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Night Photography

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Catz, Aug 11, 2009.

  1. Hi,

    I didn't get much of a response posting this on another section here on Nikoncafe so thought I would try here since this seems to be the place most hang out in.

    I have been messing with photography for around 5 years or so and it took a while for me to even learn how to shoot manual in daylight but when it comes to night photography, I am terrible.

    Can you explain or suggest some settings for night photography with have me shooting them in no time? I want to so much be able to shoot panos of cities.

    Thanks so much for any advice.


    Apr 30, 2005
    Hi Catz,

    My common settings for night city panoramas

    - raw
    - set WB to incandescent
    - mirror lockup/tripod
    - manual exposure
    - iso 100 or 200
    - long exposure noise reduction
    - set your aperture between f4 to f8 and then modify your shutter speeds for a given composition

    During raw conversion, I batch process WB changes when necessary

    I take a test photo and evaluate for blown highlights...blinkies on the LCD. Modify the shutter speed as needed

    Bracket your exposures for difficult scenes.

    Hope this helps :) 
  3. Thanks RFC. Easy instructions I can follow. Appreciate it very much.
  4. I don't do panos but I did some night photography recently: Part I, Part II, [​IMG], More Miami Beach at night.

    You need a tripod (obviously), and optionally a remote cable release, or if not use the timer, to reduce vibrations.

    Set on manual and look at the light meter (the bars at the bottom of the screen). Use the base ISO as you want the less noise possible, and with long exposures you do not need high ISO, in most cases (there is one case where I use it but not for panos, only for people in the shot).

    Set aperture to appropriate DOF. If you are shooting street scenes, you want more DOF and if you want the light poles to show a starburst, you need F/16 or F/22.

    Once you set this up, the light meter will be at zero when you set the proper speed (fractions of a second or full seconds). For street scenes, I find this to produce under-exposed shots (in the D300), so I slow the shutter speed to let two to three bars to the left. Shoot. Look at the image. Look at the histogram. Adjust. Alternatively, instead of letting the bars be to the left of center, you could change EV (ex. +1.0) and obtain a similar result. Good luck.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  5. larryk


    Sep 6, 2005
  6. digipix

    digipix Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2006

    I guess I posted to the wrong thread. ;-)

    I'll add a link to that thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  7. Zee71


    Apr 1, 2007
    Queens, NY
    Melissa.........RFC provided good info, but in addition to his comments, I found that having a good solid tripod is a must! At first I has a so-so (cheap) tripod which vibrated and had lots of play. Good tripods are expensive, but worth every dollar. Another item you might consider investing is a cable or remote for releasing the shutter (otherwise, you can use the timer on the camera to release the shutter). Also, if you're using a lens with VR (vibration reduction) on a tripod, make sure to switch off the VR on the lens. Hope this helps.

  8. Hey there...I bought a really good tripod when I first got into playing with photography. I paid quite a bit for it. I can't remember the name of it right now because I have it packed away and use it when I like to shoot landscapes. I also have a cable too. It is a good one also by Nikon. I bought it because it has a timer on it and thought one day I would try some fireworks out.
  9. Rob T

    Rob T

    Aug 27, 2008
    Bracketing is usually a very good idea. I find that I normally need at least one stop of under exposure from the meter reading to get good results, depending on the type and amount of lighting.
  10. wgilles


    Apr 25, 2008
    Depending on the subject you may want to invest in some fast lenses in the wide angle range.
  11. cali-kid


    May 26, 2007
    Houston, Texas
    Here are a couple of shots I took in Houston at night.
    ISO 200, F8, 8 seconds

    ISO 200, F11, 25 seconds

  12. digipix

    digipix Subscribing Member

    Mar 30, 2006
    Here are the basic steps I do when I shoot at night. This will vary
    depending on the conditions of course.

    This should get you started though.

    • Get to your location before sunset and setup
      Know your location and what time the sunsets.

      Getting there early allows you to setup without rushing.

      Setup your gear, tripod, camera settings (manual metering mode,
      mirror lockup), attach your cable release (this is always a pain in
      the butt for me).

      Make sure that everything is tight and sturdy to minimize any
      kind of camera shake.

      Setup your composition.

    • Set your ISO to 200 or less
    • Set your aperture to f8
    • Meter the brightest part of the sky as your middle value for an
      initial test shot.
    • Shoot a test shot
    • Adjust the shutter speed as necessary to get the results that you like
      If your test is too bright, decrease the shutter speed a couple of clicks,
      shoot and reevaluate.

      If your test is too dark, increase the shutter speed a couple of clicks,
      shoot and reevaluate.

      My camera is setup such that one click of the dial for shutter speed adjustment is 1/3 of a stop.

    • Shoot from sunset to an hour after sunset. I'd say that often
      the best light is after sunset when there's still light in the sky.
    • You'll be adjusting your shutter speed as the light changes of course.
    • If shooting panos, keep your same exposure settings for the pano

    That's what I'd do when shooting skylines.
  13. You will continue to receive hints on night photography. I guess every photographer has his or her own style so you will continue to receive different opinions in this post.
    I like to do my night photography when there is still light in the sky. I usually take my meter reading from the sky and expose accordingly, which will make that part of the sky I metered from a middle tonality. I always have a good exposure for the lighted buildings in the foreground.
    I shoot RAW in the sRGB color space. I use daylight as my WB setting and then play with tungsten during editing and compare the results. If I set the camera to A I then dial in minus 1 of EC and meter from the whole scene.
    Like others, I try to use the lowest ISO available in my camera. Tripod, mirror lock up and cable release for the shutter are a must.
    Night photography is not difficult and with the histogram we have a great help for the exposure.
    Good luck!

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    William Rodriguez
    Miami, Florida.
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