Shots in the Dark: 7 Tips for Night Photography

Photo of city at night with car lights

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

There is still some time to capture a great image for our upcoming “In the Still of the Night” competition. Seven tips to keep in mind when photographing at night.

1. Find a dark place

If you’re shooting the Milky Way or star trails, pick a date near or on the new moon, and find a dark area using sites like darksitefinder.com.

2. Keep a low ISO

Yes, that’s right. Unless your camera is really good, you’re going to pick up more and more noise the higher your ISO. Keep it low and increase your exposure time to compensate.

3. Don’t lose focus

Your camera will have a hard time seeing at night, so the auto focus feature may not work very well. When using manual focus, it may help to use live view and zoom in on your subject to set your focus. Or use the numbers printed on your lens to determine if your subject is in the ideal range.

4. Stabilize

Obviously, you’re going to need a tripod and a remote shutter release. You can also use
the timer on your camera. Set it for a two-second delay to give your camera time to settle before the shutter opens.

5. Destabilize

For long exposures, remember to turn off image stabilization on your camera, if it has it.
Cameras that don’t may have some type of vibration reduction on the lens. Turn it off.

6. Decent exposure

Use the histogram on the back of your camera to be sure your image is in an acceptable range. It’s better to have spikes on the left side (shadows) rather than the right (highlights). Shadow detail can be salvaged if you’re shooting in RAW (which you should). If highlights are blown out, there is no way to recover that detail in post. If you’re shooting a high-contrast scene, try bracketing to ensure you have everything properly exposed.

7. Things to bring

Remember to pack a flashlight. You may need it to see the camera settings, and you can use it to light paint your subject. Wear bug spray. And if you’re shooting solo, make sure somebody knows where you’re planning to go and when you’ll be back.

Silhouette of man looking at stars

Photo by Klemen Vrankar on Unsplash

 

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Starry, Starry Night: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lana Macko

Photo of the Milky Way above a lake in Michigan

Starry, Starry Night by Lana Macko

For years I have wanted to shoot the Milky Way. But there are so many factors that have to line up in order to get that shot.

First of all, you have to be in a “dark sky” area. For us in Dallas/Fort Worth, that means driving at least a couple of hours.

Of course, the weather has to be good with a clear sky and no moon. So I was very excited while in Michigan to have all those things line up for me. An official dark sky area, no moon, and clear skies.

I contacted fellow TAPC member Bill Webb for advice, and I watched several videos. And naturally a couple of new apps needed to be purchased.

The only thing that made the conditions less than perfect was the fact that it was the same day as meteor showers, and other photographers and astronomers, and in fact, entire families were at the same spot.

For that reason, I waited until 1 a.m. to head to the park and walk through the dark with my red flashlight. Even then there was a crowd. So I got my shot, although I wish there had been better foreground interest. The fun really began back home as I started post processing.

That involved more videos, and I am still playing with my shots. Are we ever entirely satisfied with our shots? I know I’m not. And the interesting thing is that even though I can cross this off my bucket list, rather than quenching my desire for this type of photography, it actually awakened it. I can’t wait until I have the chance to try it again.

Camera settings: f/4, 25 seconds, 3200 ISO, 11-24mm lens