Night photography tips for the darker months

With Halloween, Bonfire Night and (dare I mention it?) Christmas on their way, this is the time of year to get our DSLR cameras off their automatic settings and work on our night photography. So, the invitation to attend a photography workshop put on by Transun, a tour operator that takes groups up to see the Northern Lights and organises family trips to Lapland, was well-timed.

Here’s the quick and dirty for taking better photos at night:

1. Use a tripod

You absolutely want to keep your camera still. Even the slightest shaking can ruin your photo. If you don’t have a tripod, look around and get creative with leaning your camera on a wall perhaps or a stack of books.

2. Slow your shutter speed
This allows more light into your camera. It also lets you to capture light in movement, like fireworks or, you know, the Northern Lights. You’re looking at between 0.5 and 30″ here.

3. Think about your depth of field
Lower figures (I shot with wide appertures here but should probably have played around more) allow more light in, while leaving less in focus. I’ve read that a narrower depth of field gives lights a sparkle effect.

The class covered quite a bit more but this is what I’m focused on having a play with at the moment. I’ve usually left my camera on the auto settings on CA or AV. I think I’ve slightly felt that because Laurence takes much better photos than I do, there’s not a huge point in me trying much. But I do think my photos are, bit by bit, improving and this workshop has whet my appetite to experiment a bit.

tips for night photography-3

So, I went into the garden and had a bit of a play with a pumpkin I carved for Halloween. I don’t know what’s “right” or “wrong”. At this stage, I’m just trying things out and seeing how different things look. In the first and second photos, I’ve used ISO 125, F/1.8, 10 sec. For the second one, the pumpkin was moved a couple of times, horizontally. The one below was shot the same but at 30 sec and the pumpkin was moved around various positions with a few-second count in each location.

tips for night photography

As the nights draw in, I’m really looking forward to trying a bit more of this, especially on Bonfire Night next week.

You can read more about what we got up to on the Transun blog.


11 Comments

  1. October 27, 2014 / 9:38 am

    Amazing tips! One of my favourites for taking pictures of lights etc is to do a little cut out of a heart on a piece of card and put it in front of the lens and then all of the lights will be in heart shapes. It gives a very lovely effect and you can do it with any shape 🙂 x
    Keri-Anne recently posted..Pumpkin carving

  2. October 27, 2014 / 11:40 am

    Just what I needed to read – i’ve bookmarked it actually, so thanks Adele! Fab pumpkin pattern too 🙂

  3. October 27, 2014 / 1:32 pm

    I really struggle to take good indoor and outdoor shots now the light is so rubbish. I love what you did with the pumpkin shots and whose to say what’s right or wrong as long as you like teh effect 🙂
    Kathryn (@KatGotTheCream) recently posted..The Happy List #75

  4. October 27, 2014 / 4:42 pm

    That is a very cool pumpkin! My night photography skills are pretty poor but I know using a tripod really helps. Great tips.

  5. laura
    October 27, 2014 / 5:45 pm

    Great post! I so need to learn how to use my camera better so this is some great advice!

  6. October 28, 2014 / 10:38 am

    Oooh perfectly timed tips, thank you. We went to Blackpool Illuminations at the weekend, and it took me a while to try and work out the right settings to avoid crazy light spots everywhere. x
    Fiona recently posted..Living Arrows: A Catch Up

  7. October 28, 2014 / 6:06 pm

    I feel exactly the same about not being able to judge what’s good or not in my photos. These look good to me, I really want to practise some outdoor, nighttime photography. I don’t know why but the idea of setting up a tripod etc just seems like a right pain, guess it’s worth it though! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Barbie Malibu Dream House Review

  8. October 28, 2014 / 6:57 pm

    Seeing everyone’s pics I was sorry to miss the night. You’ll have to teach me how to in person! I just bought a tripod though so will try and follow your tips and see if I can make it work, can’t wait for bonfire night! x
    Fritha recently posted..Paris Honeymoon Video

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