Improve Your Nighttime Photography with Five Easy Tips

Feb 20, 2020

Nighttime photography affords you a chance to capture stunning images quite different from your daytime options. The moon, the stars and the northern lights are just a few options. If you want to explore the cosmos with your camera, here are five ways to get started:


  1. Choose a Subject

    This can be challenging. It’s hard to find things to photograph in the dark. Camera settings are different at night, too. It’s best to select a subject before you start and choose the place where you want to photograph it.

  2. Experiment with Moonlight

    If you want to photograph the moon, you’ll have to consider its phases. Every phase will give you different lighting potentials, and all moon phases are equally photogenic. Full moons brighten the sky. They give you fewer dark shadows and a brilliantly lit landscape. To track the moon’s phases, check out an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It can help you to plan where you want the moon to appear in your photos.

  3. Select a Location

    By familiarizing yourself with a location during daylight, you’ll have a better grip on what you want to photograph after dark. Daytime location scouting will also save you the trouble of being unable to see your surroundings after nightfall.

    When you choose a location in advance, you’ll have a better chance of creating the right composition. You can augment your photograph by combining it with other elements like trees, architecture, mountains, a waterfall or a body of water.

  4. Use a Tripod

    A tripod is a must to stabilize your camera and help you to create sharper and brighter images. If for some reason you cannot use a tripod, try placing the camera on a flat surface and use your timer or bulb setting, or better yet a remote release to keep the camera steady while you’re making your photo.

    Keeping the camera from moving is an essential part of nighttime photography. The tiniest movement can throw the image off. Even pressing the shutter button can move the camera slightly. Adding a remote trigger for the shutter button can keep your image from being disturbed, and if you have mirror lock-up, use that as well.

  5. Increase Your ISO

    ISO gauges the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the number, the less sensitive your camera will be to light and the finer the grain in the image. A higher ISO lets you use a faster shutter speed, allowing the camera sensor to take in more light and that helps to freeze movement.


To capture distinctive nighttime photos, slower shutter speeds or longer exposures may be necessary. However, longer exposures might not compliment the images you’re photographing. In that case, you’ll have to increase the ISO setting to help you shoot faster in lower light.

Raising the ISO to 3200 or 6400 will give you a finer image and a brighter exposure with a shorter shutter speed. However, the higher your ISO, the more digital noise is created. For evening photos, try to find a slightly slower shutter speed.

Shoot for a setting between 10 seconds to 4 hours and a medium ISO of between 1000 and 3200 depending on the effect you wish to capture. Working with meteors or the Milky Way will require a higher ISO and shutter times of between 7-30 seconds depending on much star movement you are willing to tolerate. Shooting the moon will require even shorter times, while star trails can take hours.


Bonus tip: While scouting your location try to find a flat place so when you come back in the evening you can bring a chair to set up for some comfort and relaxation during your shooting session. And speaking of comfort and relaxation, beverages are always welcome during a long evening of shooting. Additionally, bring a flashlight and comfortable clothes. In northern climes that means some warmer clothing and during the summer months, plenty of covering and bug juice to keep the evening bugs away.


Learn and Travel with Steinberg Photography


Now that you’ve learned about nighttime photography, you’re ready to get out there and create somewomderful pictures! Have you ever considered honing your skills on a photography adventure? Now is a great time to go with professional photographers Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg photography. We offer numerous exciting workshops and tours that are great for photographers of all skill levels.
Thanks for reading!