Night Photography Tips for DSLR Users

Night Photography Tips for DSLR Users


Looking for some tips for night time photography with your DSLR?

Here’s a video tutorial (7 minutes) with some handy tips – produced by Camera Labs. Enjoy.

What other tips would you add for DSLR users looking for some night photography advice?

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Michael O'Keefe December 7, 2011 10:10 am

    Here is my dilemma, shooting a busy fire scene at night, with emergency strobe lights and firefighters running around, not to mention the flood lights facing away from me as I shoot. Hard to get crisp shots even with a tripod. Using a Canon 60 D. Please help!

  • rion September 20, 2011 06:21 am

    Because cameras have the ability to accumulate light over time, night time photographs can seem brighter than they do to our eyes. This means that details are revealed that are hidden details from view because of the limitations of the light gathering ability of our eyes. very usefull tips

    i have same tips here about how to revealed colors of night for Details and Moods

  • RM De La Haya October 26, 2010 02:53 am

    when shooting subjects with my Canon xti in a dark location or at night time, I get decent shots but in dark areas, all of my subjects turn out with a strong YELLOW tint.

    outdoor example: a fountain with reflected white light appears light blue or at most slight tan to the naked eye. Despite changing my iso settings (100-1600), f stop (2.8 - 22)and speed (1/4000 to bulb), i still get yellow images.

    indoor example: in a hotel lobby, with ambient light, all of my pix look yellow despite changes to iso, f stop and speed. see attached photo please

    Very clean and beautiful pix, just strong yellow tones. any ideas how I can get more accurate colors during night shots.

    signed, frustrated of the yellow.

    bytheway: i appreciate your informative videos and articles. they have been my most useful guide for purchases and tutorials. I much appreciate it partner!


  • Rick Landry September 22, 2009 12:59 am

    I just struggled with a very spontaneous night photography event, i.e., attempting to shoot a nearby raging forest fire threatening a town. Wind gusts were up to 35 miles an hour, and it was 10:30PM, dark except for the fire. Although I managed to come away with a half dozen "good" shots of this phenomenon, I "battled" with a 400mm lens which would not lock-on to a focus point ( there were plenty of flames!), and thus I could not depress the shutter. Manual focus produced the same problem. I found the only way I could get the shutter to operate ( using a Canon 5D MkII @ ISO1250, 1.5 to 3.5sec., and f-stop 5.6) was by turning on and off the camera: sometimes it would then latch on to a focal point, and I could depress the shutter.
    In retrospect, I think my mistake was narrowing depth of field by opening the aperture as wide as I could. I may inadvertently have been preventing the lens from focusing on something at the distant range. I would be interested to learn what others think about this? TY.

  • yasky August 10, 2009 04:28 pm

    Although I enjoy nigh photography long enough, this tips also help me with some new information.

  • borndate December 22, 2008 02:26 pm

    Good video, eventhough it didn't go in detail but sufficient for entry level dslr user to understand on how it works for night photography. For advance user who already knew this, you don't need to read this site, right? You all are "very pro" now. If you still insist to blog in, you can always add in whatever it is missing in this video. Share it with us.

  • Dan December 17, 2008 12:22 pm

    Some complained about it being to basic. If it is to basic for you then you most likely don't need the help the rest of us are looking for on this site. It was very helpful to me including the knobology, Keep the tips coming.

  • awokenMIND December 17, 2008 05:54 am

    As I too have a Rebel XTi, I do own its manual and well, it explains how I set an aperture and how to dial in the time or change ISO-Settings. Nothing else did I criticize in my above comment. It's just that I don't want to see each and every button to be pushed in a video tutorial. Every owner of a DSLR should know how to dial in an aperture as it's dealt with in the manual. The meaning behind e.g. different aperture values may not be the key of a manual but that's not what I was talking about!

  • Rick December 17, 2008 03:30 am

    @awokenmind: When you find a user's manual, out of the box, for ANYTHING that explains the product better than a third party publisher, let me know. The manual that came with my Rebel XTi is next to worthless. However, I have had some success with the field guide.

