Night Photography: How to Take Great Pictures in the Dark

Photographs taken at night produce beautiful images. I have to admit that I when I first started getting serious about photography I was too scared to come out at night! It seemed overwhelming with too many variables. But the truth is it's no less overwhelming than shooting during the day.

Night Shot: My Son Window Gazing

Whether you are taking pictures of the holiday lights throughout the neighborhood or photographs of the city's night skyline, there is definitely something magical about night shots. In order to snap quality images after dark, it is important to understand the role of camera settings, as well as how to set up shots in order to ensure the lighting is spot on and your shots are steady. Here are some basic tips that I've started using that will allow you to shoot quality night time images each and every time.

Camera Mode

Images that appear too dark are the result of the camera's mode. When a camera is in automatic mode, the camera will often automatically use a setting that is much too dark, which result in a dark photo. This is quite common when taking photos of holiday lights, and the end result tends to be a darkened photograph where the only images that stand out are the outline of the lights. This takes away from the additional subjects in the photo, which often include home exteriors and outdoor trees. This can easily be adjusted for any type of night time photography where outdoor lighting is prevalent by setting the camera mode to manual mode, and then choosing the a shutter speed of at least 1 second in order to capture the lights.

Keep the Camera Steady

When photographing in the dark, if your camera experiences any kind of vibration when shooting the photos, you risk light trails and flashes appearing in your photographs. You can ensure the steadiness of your camera by setting up a tripod, but if you are simply taking photos on the fly you may not have a tripod handy. If that is the case, simply use your camera's self timer and back away a bit when taking your shot. I've even rested my camera on a stone wall or fence to get a better shot. But I wouldn't even think of taking night shots without a tripod. 

Check Your Focus

If your camera is having trouble focusing in the dark, this can easily be remedied by switching the camera lens settings to manual, and then keep the camera focused on the lights in the scene. If the lights are far away, you will want to set the camera lens to the infinity setting.

Perfect Night Shots

You never know what can happen at night, which makes city streets, parks, and even suburban neighborhood a wonderful canvas for photographers. By knowing the basics when it comes to camera settings and planning your shots, you can produce some truly amazing night images. Spend some time playing with Manual Mode and don't be scared of it, it could become your favorite setting.