Night scene photography

Night scenes photography have a mood and excitement all their own. To make them you'll need high ISO setting, a tripod and a cable release. In some cases you may want to take along a flash attachment for supply extra fill in light.

For outdoor pictures with limited illumination, use a time exposure with your camera securely held on a tripod. Good "time exposure" subjects include night street scenes, fireworks, moonlight, campfires, lightning flashes, illuminated buildings, homes, industry, streets and bridges.

The technique for time exposure

Many of these exposures will take several minutes, sometimes as much as 5 or 10, depending upon the amount of light on the subject, that is why you need a tripod to hold the camera. A favorite trick of some photographers is to leave their shutter open for several hours on a night when the heaves are full of stars. The result will show a streaks the lighted paths of the stars and meteors.

You can also record lightning flashes and because the light given off is very intense, the shutter need be open only long enough to capture the lightning. Of course, you shutter might be open a long time before the lightning comes; if so, the lens should be pointed at a dark area of sky so that there will be no light flares from nearby buildings or passing cars.

While a large fire takes a short exposure, campfires generally need additional light such as a fill in flash unless the people gathered around the flickering blaze can remain still for 8 or 10 seconds.

Lighted bridges, streets and fireworks all take longer exposures. In each case you will have to rely upon your own judgment regarding the proper exposure because the light will seldom be strong enough to record on a photo electric exposure meter. An exception might be a brightly lighted area, such as Times Square in New York City. Here, directly under a theatre marquee with its blazing light, it is often possible to shoot at 1/50 second with the camera hand-held and the lens aperture set at f/3.5

If you are making a long shot of Times Square or similar scene in any large city, you need a time exposure. Billboard light reflections on a rainy night add a little more glamour to this type of picture. Take a number of shots of the same scene with slightly varying exposures.

Choose the night subjects with care

You will learn that not all good day subjects make good night shots. At night, your picture depends a great deal upon the outlines made by your large mass objects such as bridges, buildings, campfires, etc and what the light does to them.

Will your fireworks picture have gracefully drawn ribbons or light with a few sparks or will the pattern be confusing? A bridge can look drab and colorless during the day, yet at night under moonlight and lamps with a languid river below, it can take on a mood of romance and drama.

You will soon observe after studying a number of night pictures that the key to composition lies in the nature of the reflections that grow out of the light, reflected light streaking across the sky, on the pavement, on the water, on a bit of glass, etc. So be on the lookout not only for actual light sources but for their reflections as well.

More about Camera Shooting Techniques

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