  • DD_nVidia June 2, 2008 09:07 am

    Er, linkback?

    And some props to Gordon for making all the videos over at cameralabs and dslr tips.

    Why switch your camera back to fully automatic, well, suppose its personal preference, mine gets set to Av @ f/4 ISO 400 as a custom function 1 when it goes back in my bag, so if i pull it out to get a shot, I've got it, sure a little noise, but nothing you'll see when printed at a4, or a3 with a little NR.

    Some people also seem to be confused by depth of field here.

    The noticeable DoF on your 50mm F/1.8 lens isnt always the same, even though its a prime lens. The distance you are focusing is important. Stand right up near the closest focusing distance, the depth of field will look more dramatic, go back to capture it properly, it won't look as though the depth of field is so big.

    If i have it right there is a formula to work out the depth of field with Aperture, Focal Length AND Focusing Distance, Distance between the Subject and other items in the foreground/background.

    Something along those lines anyway. Wikipedia has the forumla i'm sure.

    Anyway, props again to Gordon and to those over at and - should check them out plenty more videos over at the site.

  • Jeffrey March 22, 2008 04:49 pm

    The suggestions are pretty basic, but good ones nonetheless.

    Niel, great comment with great suggestions

    On the depth of field issue, I think it really depends on how far you're focusing, because if you're focusing to infinity, I don't think it would matter what your aperture is because it's all going to get covered anyways. If you're doing an exposure on a tripod, I would use the smaller aperture simply because at wider apertures you typically get edge softening =/

    I think the timer trick is the most useful one noted in the video - it's easily overlooked =] also, i think the timer trick carries well into macro photography - when shooting on a tripod, i typically use the 2 sec timer to avoid camera shake

  • Rob February 29, 2008 11:40 am

    Excellent. I like this guys video clips but I think it's about time 'DSLR owners" could start treating non DSLR owners without contempt and even "heavens above" include us.
    I've got a Fuji S5600 and I can't think of anything the average DSLR has that mu bridge doesn't. I have PASM, Raw, 2.5 frames per sec, 1 sec startup, filter ring, and ISO from 80-1600. Ok fair enough, It doesn't have a bulb and I have to use the self timer.
    There are plenty of non DSLRs on the market now that overlap the DSLR features. Please includes us. I always watch the videos and enjoy them as I'm sure other "ultra zoom" users would too but may overlook them.

  • Mandy February 25, 2008 08:23 pm

    great video, it's nice to see visually how to do it rather than just reading about night photography. I find I take a lot more in when I can see how it is done.


  • Bob February 25, 2008 11:39 am


  • Bob February 25, 2008 11:38 am

    Interesting and helpful. Thanks. I take something away from these postings every day!

  • Dave Hein February 24, 2008 03:53 pm

    A trick I learned a long time ago when using film and photographing meteor showers is to use a black card in front of the camera to both start and stop the exposure. This allows the camera a little time to settle down after releasing the shutter - whether via a timer, finger, or cable release - and also ensures a clean, shake free image at the end of the exposure if the reverse procedure is used.

    I still use this method, even with a tripod, cable release, and the new DSLRs.

  • janice nathan February 24, 2008 05:36 am

    Yes.. thank-you for that!
    I'm new too this-so all the mentioning of camera parts is a good reminder in understanding how the camera works! and reading thru everyones comments has openned my mind/aperture....
    I will certainly give this another go -with more night shots have not been that great in
    the past , ..I've got all these great tips now!

  • Rodbotic February 23, 2008 07:01 pm

    changing ISO to the largest value doesn't just effect the Noise.

    it also effects the bitdepth! this I find to be the biggest negative about High ISO.

    bitdepth being the amount of detail within the photo.

    thats why cameras are now having larger ADCs on them (Analog to Digital Converters) to expand the ISO range.

