More night photography


Night or low-light photography requires little equipment and can be a lot of fun.

You don’t need a lot of equipment.

A tripod is a necessity. For the pictures of the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside, I didn’t have mine, so I rested my Canon 40D on my camera bag which was set on a row of mailboxes.


Use the self -timer

I set the self-timer to trigger after 2 seconds of activating the shutter release. The results you can see above.

Don’t try to “squeeze” the shutter release if you have a self-timer. The act of squeezing the shutter is will shake the camera even if you don’t move the camera, don’t forget the prism in the body has to move up and out of the way and the shutter curtain will have to open and close.

All that means some vibration and you want to allow your camera to stop shaking before you trip the shutter.

That limitation varies according to what focal length lens you’re using and of course how you’re bracing yourself.

If your camera allows you to set the self-timer to 10 seconds, that may be too long, unless you plan on running into the frame and being in the picture.

longbeach_nite_autolongbeach_nite_fixedUse a low ISO setting

If at all possible, set a low ISO because higher settings produce a lot of “digital noise.” Digital noise is the equivalent of grain in film.

You could remove some of that in photoshop.

Look in the blue channel. Don’t have photoshop?

Then set a low ISO and don’t sweat it.

If you have $80 to spare, you can try Noise Ninja. It’s available as  plug-in for photoshop or a standalone application.

Why mess around in post production and photoshop? Shoot it right. It’s a good habit and mindset.

If you have a point and shoot camera, you get what you get in terms of quality. Consider photoshop and noise removal software if you can’t live with the noise.

Try Changing the White Balance

As with my previous post on Naples Island, this can make a very dramatic difference in your pictures. Don’t just settle for what Automatic White Balance gives you.

The 2 pictures above, taken with my Canon Sureshot G3, illustrate what a headache color can be for night photography. Taken from the Long Beach Convention Center, there was a preponderance of sodium vapor lighting and also florescent.

Even when I set the White Balance to Tungsten, I saw a lot of yellow. In the end, you just have to correct for the dominant cast and live with the other.

I had to remove some more yellow in Photoshop.

It’s a a good place to remind everyone not to be seduced by new gear. For instance if you buy a new digital SLR, you can expect some things to break in your workflow.

Digital imaging and photography is so tied into computer and software that all sorts of problems arise whenever you upgrade.

I don’t know if all of Leopard’s issues have been straightened out. I’m at 10.5.6 but Adobe’s Lightroom is now at version 2.2 and Photoshop is now CS4!

Happy New Year. Let me know if you like the new look.

4 thoughts on “More night photography”

  1. I generally don’t shoot RAW DeeAnn. For portraits of clients at weddings and individual sittings, I shoot both jpegs and RAW. I only process the jpegs but archive the RAW files. I do that because I will get better quality when the client wants a 30 x 20 print. If they don’t order something big like that, jpegs are absolutely the way to go.

    In your workflow, you’re right you don’t need to.

  2. Never shot Raw, waste of time/space for me. I started shooting Medium more recently as stuff was only going to web. It just depends what images purpose is for. I think your new look is clean and easy, good job!

  3. DeeAnn,
    Most people don’t realize this but when I shoot tethered to my old G4 powerbook for my demonstrations, this couldn’t be more obvious.

    I have to change the quality to medium if I want my images to load on my computer so they can see the results almost instantly.

    Some of my students were shooting RAW. When they downloaded their images to the old Windows machines in the lab, this became painfully slow.

    Hope you like the new look.

  4. Peter,
    You are right about the problem upgrading does to workflow. Getting best image in camera first keeps messing around in Photoshop to a minimum. I hate spending hours on MacBook tweaking images when instead taking the time to shoot it right solves color balance (mostly). The new gear seduction is true, newer isn’t always better!

Comments are closed.