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.