To take photos at night and get great results, there are several things you need to consider. This guide walks you through the process step-by-step and covers everything from choosing your camera settings to finding the best location and framing your shot.
Taking pictures in low-light and at night can seem daunting at first, but don’t be scared. Below are some great photography tips to help you take your photos to the next level and capture stunning photographs at night no matter what level you are at.
This guide helps you narrow down your checklist for capturing those perfect shots in no time.
Choose The Right Camera
Finding the best lighting for product photography is tricky at the best of times, but it’s even more difficult at night.
While a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera (notable for allowing interchangeable lenses on the same camera body) is ideal for shooting photos in a variety of conditions, you don’t necessarily need one. Your smartphone can shoot some pretty incredible nighttime photos.
Use A Tripod
When taking photos at night, a tripod is absolutely necessary. Even if you don’t think your photos will come out blurry due to long exposure times, using a tripod gives you much more flexibility with compositions and lighting.
While a two-second shutter speed might be perfectly fine for shooting day scenes, that same shutter speed can result in a blurry photo when you’re capturing night views. Tripods help prevent these kinds of issues by holding your camera still during exposure times that could otherwise result in shaky photos.
Look For Different Angles
When shooting nighttime pictures, it’s important to remember that composition is still important. Think outside of the box so to speak. Ring lights are great for changing up styles and getting different shots, pair this with a custom backdrop or some LED lights and your photos start to come alive.
Zooming in on these details can also help you take captivating photos at night. Just be sure not to get too close as it can create an unnatural feeling for viewers and leaves little room for error when it comes down to cropping your images later on.
Sometimes, taking photos during nighttime can be tricky. If you don’t have a tripod or are trying to capture something fast-moving, using filters will help steady your camera.
There are different types of filters that you can use and each one accomplishes different things with your photographs. The most common type of filter used for pictures or photos taken at night is an ND (Neutral Density) filter.
An ND filter reduces exposure so that there will be less light in your picture, therefore making it easier for you to take clear photos in low-light situations. This type of filter comes in varying densities: 1 stop, 2 stops, and 3 stops.
Learn How Your Flash Works
Your flash is great in daylight, but its bright light can make photos look unnatural when you take photos at night. Instead of using your flash, consider taking pictures in available light—that is, with a source of natural lighting (like street lights or candles) present.
If you do need to use your flash, learn how it works and practice taking pictures before trying it out in actual low-light conditions. This will help you understand how much artificial light works best for each situation.
Use The Best Settings For Your Camera and Lens
The right ISO setting will depend on whether or not you have an interchangeable lens – and even for those with lenses that aren’t interchangeable, it may be worth stepping out of auto mode if you want greater control over your exposure settings.
Start at 100 ISO and adjust upward as needed. Shutter speed affects how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to incoming light, so a slower shutter can capture dimly lit shots without getting blurry due to motion blur. Aim for 1/30th of a second or slower – but keep in mind that any hand movement while shooting will cause blurriness. That's where a tripod comes in!
The longer shutter speed will give enough time to let a lot of light enter the camera.
What Are the Best Lens for Night Photography?
If you want to take great photos in low light, a good prime lens will really help. A 50mm prime is an amazing lens for night photography.
This gives you a wide enough aperture for great low-light shots, it’s fast enough that there's little blur from camera shake. Prime lenses are so common that you can probably find one used at a bargain price online.
You Don't Need Specialist Gear to Take Great Pictures at Night
Getting good lighting in your pictures is key to shooting that perfect photo, but you don’t need expensive gear to do it.
As long as you know what types of camera gear work best. The most important thing to remember is that your camera will be seeing much less light than your eyes do.
Because of that, having a big sensor (the area where light hits and is recorded) in a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera can help more in low-light situations than an interchangeable lens with a large aperture on it.
That's because there's nothing you can do about how small your sensor will be when you're out taking pictures in the dark—but you can buy lenses with bigger openings, which allow in more light.
Thus, those specialized lenses are almost always only sold for shooting in low-light situations like astrophotography or night photography.
What Is The Best Camera For Night Photography?
When it comes to night photography, there’s an endless amount of accessories and tricks you can use. However, when it comes down to it, a full-frame DSLR camera (rather than a crop-sensor DSLR) is going to be your best bet for taking photos in dark conditions.
With these cameras, you get great images in low light levels because they have large sensors and interchangeable lenses. They’re also versatile enough that one will last you a lifetime (which makes buying expensive accessories easier).
Playing With Exposure In Your Shots
Good lighting in your product photos is all down to exposure.
While nighttime photos look great, they’re much harder to capture than photos in broad daylight. If you’re taking long-exposure shots, a tripod will also help prevent camera shake.
For moving subjects, use a slow shutter speed combined with bracketing (or your camera’s automatic exposure bracketing) and higher ISO settings - (ISO is your camera's sensitivity to light as it pertains to either film or a digital sensor. A lower ISO value means less sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO means more sensitivity).
Depending on the degree of ambient light, you may need to use higher ISOs between 1600 and 3200. Just make sure your photos aren't looking "grainy", which happens when you use higher ISOs. If you're out and about after dark, here's how to improve your chances of capturing some amazing nighttime photographs:
Shoot Long Exposures: With high ISOs and bracketing (3-4 exposures of the same scene but each exposed differently at lower or higher ISOs) to take advantage of shutter speed and low noise/high light sensitivity of your camera sensor at night in dim light conditions.
Experiment With Composition And Perspective: If there's one thing we've learned while shooting at night time, it's that it takes more practice than normal photography does. Shooting stars or other night-sky objects are the perfect photo backdrops and can result in stunning images.
Edit These Shots for Maximum Impact
Photographs of nighttime landscapes and cityscapes are a great way to set your photography apart from others but often require editing skills. After you take a picture at night, consider adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue for maximum impact.
Keep an eye out for overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark) areas. Play around with color palettes to get shots that pop if you’re looking for more ways to improve your nighttime photography game.
If you’re interested to learn more about the ins and outs of product photography, stick around. We’ve got resources covering everything from how to use an umbrella light to the best LED lights for products photography.
Did you find our blog helpful? Then consider checking:
- Can You Use A Ring Light For Food Photography
- Are Ring Lights Good For Product Photography
- How To Light A White Background Photography
- How To Get Good Lighting For Product Photos
- Photo Compositions to Know
- Natural Lighting
- Depth Perfection
- Light + Airy Photography
- Dark + Moody Photography
- Food Styling
- Product + Flat Lay Styling
- Clothing Photography
- Drink Photography: The Splash Technique
- Your Ultimate Photo Resource
- Control the Background in Photography