Tag Archives: night photography

Night Photography: How to Take Stunning Photos at Night

If you’ve been longing to take stunning photos at night, you’ve come to the right place! Use this guide to get you started.

Equipment Needed

Camera that shoots in RAW format

  • – Sturdy tripod
  • – Remote shutter release or timer

Set Up Your Tripod

You can’t skimp on a good sturdy tripod. You need it to be stable even in wind and to hold the weight of your camera. As shooting at night requires longer exposures, the camera must remain still for longer than you can hold hold. As a general rule of thumb you can hand hold an exposure for a time as the focal length of your lens, i.e. for a 50mm lens you should be able to hand hold a shot at 1/50 of a second at ISO 100.  If you’re really good you might be able to manage one or more seconds and still get a shot with no movement. But, still not enough for night photography.

Set Your Image Files to RAW

Setting your image files to RAW will take considerably more space on your memory card than the usual .jpeg format, but will capture an image with a great deal more information for you to use ensuring a much higher quality finished image when you come out of the darkroom.

Use the Manual Focus

The auto settings in cameras certainly have come a long way, but they don’t compare to using the manual settings, especially at night when the light is low and auto-focus does not function. Using the tripod gives you the time you need to manually adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, giving you full control over the shot.

It may take some tweaking to get the hang of it, but once you do, the results are well worth it. Be careful not to return your camera focus to auto as if you do, you will lose all of the settings you adjusted manually.

Become Familiar with Bulb Mode

The longest exposure time possible in many manual modes is about 30 seconds; anything longer than that, and you will need to shoot in bulb mode. This basically means that the shutter stays open as long as you hold it. Of course, you will want to use your remote shutter release, making sure it has a locking feature if you don’t want to have to hold it for the entire time. Depending on what you are shooting and what effect you desire will change the time the hutter should remain open.

Open Up the Aperture

A lower f-stop number equals a wider aperture. Night-time shots need all the light they can get, so set your f-stop as low as you can without compromising sharpness, especially along your edges. Remember that most lenses are at their sharpest in the area of f8, but f4 to f5.6 in most quality lenses will still produce an optimal images.

Use Lowest ISO

Using a really high ISO may create unnecessary noise in your image depending on the quality of your camera. While some high powered cameras are equipped with an ISO capability that can produce relatively quiet images at up to ISO 12,000, it’s best practice to stay as low as you can go. To find the limits of your camera’s ISO levels, take some test shots in low light at different ISO settings. Check the photos to determine at which point you begin to notice unacceptable digital noise and then stick below that.

Slow Shutter Speed

Using a tripod means that you can use longer exposures. Any movement in your pictures, like running water or moving headlights, will benefit from letting the shutter stay open longer. Remember though, if you are shooting images of, say, the Milky Way, that the stars will appear to be moving after 10-15 seconds.

Experiment with Bracket Exposures

This step is where you take a series of photos at different exposure settings (always keeping the same aperture) incrementally getting brighter or darker. The hope, of course, is that one of them will be the perfect one.

(Psst! Don’t miss our recent blog about photographing the Milky Way!)

Learn and Travel with Steinberg Photography

Are you a beginner or professional photographer looking to upgrade your skills or go on an adventure? Join Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg Photography on one of their workshops and tours.

A Guide to Photographing the Milky Way

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the time to capture the Milky Way is right now! The best views begin in March and extend until October.

It may seem intimidating to the beginner, but with this guide, we’ll take the mystery out of the night sky— with clear instructions that will have you excited to get out there and try it for yourself.

Equipment Needed


While the camera that you use is not necessarily important, there are certain functions you will need it to have. Manual mode is needed so that you can manually adjust ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. You’ll also want a camera lens with a minimum f/4 aperture (the smaller, the better). That’s all that you really need to get started.

However, if you are able to get a full frame camera, you will have a better image quality as the sensor can gather more light. The addition of a 14-24mm wide angle lens with a minimum f/2.8 will take your images to the next level.


A tripod is almost as necessary as a camera for this endeavor. In order to catch the Milky Way, your camera will need to remain perfectly still, and you will not be able to do that without the aid of a tripod.

Shutter Release/Intervalometer

This mechanism reduces the camera movements and vibrations when you press the shutter, and it allows for exposures longer than 30 seconds.

When to Shoot

You want to shoot when the weather is clear and the sky is at its darkest. The best time for this is during the new moon, along with the week before and the week following it. The closer to the actual new moon, the darker it will be.

Where to Shoot


You want to shoot where it is dark, away from the light pollution of cities. You can use an online tool like Dark Site Finder to find the darkest areas near you.


We know the best time to photograph the Milky Way is from March to October, but you will also need to know where it will be in the sky. You can use an app like Photo Pills to help you find it.

How to Focus at Night

With your camera set up on your tripod, set your focus ring as close to the infinity symbol as you can. In “live view,” point your camera at the brightest object you can see in the sky and zoom all the way in. Finally, adjust your focus ring until the dot of light is as small as possible.

Camera Settings

The most important element here is using your camera settings to allow as much light as possible into the shot.


It seems counter intuitive, but the smaller your f-stop, the larger your aperture. To catch the stars, you want the widest possible aperture. Therefore, you want to be at the lowest possible f-stop for your camera. If the quality is not great, move up one at a time until it is.

Shutter Speed

You need a delicate balance between a long exposure time (allowing your sensor to collect more lights) and the movement of the earth, which will cause your stars to have trails. The longer your focal length, the shorter your exposures can be.


This is the last setting you will adjust. Start at about 1600 and take a test shot. If it’s too dark, increase the ISO until the Milky Way becomes clearly visible.

Learn and Travel with Steinberg Photography

Do you want to take your skills to the next level? Professional photographers Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg Photography offer numerous exciting workshops and tours for everyone from beginners to professionals.