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Submitted on
August 29, 2013


56 (who?)

5 must knows for better night photos

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 5:55 AM


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Find your camera and see what iso settings you can push your camera to and still retain descent image quality, this is especially important when shooting auroras, a high iso sensitivity means you can push the shutterspeed under the magical 8 seconds to retain some of the movement of the aurora in the image.
(I personally recommend 6 or less)

Preventing STAR TRAILS
Use the rule of 600 to keep stars in the picture from trailing/streaking.
Divide 600 by the true focal lenght of your lens, true is measured by 35mm full frame, so a 30 mm full frame lens would yield this simple equation: 600/30 = 20 second (or less) exposure and stars will look nice.
For cropped sensors you have to time your focal length with 1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon.
So 16 mm wide angle lens on a Canon cropped sensor would equal 25.6mm true focal lengt (16*1.6) giving this equation: 600/25.6 = 23.43 seconds or less to prevent startrails.
(ps: superwide and ultrawide lenses will show startrails faster on the edges, so divide 450-500 instead of 600 for best results)

A Tripod and remote shutter
In low light situations handholding goes out the window and you need someting to keep the camera still, and everytime you click that shutter and remove your hand you induce a little bit of vibration in the camera, so for optimal sharpness I recommend a remote shutter.
Tripod gets a bump in price as soon as you get over to carbon fiber, but you can get great aluminum and even wooden tripods for much less, and a fast look on ebay will give you 3rd party remote shutter as low as a 10th of the price of branded ones.
But you can workaround both if you are on a low budget.
A towel to lay your camera on, a book to elevate the lens and a surface like for instance a rock and you have your custom "tripod", and if you use the self timer on the camera your hand will be away long before the shutter goes off.

Focus and test shots
Getting focus at night can be very easy, find the brightest star turn the focus ring until it becomes sharp, go over until it blurs just a bit, then back again until it is sharp.
This technique will make sure you get the sky in focus, be careful though as you will be at the further end of the scale and if you have something in the foreground close it might get quite soft.
Another way is to use the infinity mark on the lens, but keep in mind that those are often guidelines and not set in stone, for instance on my 14-24mm F2.8 lens, having it on the infinity mark gives slightly soft images, I have to keep it just a touch under.
When you think you have gotten the focus right do a highly overexposed image so the ground is clearly visible, check the shot and zoom in to see if it is sharp, if it is you are all set, if not repeat the focus process.
If you want to have foreground sharp and background acceptably sharp you have to resort to hyperfocal distance ( from wikipedia: The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp).
It is some math behind this but for simplicity there are numerous apps that does that for you, all you enter in is your F-stop and Focal range and it calculates for you where you should move your focus.(ex: "DOF Calculator", "Hyperfocal Distance" a search will lead to more)

Preserve your night vision
It takes time for your eyes to adjust to darkness and nothing kills that faster than a big ass white torch of a flashlight, and for the previous step being able to see the stars through the viewfinder a good astronomy flashlight will go a long way.
Red light will hurt your nightvision the least, and flashlights like the Rigel Starlite Red Flashlight and the Orion 5756 DualBeam LED Astronomy Flashlight will help you preserve nightvision better, both have adjustable brightness settings the orion also has 2 white LEDs for when you need to pick stuff of the ground and such.
And also your photography friends will thank you for not blinding them when out shooting at night. :D

Stay cool :)

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mistafocus Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Great tips there! 

Do you have any for shooting an object in low light shooting a car under streetlight/carpark light?
SharkHarrington Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2013   Photographer
I'd like to experiment more with night photography in the coming year.  I'll just stash this tutorial in my favorites folder.
Trichardsen Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2013  Professional Photographer
Night photography is so rewarding, you get to gaze upon the stars and you get to bring how a few memories of it. :)
nyelfox Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks so much this was awsome! I'm waiting for my camera to arrive so I can start practicing with photography, mean while I'm trying to learn as much as I can, your tips are definitely helping a lot!
Trichardsen Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional Photographer
My pleasure, glad you find this helpful. :)
PhotographsByBri Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2013
Those are great tips and you can be sure that I will be using them in the future.. one question... What if I have a 55-200 mm zoom lens with a 52 mm wideangel.. my camera is a NikonD3000 and I prefer to shoot in manual for night photo's?
I do have a tripod but no remote shutter. :(
I don't think my camera is capable of shooting the milky way.. just the small specks of stars. :( Lightning it does alright, northern lights it will do good as long as i remember my darn tripod.
But great tips and thank you so much for sharing your wonderful knowledge.
Trichardsen Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional Photographer
With a 52 mm lens on a dx camera you are stuck at a max of 7.6 seconds, the d3000 does not have the best iso performance either, but you can try at 1600 iso and 6 seconds and see how far you can push it in post.'
There is another solution and that is stacking photos, for instance with deepskystacker, but that is a whole different process and very time consuming.

Since you do not have a tripod you can always use the self-timer on the camera, it works great. :)
PhotographsByBri Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013
No I have a tripod but not the remote shutter.
But yeah I have noticed that the iso is not the best and I think it's time to invest in a new camera.. updated nikon. :D
Still once I do, I will then try and take star photography and use your tips. :D
Trichardsen Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional Photographer
Well a tripod more important than a remote shutter, a remote shutter is for that little extra bit :D
The thing about skychasing and nightphotography is that it is real easy to get hooked on it :)
PhotographsByBri Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013
Oh yes that's for sure, I'm very hooked on it now.. never really tried it all that much before unless the northern lights where out but I was always unsuccessful in capturing those.. at least not in good enough quality.
Now that I know more then i did then and am trying it again, things are coming out a lot better and I can't seem to stop, makes the day photography seem mediocre. :( But still.. it's very fun!!
The longest exposure I can get is 5 seconds I think. But yeah a updated camera will help.
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