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Without light, no picture. Intuitively, once the sun is down, we would be tempted to think that we must put the camera and go about his business. Except that the lights of the city have a special charm that we sometimes want to photograph, especially in these periods of festivals where the bright decorations begin to beautify our cities (and to add light pollution: P). Especially in winter, the days are short. Let’s see together how to get out of a situation that may seem difficult at first.

At night, the main constraint is obviously the lack of light. Yes, I open doors, but it is always important to ask the question of constraints to cope with a photographic situation.

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How can we compensate for this lack of light?  there are 3 simple ways to do it:

  • Increase the aperture (which is limited by the maximum aperture of your lens)
  • Slow shutter speed (which is limited by your stability and the presence or absence of stabilization, or even a tripod)
  • Increase the ISO sensitivity (which is limited by the capabilities of your device, which produces less and less clean images as you increase ISOs)

The tips for making the night photo will therefore mainly consist of maximizing these three parameters while obtaining a satisfactory result (desired depth of field, sharp picture, not too noisy).

Night shooting Hardware and Accessories:

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To increase the aperture, it will be better to work with very bright lenses, which therefore have a large maximum aperture. These are often fixed focal lengths like the famous 50mm f / 1.8, which will allow to use a very large aperture and thus maximize the amount of light that enters the device. This is why devices with interchangeable lenses such as SLRs and hybrids are the most suitable. That said, it is not impossible with compacts and bridges, provided you play on increasing the exposure time (we come back).

To reduce the shutter speed, you will have to be careful not to create a camera shake. From a certain speed, you will not be able to shoot without stabilizing your device properly.

For reasonable speeds (like 1 / 15th), a stabilized lens can help you a lot, especially if you make the effort to be stable yourself.

For slower speeds, you will need to get a tripod. You can possibly put your device on what you want (wall, statue, bench, cat, because of CRS, …), but it will not always allow you to fit as you want. In short, buy a tripod.

Finally, to increase the ISO by keeping a clean result, know that in general and for simplicity, the more the sensor is large and the recent device, the more the noise reduction with high sensitivity will be effective. So a reflex from last year will be more efficient than a compact from 3 years ago.

That said, the noise tends to focus in the dark areas (like the black sky), go easy on the increase in sensitivity, the risk of finding yourself with a sky full of small colorful stars very ugly. In any case, treat the noise at post-processing in RAW (because you’re shooting in RAW, are not you?).

I’m not talking about flash, because it will ruin the entire nightlife of the cities you are trying to transcribe. And no, it will not light the building 20m high in front of you, even if you put it to the bottom. It can be useful if you want to do night portraits. In this case, choose a remote flash, or if you use the built-in flash, broadcast it AND turn down the power.

Night Shooting Settings:

First, push the ISO sensitivity to the maximum acceptable of your device (if you do not know what the “maximum acceptable”, make several photos at the great sensitivities of your device and watch the noise on your computer). Believe me, you’ll need it if you shoot a show of hands. If you are using a tripod, leave it at 100 ISO.

Then, several solutions:

  • You switch to aperture priority mode, you open fully or almost (do not hesitate to close a little the diaphragm if you are wide in terms of shutter speed). You watch that the shutter speed that will choose your camera is enough to have a clean shot freehand. Remember the minimum speed rule = 1 / (focal length x 1.5) .If it is not, and even if it is, use exposure compensation to underexpose the image: your device will often tend to want to look for detail in the shadows. Underexposing 1 or 2 stops is the equivalent of saying “ it’s normal that it’s dark, do not panic cushy “. (Yes, I call my device cushy, P).
  • You switch to speed priority mode, you choose the minimum speed you need to avoid camera shake, and let the camera open the iris as you want. Here too, I strongly recommend using exposure compensation.
  • You use the manual mode and make your own settings.

If you’re shooting on a tripod, choose aperture priority and set to have the desired depth of field, then let the camera choose the speed, possibly using the shutter speed. Remember to turn off the stabilization and use the mirror lock and remote control, as in any long exposure.

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