Snapping nighttime pictures can be a bit of a complex practice. The fact of the matter is that, while night images can be absolutely stunning, to get them right requires altering or outright ignoring commonly understood daytime photography wisdom and dialing in nighttime photography camera settings.
However, if you can wrap your head around such changes, magical shots can be obtained.
Because getting low-light landscape shots can be such a difficult subject for some to understand (let alone master), today, we will be taking a look at seven tips for taking better nighttime landscape shots. So, grab an LED headlamp and your camera and let’s get to work.
1. Know Your Camera
When you are out in the wilderness at night, there are no street lights or fluorescent signs to help provide a source of light that allows you to see. Therefore, things are going to get extremely dark. In effect, this means that you will need to become highly familiar with the buttons and controls on your camera, as you likely won’t be able to read the labels in the darkness.
While things like a flashlight or headlamp would allow you to see, they will also destroy your natural night vision, thereby requiring you to readjust your eyes every time they are used. At the same time, if you are shooting in a popular location, the brightness of your flashlight could disturb some of the other photographers and ruin their shots.
If you are going to snap amazing nighttime landscape shots, you need to memorize your camera’s controls.
2. Bring the Right Equipment
Photographing out in nature at night demands that you have the right equipment on hand. When it comes to capturing nighttime landscapes, there are some essentials that you will almost certainly need, including:
- Extra batteries
- Flashlight or headlamp with variable settings
Additionally, you will also need a handful of different lenses from your camera gear storage, depending on what you are shooting. Since you will be in the darkness, the last thing you want is to accidentally step on a soft camera case. This means that it is reasonable to purchase a camera hard case if you don’t already own one.
3. Have a Stopwatch
Many of your nighttime photographs will be long exposures. However, DSLR cameras usually only allow for up to 30-second exposures in shutter priority or manual modes. Thus, you will likely need to use bulb mode to keep the shutter open for longer periods. In such a situation, you will need to keep track of how long your shutter is open, which means that a stopwatch can be incredibly useful.
While most smartphones have such a function, you might not want the screen to be illuminated during your shot. Therefore, you might want to consider purchasing a backlit stopwatch to minimize the glow.
4. Employ Manual Focus
One of the challenging aspects of nighttime photography relates to focus. Depending on your subject and the surrounding conditions, autofocus could be completely useless. Therefore, it will be necessary to utilize manual focus to achieve the results you are seeking. If you typically only use autofocus for daytime shooting, it is wise to brush up on your manual skill before you find yourself in the darkness.
As a general rule of thumb, shooting landscapes at night will typically require an infinity focus, or just before infinity.
5. Use a Cable Release
The reason you are going to want to bring a tripod for nighttime landscape shots is that it will likely be required to hold the camera still during long exposures, thus ensuring a crisp photo.
For that same reason, you will also want to use a cable release, as opposed to manually pressing the shutter button. Cable releases are fairly inexpensive and, when combined with a tripod, will enable you to get the sharpest image possible as it eliminates any minor bit of shaking your hand might cause when touching the camera.
6. Explore the Location During the Daytime
Before you find yourself in the middle of the wilderness lugging around camera equipment in the dark, it is smart to scout out the location you plan to shoot when there is still daylight. Naturally, this will make your trek, however minor, much easier if you are at least vaguely familiar with your surroundings.
7. Be Mindful of Your LCD Screen
LCD screens can be rather deceptive at nighttime. Because of the screen’s brightness, it can display a photo in a way that is much different than how it will actually appear when uploaded or printed.
Therefore, it is wise to be cautious of your LCD screen and instead rely on the histogram to establish the exposure of your shots.
Snapping Landscapes at Night
Nighttime photography is a bit of a different animal than daylight shoots. Therefore, it is important to know how things will differ and what gear you will need before you are out in the field.
Utilize the tips listed above and you are much more likely to grab some stunning landscapes juxtaposed against the night sky.