Tutorial: Night photography


Now you understand the techniques, you need to select your lighting and subjects.

The short period of twilight, just after the sun has set, can be very effective. The sky around the horizon is still illuminated, even though the sun is no longer visible. When the sun is low in the sky it gives a much warmer light than the overhead sun, which is why you often see wonderful colours at twilight. Similar effects are also visible at daybreak, so if your subject is not in the right position to take advantage of twilight, try getting up early and see if shooting with the sun on the opposite side is better.

In towns, lights will often become the subject. Experiment with photographing neon signs, illuminations and floodlit buildings. Shoot at different exposures to see all the possible results. Shooting immediately after a rainstorm doubles the interest as the lights are reflected from wet streets and in puddles.

Fireworks also provide a great subject. The standard procedure is to set a long shutter speed to capture the trails and bursts. Set the camera to manual (M) mode and pick an aperture between f/8 and f/16 and a shutter speed between 5 and 10 seconds. The shutter speed will largely be dependent on the frequency with which the fireworks are exploding.

Although it's possible that your camera will be able to autofocus, it might struggle in the darkness, so it's best to set the lens to manual (MF) and focus on something the same distance away as the fireworks.

Fireworks, © Maciej Blum 2010, Canon EOS 350D

Learn more
Hopefully this tutorial has given you a good understanding of how to take photos at night together with some ideas of what to take. For more inspiration, visit Canon Professional Network (CPN), which offers a huge resource of information. For example, read about Alessandro Della Bella's passion for night time photographs of the mountains in his home country, Switzerland.

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