If there’s one expression guaranteed to strike fear into the most experienced photographer’s heart, it’s ‘night photography’. After all, if photography is the study and exposure of light, how can you find decent pictures when light is completely absent?
You need a few bits and bobs to do a good job with night photography. A fast lens, for one thing: you’re looking to get as much light as possible through the lens, which means f/2.8 is more of a maximum aperture than a minimum. A tripod is another: something solid and stable that won’t blow around in the wind. You’ll also need a light source: the best way forward is a proper strobe, ideally triggered wirelessly, for the best combination of power and flexibility. Failing that, head torch:
Here, the sky is the ambient exposure – i.e. the camera records the available light. But to avoid the natural bridge across the centre of the frame appearing as a mere silhouette, an LED head torch was used to paint light onto the surface of the bridge. This light bounces into the camera, giving colour and detail to the subject. You’ll also need a bit of maths: take your lens’ focal length (remember to multiply it by two on our Four-Thirds cameras), and divide 500 by your focal length. The result is the maximum exposure, in seconds, that you can use before stars start to blur across the frame.
Here, both painting with light and the correct exposure for stars have combined to produce an otherworldly shot with plenty of foreground and background interest.
A smack of foreground interest never hurts: in this case we’ve got Seljalandsfoss waterfall in southern Iceland. Focus is really important here, so use the distance markings on your lens and a good eye to measure the distance between your camera and your subject. At 11pm you’re likely to be rather bleary-eyed, so make sure you’re checking images carefully at the end of each exposure to make sure you’ve got enough sharpness to print properly.
Another tech tip: you don’t necessarily need a proper camera remote for night time photography, (although it won’t hurt) but you should definitely use your camera’s two-second timer – or, if you’re using one of our wifi cameras, the remote shutter on offer in the O.I Share app. That way, you won’t disrupt your image’s sharpness when you press the shutter release: two seconds is enough time for the camera to stop moving before it fires a shot.
Finally, make the most of night time photography: if you’re already on location – camping is a great way of making sure you’re in the right place, all the time – keep an eye on what time sunrise is to capitalise on shots that combine both foreground silhouettes and a splash of background colour.