How to shoot amazing night time photography

Aug 11, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to shoot amazing night time photography

Aug 11, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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With the impending Perseid meteor shower peak over the next couple of days, night time photography has suddenly become popular. But when you’re expecting one of the best meteor shower views in years, what else can you expect?

In this video from TIME, photographer Stuart Palley shares tips to create beautiful photographs after the sun goes down. Stuart covers a range of topics from planning through workflow to shooting the images themselves.

YouTube video

1. Preparation

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As with many types of photography, the first thing Stuart touches on is preparation and planning. With something like this, it’s even more vital than many other genres. In the cold darkness, accidents can easily happen, especially if you don’t know the area.

So, go and scout out your locations during the day, figure out your scenes and where you want to be. Then, when you go back at night, you’re not fumbling in the darkness hoping to find a good spot.

2. Apps

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Mobile phones have become a photographer’s best friend over the last decade or so, especially if you shoot on location. There’s depth of field calculators, long exposure calculators for working with NDs, and all kinds of useful apps.

For night time photography, Stuart likes Dark Sky Finder and Photopills. These let him determine where and when are the best spots to shoot.

3. Invest in great gear

night_time_photography_3_gear

Just as in the day, having a tripod is critical for getting sharp long exposures. You’ll also want a DSLR with good high ISO capabilities. Stuart suggests starting at ISO1600 with a shutter speed of 30 seconds. Take a shot and see how it looks. Then, adjust as necessary to give you the shot you want.

4. Retain your night vision

night_time_photography_4_night_vision

This is a bigger deal than many might think. How long can it take your eyes to adjust, right? Our eyes can adjust pretty well in the dark from the dim glow of a nearby town or city. The point here, though, is to be somewhere with as black a sky as possible. Without that light pollution, it takes much longer for our eyes to adjust.

Red filters over our lights will allow us to see without causing too much disruption to our natural night vision. Many mobile apps intended for night time photography also have a red colour option for use in the field.

5. Experiment with other light sources

night_time_photography_5_light_painting

If you ever wanted to experiment with light painting landscapes, night is the perfect time to do it. Painting the nearby landscape with an LED flashlight let’s us bring out the detail in the foreground. It provides context and depth for the overall scene that blackness would not.

It can also give us some very cool and surreal lighting effects.

Overall, Stuart’s advice is to have a strong vision and experiment to see what happens. Don’t get locked into one method or technique. Ask yourself how you feel about the scene before you. Figure out why you feel that way and then how you can capture it with the camera.

Hopefully, Stuart’s video gives you guys some ideas for photographing meteors over the next few days. Also, if you haven’t already read Thomas O’Brien’s guide to photographing meteors, yet you should definitely check that out.

Are you planning to photograph the Perseid meteor shower this weekend? What other night time photography tips can you offer? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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2 responses to “How to shoot amazing night time photography”

  1. Pete Woods Avatar
    Pete Woods

    FYI: Apparently Vitamin A is good for night vision ;o)

  2. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    Astro-photography. This is when I really wish I lived somewhere else. The Bay Area is light pollution and fog city. I’d have to drive a long ways to get anything decent.

    All of you folks with decent views of the night sky, get out there and make some inspired images for me will ya?