumulating light over time, making scenes appear brighter when captured with a long exposure time, and there are various amazing effects you can achieve by harnessing this light, only limited by your imagination!
Must have items in your kit before setting off include a fast lens, sturdy tripod, a shutter release (either wireless or cable), warm clothing, a small torch and a plastic bag. Yes, a plastic bag! You will find this comes in very handy if things get a little windy – just fill the bag with pebbles (or some other item with some weight to it) and hang it on the centre hook of your tripod to keep it firmly planted to the ground.
A fast lens with a wide maximum aperture (f1.2-f2.8) will gather more light whilst maintaining a reasonably fast shutter speed and keeping your ISO down to reduce image noise – great for the times when you are shooting hand-held. That said, you can get some very cool effects by stopping down and using a smaller aperture – lights will look like stars! If shooting hand-held try to brace yourself against a pole or wall to minimise camera shake.
Photo by Peter Michael
When using a tripod you will find that manual focus is easier than auto as it is not so easy to re-compose your shot when the camera is attached to a tripod! By doing this the focus will stay consistent and avoid re-focusing when your press the shutter, also minimising camera shake. This is particularly important when doing night photography using slow shutter speeds, when even the slightest movement can compromise sharpness. A shutter release will eliminate the shake caused by the physical action of pressing the shutter, particularly important when shooting in bulb mode when you need to press it at the beginning and also the end of the exposure time.
Have fun painting with light! Carry a small torch and you can use it to illuminate objects such as buildings, trees or even people by literally 'painting' the light on whilst the shutter is open. Here is an example of a creative image that can be made at night using nothing more than a torch and a willing model.
Photo by Alwyn Hanson