DSLR Tips: Night Photography

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Here’s a fairly comprehensive video from DSLR Tips.  There are a few things that I disagree with that I will touch base on after the video.  But this certainly is a great starting point for those interested in night photography.

Generally, Gorden provides a lot of great tips.  But as I said, there are a few things that I would disagree with as follows:

  • Aperture:  I would recommend against opening your lens to its widest aperture.  There are two reasons for my view:  Depth of Field and Image Quality.  Depth of field is obvious.  If you’re shooting a city skyline, you want as much in focus as possible, even the foreground.  Your exposure times will be longer, but it’s on a tripod, so that shouldn’t be a concern.  As for image quality, first and foremost is the fact that the widest aperture is never the lenses strongest performance.  You want to be at least two clicks down from wide open.  Except on rare occasions, I actually tend to shoot fully closed.  There’s another reason to shoot fully closed:  If your camera does not have a mirror lock-up option, a longer exposure actually helps you get a cleaner image as the duration of the shake is a much shorter percentage of the entire shot sequence.  Please note, however, that with digital cameras, longer exposures can introduce noise.  So if the majority of your shot will be night sky or dark ground/water, you may want to widen your aperture to reduce your exposure time.
  • Focus: There was no mention of focus.  Autofocus should be turned off.  It will be difficult for you to focus at night, but you’ll be better at it than your camera.  If your lens has distance markings on the focus ring, you can use this to your advantage.
  • File Type:  You should always shoot in RAW with night photography.  JPEG does not have the bit depth to handle the vast dynamic range of night photography.  In the long run, you’ll inevitably lose some of the definition somewhere.  But if you shoot JPEG, you won’t have any control as to what gets lost.  But this should all be moot, because you always shoot in RAW anyhow, right?

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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