Special Situations - Night
In the first of 3 articles on special situation photos we'll be covering nighttime photography. Please note, there are situations where taking pictures can be dangerous. Be aware of your surroundings and if you feel uncomfortable about your situation, leave.
Taking pictures at night can yield some very interesting photographs. The techniques that you employ when photographic night-time scenes are geared towards capturing some very interesting light effects. Nighttime scenes can differ significantly from daytime scenes -- for example, during the day Wall St. in New York can be a whirlwind of activity, during the night -- tumbleweed can be blowing down the street. Below are some tips to help you take some interesting night photos.
- Take pictures at dawn and at dusk. The light in the sky at these times of day are typically more vivid as well as varied than during the midday hours. At night, you typically need longer shutter speeds in order to get proper exposure for your photo.
- Use a tripod. As stated, photographs at night typically require longer shutter speeds. In order to minimize 'motion blur', you should use a tripod to set your photograph. There are obviously times when you want to include the blur as part of the image -- a steady camera will add consistency to the non-moving portions of the photograph.
- Bracket your images. This is a standard on most of the higher-end cameras, like the digital SLRs and it on some of the more powerful point-and-shoot cameras. Bracketing photos will automatically take a picture a stop (or portion of) up AND down of the set exposure. This is extremely helpful in getting the correct exposure for your picture. The camera captures the image at the set exposure and then over exposes the picture by an amount and then under exposes the picture by the same amount.
- Change your ISO setting. When shooting in automatic mode, most cameras that are analyzed on this site automatically set the ISO between 100 and 400. At night, you might be better off with an 800, 1000 or even a 1600 setting. Setting the ISO this high makes the CCD sensor much more sensitive to light, therefore creating a brighter image when taking your photographs. You are able to capture more light in your image with the higher ISO setting, albeit with a little more grain in the finished image.
- Try the 'B' shutter speed. Setting the shutter speed to 'B' (or bulb) allows you to keep the shutter open for periods of time. Many cameras allow the shutter to stay open for 2 minutes while others allow you to keep the shutter open as long as the battery has power (Canon Digital Rebel). Keeping the shutter open will allow you to really experiment with the way light moves and gets captured. Try to open up the shutter for a couple of minutes while the camera points at moving nighttime traffic. You'll get some interesting streaking of the light. To experiment with the Bulb setting, you really need to have a tripod -- even a cheap one will do.
We'll be adding more to this article over time. Also, look out for our fireworks article next.