Many of the comments on last night’s post asked about the techniques required for night photography. Let me start by saying that I’m far from an expert on the topic but I’m happy to share my own experiences in that realm. Since I’m apparently connected narrative impaired today, I’ll devolve to bullet-points.
- Tripods: Get one. One tall enough that you don’t have to stoop to use it. And don’t leave it in the car.
- ISO: While it’s tempting to set your ISO at 6400 and go to town, remember that higher ISO’s are more sensitive to light but they’re also more subject to graininess. I tend to stay at 400 all the time, night or day and if I’m REALLY desperate for light I might go up to 1000. Also remember that different cameras react very differently to higher ISOs. My old Canon 20D looks like hell at 400 ISO but my newer camera is sharp as a tack. However, if you’re into grain then you’re in luck. Jack it up as high as it’ll go!
- Aperture: You know, I don’t really have a great answer to this one. In most cases, the things one shoots at night are far away so depth of field might not be that important. So it’s tempting to blow the aperture wide open and have at it. However, I’ve had some spotty results in the past so part of me wonders if this isn’t a lot more important than it seems since low-light conditions do tend to play havoc with one’s auto-focus. So unless someone has a more definitive answer, I say simply, experiment.
- Shutter Speed: Since you can’t just crank up the ISO and the aperture only opens so far, shutter speed is about all you’re left with. Thus the reason you went out and got a good tripod. Just make sure you’re aware of the wind. Even the tiniest little vibration can turn a good exposure into a huge disappointment.
- Light Metering: Point light sources play havoc with your light meter so take whatever it tells you with a grain of salt. In this digital age we can preview the exposure so put yourself on manual mode and find a sweet spot and stick to it.
- Movement: Generally, movement + dark = death. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Use the movement to your advantage and do something artful. Play with bulb mode a bit. But don’t expect any crisp action shots of that night flag football game you got invited to.
Anyway, those are my top six. I’d welcome the input of the photographers out there who have been doing this for a LOT longer than I have. I’m sure other readers would appreciate your input and frankly, so would I!