Often, when traveling through a foreign land we find ourselves in front of an iconic building or structure at the worst possible time of the day – night. Though most travelers do consider night to be the worst possible time for photography, technically it is not a bad time. In fact, it is probably one time of the day when you can try out a number of creative photography tricks.
Normally when you want to do creative photography you need a lot of filters and other accessories. But the tricks that I am going to share with you requires just a camera and a lens.
Night time photography requires you to use a couple of features on your camera which you probably never tried before. One of them is the Shutter Priority mode and the other is the Timer Function.
Shutter Priority basically gives you control over your camera’s shutter speed. Set it really long such as 1” or longer and you get to capture a lot of light in dark conditions. When you set your shutter speed manually in Shutter Priority mode your camera automatically selects the correct corresponding aperture value. You can, however use exposure compensation to further tweak the aperture value for the desired depth of field.
Normally, when you shoot at night time you probably do what most photographers do, either crank the ISO number setting it at ISO 1600 or even higher or use the built-in flash or both.Using a higher ISO number always brings in a lot of noise in your photos. That means you need to shoot in RAW (which, by the way, is a good idea) and do a bit of post-processing (again a good idea). Using a flash for shooting something like the Arc de Triomphe is not feasible though.
No light is powerful enough for that. So, you have got to use a long shutter speed in order to multiply the amount of light.
So, basically the idea is not to capture a lot of light with a fast shutter speed, rather a lot of light, slowly, over a long shutter speed (long exposure). The results are the same though the quality of the images are far more dramatic in a long exposure.
The Timer Function on your camera allows you to control the time-delay between when you press the shutter release button and when the shutter is actually triggered. The intervening delay cuts down the chances of the camera moving when you press down the shutter release button.
This method is for those photographers who don’t have a tripod. This technique allows you to use anything on which you can put down your camera as a tripod. Use your camera bag for additional support.
Choosing a really long shutter speed allows you to set your ISO to the lowest possible number. Most cameras can shoot at ISO 100. A really long shutter speed has another benefit. The light from passing vehicles appear like a light trail which adds to the drama.
Choose a small aperture (big f-stop). A small aperture turns point sources of light like a street light or a tungsten bulb at a distance into pointy stars!
Have fun with these on your next night-time shooting sojourn!