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Low light (night) photography

September 09, 2003

Night shots are characterized by low light. The camera shutter needs to be open for prolonged time to get enough light for a proper exposure. The drawback is that there is risk for blurred photos if your camera is not steady enough.

One common tricky scenario is a foreground (FG) object, e.g. a person, in combination with a back ground (BG) view, e.g. a night time city sky line.

Below are some easy steps that that will let you take better night shots.

Back ground only

The shutter of the camera will need to be open for a longer time, probably 1 second or more. You will not be able to hold the camera steady enough so it is important to set down the camera on something solid. Consider getting a tripod if you want to be serious.

Just pushing the trigger may be enough to cause a blurry photo so best is to use a remote or wire trigger. If you don't have access to this you can use the self timer on your camera to take a rock solid night photo.

Tip: Try this during poorly lit conditions, like inside a restaurant. Avoiding flash results in a photo with much more realisting lightning.

Foreground subject in combination with a background

In this mode the camera will both use a flash and keep the shutter open long enough to develop the back ground. By using the flash, the FG subject will get fixed and be less sensitive to blur from a shaky camera.

After the flash has gone off, you have to try to hold the camera as steady as possible or set down the camera and use the self timer. The FG subject will also have to be steady and not move. On the other hand, you can get some cool effects if the FG subject moves while the shutter is still open.

Only foreground subject :-)
Easy, just use the normal mode of your camera. The automatic flash will go off and your subject will be properly exposed. Just watch out not to be too close otherwise there is a risk of flash over exposure.

Most modern cameras should have modes that enable you to take night shots. A moon crescent indicates night shot (BG only) and a moon crescent with a person icon indicates FG and BG night shot.

On my older SLR, night shots were achieved by enabling slow synch on the flash (and possibly rear synch).

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  1. Dyanna Says:

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    Thanks for the tips! I'll be sure to test them out. :)

  2. Anna Says:

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    I'm about ready to purchase a 6.3 megapixel and I can't wait to try these out. Thanks.

  3. Pedro Says:

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    6.3 megapixel? Digital? ugh... no way! 'Analog' SLR cameras rulez!

  4. Ben Says:

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    Or a Digital SLR but they're a little more expencive :)

    I gotta get one ;)

    David says:
    You can do this with most compact digital cameras as well. Many have both the night shot and night shot with flash modes.

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