    I looked it up on Kodak's specsheet for thier image sensors.
    it says HighISO the bitdepth is reduced to 7 or 6 bits of Resolution. I have read sony's sensors do the same.

  • jeni February 23, 2008 07:52 am

    great advice! keep up the good work

  • Tony February 23, 2008 02:30 am

    I was disappointed with the tutorial. I think that I know the very basics and was hoping to learn something new. One of the comments related to "mirror lock up". This is something that I would have liked to hear about. Also, if you have a small aperture I think you get lights looking like stars - which I find quite attractive. I also thought that the final photo of the Christmas lights looked too bright, but that's my personal opinion.

  • Jayme Lynn Blaschke February 23, 2008 01:40 am

    Mirror lockup is a good way to reduce camera shake on long exposures when using a tripod, but it needs to be combined with using the self-timer or a remote trigger, otherwise the act of pressing the button to make the shot will introduce shake itself. That's an essential bit of learning for anyone interested in astrophotography, which can have very long exposure times, indeed.

  • Jamie H February 23, 2008 01:08 am

    If you are using a tripod, what is the need to open the aperture fully? I would set the aperture to get the depth of field I require, then alter the shutter speed accordingly to get the best exposure. Longer exposures can introduce more noise to the image, but most DSLR's have a noise reduction setting for these situations.

    I there is a good reason to use larger apertures, could someone please explain why?

  • macdane February 23, 2008 12:58 am

    @Klaida: If you replace "fully automatic" with "normal settings" that remains excellent advice. I can't count the times I've done shoots with really goofy settings and then forgot to reset back to something reasonable. But I agree, fully automatic is just silly.

  • murr February 22, 2008 03:48 pm

    went out to the beach last night for a full moon eclipse drum circle around a fire. It was very windy, and I had left my tripod in the car. Had a great time taking pics, which I rarely do at night, without light. Got some really good pics. Used a piece of firewood for my monopod, and it worked extremely nicely as a substitute and got my shots close to the action. It did get bumped by a dog once or twice, and I made a great save, catching my camera after juggling it a few times, stopping it from hitting the dreaded sticky beach sand.

  • david February 22, 2008 03:35 pm

    cool. thanks for this


  • Jakob Montrasio February 22, 2008 01:46 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial, I love to shoot at night and was able to learn some good stuff!

  • Pert February 22, 2008 01:22 pm

    great suggestions...

    but yeah, for those with DSLR, keep your settings in M or Av or Tv mode..

    by the way, what brand of a tripod would you recommend? i know there are lot...

  • Christof February 22, 2008 12:15 pm

    Good points, Neil.
    What I've learned from several HDR sessions outside is:
    Keep the shoulder belt out of the wind, it may act as a sail/canvas otherwise.

    Great blog, keep on with that thing!

  • Neil Creek February 22, 2008 10:09 am

    Good tips for one beginning to experiment with night photography. I've had a bit of experience with this kind of photo, and here's a few other things I'd siggest:

    - I disagree with the suggestion of opening the lens aperture to its widest setting. Lenses show their weakensses most at the widest aperture, and the problems are particularly obvious on point light sources, something which you will encounter frequently in this kind of photography.
    - I recommend setting the aperture at least 2/3 stop short of the widest setting to avoid thisproblem. This will increase your shutter time, but wnen you're already taking a 5sec exposure, an extra second or two won't make much difference.
    - For exposures of 5 seconds or more, especially if you're using a flimsy tripod, mirror lockup is helpful to minimise camera shake even further. You'll usually find this in your camera's custom functions.
    - If it's windy, or you're using a heavy lens on your tripod, it may be difficult to keep the camera steady. Two ways to increase tripod stability is to hang some weight from the centre post, or collapse the tripod legs to their minimum height.

  • Kevin Zdyb February 22, 2008 09:08 am

    I have a question.....If you are shooting at such a wide open aperture doesn't that result in a poor depth of field? Wouldn't that lead to out of focus shots?

  • Oz February 22, 2008 08:01 am

    Now that I've actually watched the video (I was expecting a little more advanced), I have to say, yeah, actually not that helpful.

  • Klaidas February 22, 2008 07:58 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention the most important thing, in my opinion:
    "Once you've completed your night photography, always remember to switch your camera back to its fully automatic "
    o_O ??!! What's up with that?! Uhhh!!! How can an editor of a website for DSLRs even say such a thing?..
    And all in all, why even buy a DSLR if you're in fully automatic?..
    Gaaah. Stay in manual, or at least in Tv or Av.

  • Klaidas February 22, 2008 07:47 am

    I don't know, the tips are really basic...
    I mean, they sure are useful for starters, but Darren himself has written some very good articles here on DPS explaining exposure (shutter, iso, aperture), with better examples too...

  • James Robertson February 22, 2008 07:34 am

    Thanks for the pointer to the video!

    The "handy tips" link in the body of the post, however, points to a very strange location on Amazon. Some sort of advertising tool glitch?

  • J. Harrison February 22, 2008 06:30 am

    Video is down. Any other links?

  • Rebecca February 22, 2008 06:10 am

    Must say...wish I had watched this last night when I was trying to capture the lunar eclipse...


  • geotography February 22, 2008 05:13 am

    Well Done! Great review!

  • Tom February 22, 2008 04:53 am

    The only thing I would add is adjusting the ISO as well. Especially in reference to the lunar eclipse last night. At 400mm I had to use a high ISO to get a short enough exposure so that the natural movement of the Moon didn't blur the image. A one second exposure at ISO 1600 worked well, if a little grainy. Otherwise, you would need some kind of tracking mount that moved at the same speed as the Moon.

  • awokenMIND February 22, 2008 04:29 am

    I wonder why users of a DSLR need training in setting up the parameters like aperture and time! Isn't that the duty of a camera's manual? The video is quite good but why do we need to see each and every dial on each and every knob? I wouldn't dare to explain the steering wheel to an amateur racing driver...

  • Ryan February 22, 2008 03:21 am

    Its probably a good practice to remember to set your ISO to 100. If your taking long exposures at night time, you want your blacks to be inky black...and the least amount of noise as possible.

  • Oz February 22, 2008 03:03 am

    Grah! Wish I had seen this before attempting shots of the eclipse last night.

  • wuss February 22, 2008 02:50 am

    What about ISO speed? Shouldn't it be increased as much as possible, or are you keeping a low speed to avoid grainy shots?

  • Sam (Stock photo review) February 22, 2008 02:49 am

    thanks! very helpful tutorial.

  • Sean Hagins February 22, 2008 02:18 am

    Very informative. I knew most of what you said, but it never occured to me to set the timer so that pressing the shutter won't introduce shake. BRILLANT! Anyway, I have a few night shots in the Nature & Scenery gallery on my website, Check it out!

  • Phillip Hines February 22, 2008 01:33 am

    Great information. Thanks for the video.

  • AC February 22, 2008 01:13 am

    One more reason to get a DSLR...though, for now, with a tripod am ok taking night shots with my S2 IS.

  • jadam February 22, 2008 01:01 am

    Another obvious tip: increase the ISO. Every doubling of the ISO means the shutter only has to remain open half as long. Of course, higher ISO settings mean more noise, but especially in black-and-white photographs, noise can actually add character to a photo and give it a gritty or vintage look.

  • My Camera World February 22, 2008 12:56 am

    Night Photography can be quite enjoyable and rewarding with unique iamges.

    Time exposure can produce some interesting patterns that you would not normally see.

    This Blog articles provide some interesting photos taken with long exposures.

    Niels Henriksen

  • Benjamin February 22, 2008 12:53 am

    On a practical note: Warm clothes are essential in most climbs for night shoots!

    Also, if you use filters on your lens, you might want to remove them before doing night shoots, to avoid internal light reflections that can ruin your photos.

    Most of all, have fun - night photography is great!