Most people tend to put their cameras away after the sun goes down, but sometimes the most magical moments happen when you’re sitting on the dock at and the night is setting in. There’s no magic recipe for nighttime photography, but there are a few easy tips you can remember that will come in handy whenever you want to capture great images in low light.
1. Go Steady
Your biggest enemy is camera-shake. The best solution for unsteady hands is a good tripod, even just a small one that you can set up on a flat surface.
If you must shoot “handheld”, turn on any image stabilization technology your lens or camera offers, and hold the camera up to your eye with a steady but relaxed grip. Breathe slowly and squeeze the shutter gently at the apex of your breath. Consider learning against a nearby wall or pole for a little extra help.
Focal length (the amount of zoom) makes a big difference, because camera shake is exaggerated the more you zoom in. Use the wider end of your zoom lens when shooting without stabilization at night.
2. Crank It Up
Your camera will generally try to keep ISO as low as possible, because high ISO can lead to ugly image “noise” (speckles of false colour that show up throughout the image, but especially in shadow areas). However, most new cameras can actually produce clean images at ISO settings a bit higher than the auto-ISO cutoff, so consider cranking the ISO up to 3200 or even 6400. You might be surprised how great the images look, and the high ISO setting will make it easier to shoot in the dark.
3. Dial it Down
This might sound counter-intuitive, but set your camera’s exposure value (EV) dial to -1. Why would you want to tell your camera to make a low light picture look darker than normal? Simply put, a camera’s light meter is programed to be very reluctant to let anything appear too light or too dark. Instead, it tries to produce an exposure that renders as much of the scene in a middle tone. This is usually a useful trick, but to really capture a dramatic and moody nighttime scene you will want to outsmart your light meter a bit and let the tones slide down the scale a bit.