Shooting at night is practically an art form, the way you hear some photographers go on about it! From exposure settings to metering to ISO, it is true that night photography isn’t always the easiest – in fact, some photographers even shy away from it thinking that there isn’t much to capture, or that it’s too tricky. Which is a pity, because while the day might offer wonderful natural lighting, it is at night that some cities truly come alive. Take Taipei for example: renown for its night markets and neon signage that set the streets ablaze, you would be wasting a trip if you did not try to capture her nighttime shenanigans! Here are out expert tips of shooting at night, so you never have to fear the dark again.
#Tip 1: Always shoot in RAW
This holds true even for non-night photography shots, but it is especially important if you’re shooting at night as chances are, you will be working in situations with high contrasts and widely ranging colourcast. Shooting in RAW allows you a greater control during post-production to control your white balance and contrast. If you are a beginner, you can opt to use the auto white balance feature but do take note that in situations where there are mixed lighting conditions, your camera can be easily fooled.It is important to experiment so that over time, you gain an innate understanding of how to correctly balance your images at the drop of the hat!
#Tip 2: Always use manual focus
Autofocus in modern cameras may be highly reliable, but it’s still not foolproof. Its weakness is especially evident when taking pictures at night, where your camera struggles to adjust because it’s dark. Using manual focus ensures your camera doesn’t randomly focus on any part of the scene you’re photographing. Turn your manual focus to infinity (∞ symbol on your lens). To ensure that the scene you’re photographing is crisp, turn on the Live View Mode and press the Zoom-in button (the one with the magnifying lens icon). Magnify the subject you want to be in focus, then adjust until it’s pin sharp.
#Tip 3: Use a low ISO
It might make sense to use a high ISO when shooting at night, but doing that results in lots of noise in your image, which you’ll want to try to avoid! While newer cameras these days allow you to take noiseless pictures at ridiculously high ISO settings (up to ISO 3200 or more), for most consumer cameras with limited light sensitivity range, sticking to a lower ISO is the most practical approach. Bring a tripod with you where possible, and instead of bumping up your ISO, use lower shutter speeds and wider apertures instead.
#Tip 4: Take loads of test shots
Like how you don’t go into an interview for a new job unprepared, you shouldn’t approach a new shooting site completely unaware either. Like any good photographer, hit up your chosen site at least once before your actual shoot date and scout the area. Get familiar with the lighting situation, observe subjects that are more permanent and would make for good additions to your shots (such as shop keepers) and get creative with your perspective. The more familiar you are with a scene, the more efficient you will be at shooting, and you’ll likely end up with better images!
#Tip 5: Meter for highlights
Determining the correct exposure at night can be tricky, as each metering mode presents its own set of challenges. Evaluative metering will just confuse your camera, where spot or partial metering will cause your camera to jump around depending whether you are aiming at a bright or dark background – both of which often present at the same time when shooting night scenes! The trick is to use spot metering and exposing your highlights. Set your meter between +1 and +2 as you meter on the highlights. The +1 -2 setting will keep your highlights looking bright, but at the same time, will keep the highlights within the dynamic range of the camera.