There are times and places when the low arc of the sun in winter doesn’t allow photographers to work many hours at daylight. While someone is considering this as a limitation, the other ones take this situation as an advantage and a chance to do some outstanding night photography. Shooting at night under clear skies would additionally allow to include stars in the photo. In case, the moon is shining, it will cast a nice blue hue over the scenery. Some snow on the ground would help to make the detail exposure in the foreground easier. In this article I will give you some tips how to improve your night photography or, in case you never did this, some initial tips.
Which lenses are best for night photography in general?
Well, actually you can achieve great images with every lens. It depends on you and the picture, you would like to capture. But if you would like to shoot some landscapes, you should use wide-angle lenses to capture as much sky or landscape you can. Here you can use lenses with the usual focal distance between 18 and 24 mm.
You should also note that a lens with a wide aperture lets more light into your camera than a lens with a smaller aperture. A wide aperture means, your lens should be from f/1.4 to 2.8. This allows you to bring out as much details as possible and additionally makes possible to capture the movement of the stars (if intended).
How do you create atmosphere?
To create atmosphere in your photos is quite challenging and here you should be patient. You should photograph places where you love to be and to search for an inspiration there. Maybe it sounds too abstract and disappointing or tedious for you. But that actually is, how it works.
If you don’t feel any inspiration on the location you would like to take your shot, you likely would not get a reasonable image. For atmosphere is created by considering different factors. This does not only including the location itself. Weather conditions and the knowledge about the post-processing are also crucial to your final result. If you match these three factors properly, you will be able to create some great eye catchers.
What camera settings to use for shooting scenery with lots of stars?
In night photography you would achieve the best results with a full-frame digital camera, because they generally perform best in low light conditions. But you don’t have to be discouraged if you don’t have any full-frame camera. You should try the night photography, nevertheless, if you feel the desire for this. Now let’s take a look on some adjustments.
ISO: In night photography you will not be able avoiding turn the ISO higher as you used to deal with. However, try to crank it up just as far as necessary to avoid ugly digital noise. Depending on your camera, move your ISO upwards until the moment you can see the details in your scene. So the ISO value could be here about 3000 or even more. But remember to stop as soon as you see the details. And remember: snow is a great reflector of light and helps you to reduce the ISO provided that the moon is out.
Shutter speed: Keep your shutter speed under 30 secs, because beyond this value the stars would trail (unless you wish this effect in your image). If you stay under 30 secs and don’t see the stars, then increase the ISO a little bit and try it again until you have got the proper result.
Mode: At night photography, try always to work in the manual mode for maximum exposure control. And always shoot in RAW, not in JPEG. This will allow you to get more out when you post-process the image. If your ISO allows, you can overexpose your image a little bit to get more information in the light pixels.
If you make your adjustments properly and collect some practical experience in night photography, you wold be able to shoot pictures like this one: