Hey Fellow Photographer,

have you already tried your luck with night photography? While it is one of the more technical and more complicated areas of photography it is without doubt one of the most interesting and challenging areas of photography.

I’m going to show you with this tutorial some important basic knowledge in order to help you out with your first night photography experiences.

Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2.8 20 seconds exposure, ISO 2000, f2.8

How To Take Inspiring Night Photography Shots:

Shooting by night is something totally different as one does need to work with long exposures. But furthermore there are more challenges with night photography – for example the coldness. Better prepare yourself before heading outdoors by night, especially with a clear sky it can get pretty cold by night.

Let’s dig into the topic, here is what you need to know about night photography:

1. Use a Tripod

Surprise surprise. Night photography is about long exposures. As you’re about to have an exposure for around 20 seconds up to some minutes or hours you’ll need to have a good and stable tripod with you.

Have in mind that a more high quality and stable tripod is recommended. You’re camera needs to be stable (like really stable). A crappy cheap tripod might be too weak with upcoming wind, it might start shaking. So look forward for a more stable (and heavier) tripod so that your camera will have a robust place.

Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2.8; 5 seconds exposure, ISO 640, f4.5

2. Equipment

While I don’t want to recommend you a full frame camera (check out this article why not) a full frame camera is indeed recommended for night photography 🤙😬

The advantage of a full frame camera is the ability to work with a higher ISO. Using an ISO of 2.000, 5.000 or even 10.000 is the key with night photography. Still using a crop camera might work for night shots, but it is a bit more challenging ✌️

So my recommendation about night photography is using a camera that can handle a higher ISO.

Furthermore a wide angle lens is highly recommended, something between 8mm and 24mm will work the best. As night photography is about using the available light (so basically no light on dark areas) your equipment is pushed to a maximum. Therefore a lens with a wide aperture is highly recommended, so something around f2.8 or f3.5 🤙

About myself, I’m shooting my night shots with a Nikon D750 (full frame camera) together with the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8. That lens is a pure landscape beast with a wide aperture, so perfect for night shots 🤘

Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2.8 10 seconds exposure, ISO 1.600, f3.5

3. Settings

Talking about equipment, you need to know the stuff you’re using. Circumstances are a bit more challenging by night, so you need to know how to set up your camera manually. while freezing. in the darkness.

Still not afraid? Awesome! 🤙

As you’re already a pro with setting up your camera manually I’m going to share you my workflow right now.

Setting up the settings goes usually like this.

  • First I’m setting the aperture to f2.8 or f3.5. With this step I’m also setting up the focus. Finding a focus point is challenging by night as your camera might not have enough light to focus. Therefore I recommend you to do the focus manually (which can take some time).

 

  • Then I’m working with the exposure. An exposure of 20 seconds or 30 seconds will work for most of the shots. Keep in mind that a longer exposure will also lead to star trails.

 

  • Once the focus, aperture and exposure is done I’m working with the ISO. Take a test shot with an ISO of 1.000. If the image is too dark -> higher ISO. If the image is too bright -> lower ISO. This step can take some time until you’re having the right setting.

Those are the settings I’m generally trying at the beginning (20 seconds exposure, ISO 1.000, f2.8/3.5).

In case you want to get start trails adjust the exposure to a couple of minutes.

In case you want to shoot northern lights – set the exposure to around 10 seconds in order to get the moving light (10 seconds exposure, ISO 2.500, f2.8/3.5)

Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2.8 25 seconds exposure, ISO 2.000, f3.2

4. Location

Finding a fitting location for your night photography is another challenging aspect of shooting by night. In order to see as much stars as possible you need to be faaaar away from any city light. Thankfully there is a map for that. This map will show you the dark areas in your region – so those ones where you can experience the full night sky.

In order to help you out with your location scouting (day and night time locations) I wrote all my knowledge together in this free e-book. Click this link here to get your copy of it 🤙

The full night sky in northern Finland. As only a few people do live there this area is perfect for shooting by night. Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2-8 5 seconds exposure, ISO 1.600, f2.8

5. Storytelling

Finally – my favourite topic. A landscape shot can be awesome, but having a human element in your landscape image does create an emotional atmosphere.

Adding a human element into your night shot is pretty challenging because the element needs to be visible somehow. Therefore I do recommend a strong flashlight that is held towards the sky:

Create an emotional context with your viewer by adding a human element into your images. Nikon D750, 14-24mm f2.8 10 seconds exposure, ISO 1.600, f3.5

Final Words

That’s all you need to know in order to start your night photography journey. It is challenging at the beginning, but night photography is a wonderful area that can open a new creative photography experience.

Let me know your thoughts about shooting by night down in the comments! I can’t can’t wait to see what results you get! 🙂

Happy practicing,

Ingmar

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