Here are eight crucial mistakes to commit when practicing night photography

Feb 29, 2020

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present.

Here are eight crucial mistakes to commit when practicing night photography

Feb 29, 2020

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present.

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Ringerike, Norway. Blend of two exposures, one for sky and one for the shadows.

Learning is usually fun, but sometimes it can be painful. Very painful, if you ask me. I will, for example, never forget when I once returned home after a very beautiful sunset to find that I blew the highlights of almost every single image. I learned a lot from that.

My philosophy when it comes to photography is not to avoid making mistakes, but to welcome every mistake as it happens. Our children learn the hard way. We as parents moralize and issue warnings but to no avail. They have to learn for themselves. Parents try so hard to shield their kids from the very pains they had suffered as kids, but the lessons of life just aren’t learned that way. I believe this to be true about photography too. We learn best the hard way.

So, which mistakes should we aim for when it comes to night photography? I have a few suggestions.

1. Severely underexpose photos

What you will learn:

  • Always check the histogram after each shot.
  • Shoot extra exposures for the shadows.
  • How to blend the exposures in Photoshop (can be time-consuming).

2. Test out autofocus in the dark

What you will learn:

  • Autofocus doesn’t work in the dark.
  • How to use manual focus.
  • Knowing your lens, and where it has its hyperfocal distance.

3. Try to shoot a 25-seconds exposure with a 100mm lens

What you will learn:

  • That you have taken your first steps in learning how to shoot star trails.
  • That a wide angle or ultra wide angle lens is a better choice.
  • The 500 rule.

4. Head out to shoot the milky way when there is a full moon

What you will learn:

  • Where is the milky way?
  • It is easy to get enough shadow detail.
  • The moon is more difficult to shoot than what it seems like.

5. Use a headlamp to brighten the foreground while running a 20-second exposure

What you will learn:

  • The foreground is white without any details.
  • That a fraction of a second would be better.
  • The light from the headlamp isn’t exactly warm.

6. Try and see what happens if your settings are f/11, 2 seconds and iso 6400.

What you will learn:

  • There is nothing here – everything is black.
  • That an open aperture is a good idea, like for example f/2.8.
  • That 2 seconds is a waaaaaaay too short exposure time.

7. Shoot a 20-second handheld exposure

What you will learn:

  • That everything is blurry.
  • To use a tripod is not a bad idea.
  • That the shake reduction feature has some limitations.

8. Go for jpgs and not raw files in the dark.

What you will learn:

  • Why can I not adjust the white balance in post?
  • From where comes all those artifacts when I start to push the file?
  • That silhouettes can be okay now and then.

In which order you commit these mistakes is of little interest. Just do them all if you are new to night photography. When you are through the list I can promise you one thing: Your learning curve will soar.

Which one of those mistakes are you guilty of?

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Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad

Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a Norwegian math teacher and landscape photographer. He fell in love with photography in 2013 when he got a camera as a birthday present.

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One response to “Here are eight crucial mistakes to commit when practicing night photography”

  1. Simo Avatar
    Simo

    great tips, I will print them and keep them with me