Hi,I am Prashant Shrestha, a web developer based in Kathmandu. I specialise in Front end Drupal Development and I also do CSS. And I am passionate about Photography.
Night Photography with long exposure
Night Photography is one of my favorite branch of photography. With a little bit of practice and understanding exposures one can get really stunning results. People can become quite intimidated with shooting in the night, because most of the times the images that you take doesn't turn out that great. But Some of the best pictures that I have taken are taken at night. In this article I will try to give you some insights in taking pictures at night. Here I will be discussing a technique known as long exposure. I will be talking about exposures in a bit.
What you will need
Here are some of the equipments that you will need:
Some spare time
You can use both film or digital camera, but since film cameras are a little hard to come by you are better off with a digital camera. Its better if you have a camera where you can set the exposures manually. If you don't have one then don't despair, a simple point and shoot camera works as well but you wont get as good of a result.
A good sturdy tripod is highly recommended. If you don't have a tripod then you can use some structures to support your camera, just use your imagination.
Exposure is key
Exposure is the most important part of photography that you need to understand. Not just for night photography but for photography as a whole. So what is exposure?? In basic terms it is the amount of light that is captured by the camera to create an image. So why is this important?? Well the image that cameras produce are nothing but light that has been captured by your camera's film or sensors. The amount of and quality of light that enters your camera determines how your pictures turn out.
The photographic triangle
A correct exposure is a combination of three factors: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. By varying these three factors you can get different results.
An aperture controls the amount of light that enters through your lens. The aperture is a small hole in the camera that lets light in. You can vary the amount of light that enters your camera by varying the opening of this hole. The opening of the aperture is denoted by a unit called f-stops. Some of the aperture values are f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11 etc with smaller values denoting larger opening of the aperture.
The shutter speed denotes the amount of time the light enter the camera. It is usually denoted in fractions with 1/2000 denoting 2000th of a second. Some cameras can have blazing fast shutter speeds of 1/8000 to about 30 seconds. Some also have a bulb settings that let you open the shutter as long as you press the shutter release button.
ISO denotes the film's or sensor's sensitivity to light. ISO is denoted by ISO values like 100, 200, 400..
A sensor with ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as a sensor with ISO 100. So if your ISO is set to 100 then you will need twice the amount of light than if your ISO was set to 200. So you might think that while shooting at night you should set the ISO to higher values to get better result. Well yeah..but the downside to setting high ISO is you get grainy effects in your image. Your images tend to show artefacts.
By properly combining these three elements one can get the right exposure for the perfect picture.
Keep it steady stupid
After that brief discussion about exposures lets get ready to take our picture. The most important thing while shooting at night is to keep your camera absolutely steady. That's why you need a good and steady tripod. If you don't own a tripod now would be a good time to invest in one. If you don't have a tripod then then try to support your camera on some kind of support like a wall or a window or whatever..just be creative.
If you have a shutter release cable then use it. A shutter release cable helps to avoid camera shake that can be caused when you press the shutter release button.
Set up your shot
Compose your image. If you are taking an image of a busy street then find a high vantage point so that you have a clear view of all the things that you want to include in your shot. Use a wide angle lets if possible or if you are using a zoom camera zoom out to the widest level.
Set your camera to manual mode. Choose an aperture value of f/8 or higher to get a good depth of field. Set the ISO to about 100. Half press the shutter release button to see the exposure meter. It should show you the required shutter speed which may be a few seconds to few minutes depending upon the amount of light present.
If you want to shoot streaks of lights of moving vehicles a few seconds to about 15 seconds should be enough. Longer the shutter speed the longer the trails of light will be. If you are shooting something like a night landscape or some buildings it might require a longer shutter speed. It is important that you turn your flash off.
If you are using a simple point and shoot camera and you cannot set the aperture and shutter speed then you can trying to set your ISO to a very low value and turn off the flash.
Here we are using long shutter speeds to expose our shots hence this technique is known as long exposure.
The most important thing is to keep experimenting. Try different angles to compose your shot and try different combinations of shutter speeds and aperture. With enough practice you will soon be able to take great looking shots.
Here are some of the shots I look using this method: