Night Photography Tips

Night Photography Tips

Over the last year I’ve become more and more enamored with night photography and the depth of colours offered by it. Today I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned with you and hear your thoughts on this diverse and fascinating style of photography.

What are our tools in night photography?

  1. Tripod. While not always necessary (see further on for how to cheat on this), a tripod will give you the greatest flexibility to get the angles you need while keeping your camera steady for those long exposures.
  2. Wide-angle lenses. This is a personal preference, but I love the way they work in night photography. I use Canon’s 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 ($700), but if you can afford it I’d get the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II ($1300). If both of these are out of your price range – don’t worry! Try it out with whatever you’ve got as the only thing that will limit you is your imagination.
  3. A lens hood. To minimize lens flares from light entering at angles outside of your frame.
  4. A flashlight. Sometimes you’ll want to draw attention to or simply lighten up an important part of the foreground which is too dark.
  5. Our imagination. Tools lie all around us in everyday objects to help us make our work better in this; I’ve used bicycle lamps, lampposts and newspaper boxes to get it done.

The same composition rules that apply to day apply to night, except with night we have our long exposures to take advantage of. I’ve chosen a selection of my night work to illustrate some tricks of the trade:


Old World New World by Robin Ryan

The beautiful leading lines of Vancouver’s Public Library make it a photogenic building any time of day, but the diminishing light and soft cast at night makes it an even more attractive subject. Notice the green lens flare in the top corner – this may have been avoided by removing the filter or having a faster shutter speed. The jury’s out. This was a 30 second exposure at f/22.


Vancouver in the Night by Robin Ryan

Water is your friend in night work. It seeps up colour, softens it and adds a charming glow to your images. 10 seconds at f/11.


Lion’s Gate Bridge by Robin Ryan

Again, see how the water brings more light into our images, sections out negative space and can create gorgeous symmetry. Another delight of night work is the way lights will fracture into stars on their own – no special effects here, just time. 25 seconds at f/22.


The Twilight Runner by Robin Ryan

I found myself in front of this statue wondering how on earth I could add the slightest detail to a part not facing a light source. It was a freezing night and I was biking around the park, so I took the headlamp off my bike, cupped it in my hands to make sure it wouldn’t reach the lens, and pointed it at the throat and chest area of the statue. 30 seconds at f/22.


The Rock iii by Robin Ryan

Okay, finally… another thing I love about night photography is that the only people in my shots are those who I want in them. Want to keep a figure recognizable? Shoot at a fast speed; want to blur that crowd or lose them entirely? Get that shutter speed to 10-30 seconds and watch them blur into obscurity. In this shot, an otherwise drab crowd of skaters has turned into a blur of figures that adds movement and life to an otherwise still image. A 1 second exposure at f/8 allowed me to blur the skaters while keeping still the crowd in the background.


Times Square by Robin Ryan

Remember when I said that tripods weren’t always necessary? They aren’t. The world’s full of flat surfaces on which to perch or press your camera. Just make sure to use a timer (the jolt of your finger depressing the shutter can move your camera) and, if you are holding the camera against a vertical surface, keep the speed relatively quick (1/8 of a second to 2 seconds). This was 2.5 seconds at f/22.


The Rock ii by Robin Ryan

As always, look for unique angles. This shot of the Rockefeller Center in New York City catches just the top of it, showing off the interplay of light in the surrounding buildings. Tripodless, I turned on a 2-second timer, pressed my camera firmly against the base of a statue, and shot this one. 1/8 of a second at f/8.

Lastly, if shooting with a camera that has a form of Live View, use it! Live View is indispensable for nailing your focus, especially as you can do a digital zoom to manually adjust your focus. A tripod will be a big help for this. Simply turn on the live view, flick your lens to manual focus, and adjust your focus ring until you’ve got perfect focus.

I hope this article has encouraged you to get out tonight and see how beautifully-different our world is under the light of the moon and streetlamps. I’d love to hear your thoughts and techniques in the comments.

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Robin Ryan is a Vancouver-based photographer who works with Breakfast Club of Canada to organize free breakfast programs for children in at-risk communities. When he isn’t travelling through remote communities in British Columbia, you can find him exploring quiet mountain ranges in Alaska or the bustling streets of Madrid, never far from his camera. Connect with him on his blog for more information."

Some Older Comments

  • Daniel September 18, 2013 01:52 pm

    Hi what a wonderful post!
    For the twilight runner photo, I would bring a LED light with me just to light up the sculpture a little bit.

    Thank you for the post.


  • Richard February 22, 2013 04:20 pm

    Taking a trip to Vegas, would I want leave my filter on my lens for at night photos?

  • Carlisle August 16, 2012 09:51 pm

    Great set of tips. I personally use Nikons 10-20mm and see no real difference after using the more expensive Canon equivilent for a while

  • Robin October 25, 2011 04:55 am

    @richard buck et al.,

    The Runner- 800ISO
    Vancouver at Night - 400ISO
    Lions Gate Bridge - 800ISO
    the last three - 100ISO

  • Paul September 18, 2011 08:22 am

    Good set of images, this is something I've dabbled with but need to practice more. Thanks.

  • jan September 16, 2011 03:34 am

    great article, i really enjoyed reading it?

    i'm new in night photography. next month i'm travelling to NYC. i wanna take some photos from top of the rocks rockefeller center downown heading to the empire state building. how wide would you guys open your aperture for this particular example?

  • Photography Tips & Tricks September 16, 2011 01:34 am

    Wonderful tips. It looks like your sweet spot is f/15 and 25 to 30 in many of the images. You've inspired me to go out this weekend and try for some night shots. The only issue is that I'm rural so I really need good moonlight and my options are limited to landscapes unless I drive to the city. Thanks for sharing!

  • Richard Buck September 15, 2011 11:34 pm

    Shutter speed and apeture isn't enough information, we would also need to know what ISO was used on these photos, and possibly color temp.



  • Subash September 13, 2011 03:08 am

    Wow!!! Wow!!! that is what I can say after going through the above article. Thanks for sharing the aperture and shutter speed settings. Wow!!!

  • Kris shaw September 5, 2011 06:41 am

    I love shooting at night and the results can be so rewarding but I always forget how different it is to just simply shooting in daylight. A couple of tools I always find handy are:
    A. A torch. Seriously I know it sounds simple but the amount of times I've gone out without it and struggled. If not just for seeing where your walking, you're gonna need it to focus or at least see where that speedlight gel is you just dropped!
    B. Hand warmers. Not for your hands but for your batteries. I live in the uk and it's pretty cold on a night when it's not the height of summer. Last year I invested in a load of cheap gel hand warmers (the type you snap and they heat up). I bought a load and wrap my spare batteries for my torch, camera and speedlights along with them. keeps my batteries from dying quickly in the cold. Its amazing how they drain in the cold air. The £1 warmers really made a difference. Hope this might help anyone considering a night shoot in the near future!

  • Derrick Heng September 4, 2011 03:01 pm

    I took night photo few week ago,I notice that during the night do we need a fast shutter speed to able to capture the image?
    Sometime I use high shutter speed like 1/1000, I notice that my image white wash or dark off.
    pls advice me what to do next time I went for night shoot and one more thing is "How high shell I put my iso?


  • Frances September 4, 2011 01:08 pm

    I need to shoot a football team and they are wanting to do the pics on the field in the evening under the lights. Any suggestions or tips for this set up to be successful. Thank you!

  • Andy Mills September 4, 2011 07:26 am

    @Michael Munro

    "One question springs to mind, if I do not ask I will never know. Why would you want a f1:2.8 lens when you use an aperture of f8 or f22? Using a lens with a big aperture makes the lens faster hence an aperture of f1:2.8 or a f1:1.8 lens would be a very quick lens. Does the big aperture really have an effect at f22?"

    Basically for the same reason you'd want a small aperture at any other time of day - depth of field. Often night exposure subjects require the DoF - such as cityscapes. And sharpness - many lenses aren't as sharp wide open, but saying that, many aren't as sharp stopped right down (my 17-70mm starts dropping off at f/18).

  • Bill (wsbII) September 3, 2011 03:04 am

    to Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead - I do agree that some of the photos do use some extensive post processing. If you look above to the post I put above though, the shot where the path is illuminated (I included in my post) you'll see a shot with no PP at all. Shot it and posted it. On the flipside the star trails shots can be done with PP or without. To shoot them without can get a bit grainy as the exposures are long (like 60-90 minutes in some cases or even longer).

    My take - PP can be a helpful tool, but you need to be careful with it. I think your daughter gave good advice on being cautious with the use of PP, but don't completely limit yourself. Some "shots" require techniques to really make the shot happen. Find your balance of PP and the original that suits you personally and that's all that matters. Just my $0.02...

  • Robin September 3, 2011 12:34 am

    "I notice your shots are all with black sky – do you prefer that to twilight (blue hour)? If so – is it because you can keep longer exposures, fewer people, etc?'"

    I think they're both valuable. A dark sky creates an obviously nice negative space and can often be complimented with clouds lit by city lights, but whatever works.

    Glad to see some renewed interest in this article. Keep shooting!


  • NIX September 2, 2011 09:29 pm

    Sorry left out the link that I wanted to shared. This was taken from Singapore Marina Bay

  • NIX September 2, 2011 09:27 pm

    Nice photography tips. I would like to add something, when shooting with higher f-stop, it helps produce sharper images however the down side with higher f-stop are, longer exposure time which may increase image noise and starburst effect.

    I have learn this after a couple of try in night photography and the latest was taken in

    End of the day, it will be the balance of the 3 elements, ISO, Shutter speed and F-stop that produce the perfect photo.

    [timberman] Night photography does not necessary be highly post processed. A simple tweak on exposure setting, white balance setting and noise removal will help in producing better quality images if you have used the right technique to shoot.

  • Héctor Barragán September 2, 2011 05:46 pm

    Useful tips as always!!! I'm your super fan.... Keep the good work up, I wish I could afford all those tools to become a professional photographer!!!!

  • el jojo September 2, 2011 04:33 pm

    These shots are definitely NOT post-processed (well, that's what I believe anyways) as this is the outcome when taking long exposured shots; beautiful vibrant colours and smooth textures. That's the beauty of it.

  • Nilarun Basu September 2, 2011 03:41 pm

    Great article!! I have the standard Canon kit lens (18-55) and a 75-300 telephoto. any suggestions which one would be better for nightime photography??

  • Nick September 2, 2011 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the tips!
    But I wanna know, can I take a good night photograph with a Canon PowerShot A3200 IS? Seems that it does not have the functions like long exposure, neither can I use another lens. I was worried for long about night photography...>< Please give me some more tips, thank you!!

  • Dave September 2, 2011 09:13 am

    In the list of requirements, where they mention the lenses they use, I agree it seems like it was Canon sponsored, but the writer uses a Canon camera I can only assume. But what I didn't agree with was the comment that if you can afford the 'L' series lens then go for it. As they were talking about wide angle, this seems a bit irresponsible to not explain further.

    His first choice was a Canon EFS 10-22 lens, suitable for cropped sensor cameras. The EF 16-35 L is designed for full frame or film cameras. If you put the 16-35 on a cropped sensor the wide angle disappears! Yes its better quality, but this was a comment on wide angle. tsk tsk...

  • Kent September 2, 2011 05:34 am

    this is the work that i've done last weekend...:The Pier"

  • Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead September 2, 2011 05:00 am

    As a DSLR beginner, I have been advised by daughter who is a pro applied artist, to devote my first 2 to 3 years solid on mastering settings, techniques and composition, AND TO STAY AWAY FROM POST-PROCESSING as far as possible. I have adhered to this for 18 months now; but the post-processing temptation is strong. I do some on element, photoscape and photomatrix.
    My question is this: These night photos seem to be highly post-processed. Am I right, please?

  • Lavanya Photography September 2, 2011 04:36 am

    I have done couple of long exposure photography. Not night, but a resort and hotel interior contract with natural lighting. Big resorts and restaurants generally prefer very very dim eye soothing lighting.

    Here are few links. Hope u guys enjoy.

  • hassan Alsaffar September 2, 2011 02:54 am

    Nice work, very useful information.
    Thanks for sharing you work with us.

  • Mariana Alves September 2, 2011 02:39 am

    Those are great tips, for sure! But how about night photography within people? I find this really hard to do, impossible, in fact... they wont wait to all this!

  • Michael Munro September 2, 2011 02:31 am

    I also like to do night photography. I recently did a wedding where I used the garden lights to light up the couple. They had to stand very still of course, but the effect was fantastic. One question springs to mind, if I do not ask I will never know. Why would you want a f1:2.8 lens when you use an aperture of f8 or f22? Using a lens with a big aperture makes the lens faster hence an aperture of f1:2.8 or a f1:1.8 lens would be a very quick lens. Does the big aperture really have an effect at f22?

  • TA September 2, 2011 01:30 am

    Got any tips for shooting outdoor, night time sporting events, i.e. highschool football? I help with the sideline photography for our high school and always struggle with the bad lighting.

  • Bud Branch September 2, 2011 12:54 am

    I agree: LiveView is awesome for tweeking focus.

    Remember: Once in LiveView mode, you can ZOOM it (w/the zoom button), THEN focus...

  • jhun castor September 1, 2011 11:23 pm

    thanks mr.andy mills for the information, its a big help, thanks again..

  • javier September 1, 2011 09:59 am

    30 secs, no tripod ;-)

    Not night photo, but taken inside a cave, so even more extreme lack of light:

    And with a tripod, taking advantage of trailing lights:

  • KRE September 1, 2011 07:33 am

    I notice your shots are all with black sky - do you prefer that to twilight (blue hour)? If so - is it because you can keep longer exposures, fewer people, etc?


  • Andy Mills September 1, 2011 06:20 am

    @jhun castor
    "long exposure" means the shutter being opened for longer than normal - this is needed to grab more light for the sensor to record. It seems like you need to start with the basics, and this beyond what can be covered in a comment (and has been done so often there's no need for me to reinvent the wheel). But as a starter, you need to research exposure, which is controlled by three things - ISO (sensor sensitivity), Aperture (the size of the "hole" that lets in the light) and shutter speed (how long the sensor is left open to the light coming through the aperture/"hole").

    Here on dPS, there is a section for beginners at:

    Specifically the first few articles under "The Basics of Exposure" section will help you get started.

  • Yeelen September 1, 2011 12:00 am

    Night photography is my favourite kind of photography, the images never really look bad imo. Needless to say my flickr has quite a few of them :D

    One of the recent ones: Basically, it's me walking around the car with my LED flash cellphone, and forgetting to turn them away from the lens. A lucky failure, then :) Is an example of getting a wide-angle shot. Hit the shutter (with the 2-second timer), wait until it's done and marvel at the lights :D

    And here's two examples of selective colouring:

  • jhun castor August 31, 2011 03:26 pm

    im a novice when it comes from photography, im using onlt still digicam and recently i bought a canon EOS 1100D because i want to learn friend introduced me in night photography and he mentioned every now and then the word "long exposure", how can i do the long exposure, is there any adjustment in the camera? thanks a lot and hope to hear from you soon.

  • Bill (wsbII) August 31, 2011 08:35 am

    Interesting article, definitely a topic close to my heart. I would offer up that the tips included are great, but would stress 4 and 5. A flashlight can be invaluable as you light paint things at night. I used one recently to paint a barn being used as foreground for a star trails shot. - link is here... .

    Number 5 is the most important in my opinion. As evidence of that I was out with a buddy (Ryan W - pics here... ) last winter and after trying multiple set ups we worked together to create this shot link here = .

    Creativity is limitless at night....
    Bill B

  • Reddy August 31, 2011 05:11 am

    Forgot to add one more....

  • Reddy August 31, 2011 05:09 am

    I have mine shooting at night photos around my home town.

  • George August 30, 2011 11:15 pm

    One of my first long exposure snap at 6 sec no tripod:)

  • Carolyn Chentnik August 30, 2011 05:58 am

    my try at light trails:
    my p365

  • Ryan August 30, 2011 12:41 am

    As ridiculous as it may seem at first, DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE ND FILTERS AT NIGHT! Yes, it is night time and shutter speeds wil likely be around or in excess of 30 seconds, but many times, I have needed to employ 1, 2 and even 4 stop filters in my night time shots.

    Take for example this shot I took of THE BEAN IN CHICAGO. With all the passers by (locals and tourists) I needed a 4 stop filter which allowed me to eliminate everyone w/o a single blurred body. Nice, b/c I was able to get The Bean and skyline all by itself, and it also allowed tourists to enjoy the sculpture w/o having to worry about getting in my shot.

    I also needed to use a ND FILTER AT NIGHT (!) to create the effect that I wanted in this shot. A nearby baseball stadium was illuminating the night sky to such an extent that I couldn't get the amount of water blur or boat light movement I wanted of THE OHIO RIVER in CINCINNATI.

  • Tapan August 30, 2011 12:12 am

    Here are few shots I had taken in downton Chicago.

    Downtown Chicago Night Photography


  • Terry Mase August 29, 2011 10:56 pm

    Here are a series of shots I took from the beach here in Fort Lauderdale when Irene was passing us. The winds were gusting over 40+ mph and it was very hard to get the tripod to stay still (Even implanted securely into the sand). Some of them are a little fuzzy but, I did manage to capture some nice shots of Fort Lauderdale beach.

  • Antony Pratap August 29, 2011 09:12 pm

    Those are some great tips!

  • gipukan August 29, 2011 08:53 pm

    I did my first night shot with my new canon xsi and the 50 f/1.8 while in Cape town. It took me 6 shots to get it right :)

    I'ts an evening view over houtbay in Cape Town in South Africa where the sky was great and the city lights had just turned on.

    Nice tips indeed Daren.

  • Uxío Fraga August 29, 2011 03:34 pm

    I've personaly found that, for night photography, removing my UV filter (which is not a crappy one) brings a noticeable improvement in image quality. Don't know the exact reason.

    Also, it's may preference to shoot on the "blue hour" than at completely dark night. Colors are even more stunning.


  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer August 29, 2011 11:52 am

    I like the composition and concept of the "Rock iii" shot in the post.

    Another reason to use a flashlight for night photography is so that you can use autofocus to get a focus lock on your subject, especially if making portraits at night from distance, like when using this kind of off camera flash setup:

    I would amend this post to state a "good, no compromises tripod." For years I did not often need a tripod for my paid work. When I did, or when I wanted to do some personal shooting, I suffered with some flimsy $120-ish tripod. Well last month I had a job I just could not do without a proper, no compromises tripod. Even though it cost $600 (Induro CT214 with Induro BDH2 ballhead) I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to shoot with a real tripod. If you are on the fence about investing in a no compromises tripod, I say, do it, you will not regret it at all. After my thorough research, the $600 for the Induro was the cheapest option for someone needing only 70-200mm f/2.8 lens support (max 300mm). Now I love making shots that require a tripod.

  • Jean-Pierre August 29, 2011 09:47 am

    Awesome guidelines.

  • Scottc August 29, 2011 08:43 am

    I certainly agree on two points, a tripod is not always necessary and water (even a damp street) can add some wonderful light and color to a night photo.

    A set of photos taken at night, many with no tripod and water is present in some form in most.

  • Andy Mills August 29, 2011 08:37 am

    The last time I did a night shoot I got a few photographer friends together and we walked around the city together. It obviously meant we could swap ideas and tips, etc., but it was also for security. It's not always a good idea to be walking around on your own with expensive camera gear at night.

  • Ahmed Sharif August 29, 2011 07:52 am

    nice article indeed!!.... some really useful tips..

    I can also suggest carrying a speedlite in strobist style.... a flash can work wonders in creating depth in an image, not just illuminating a dark foreground or a dark subject.... and in a really long exposure, sometimes a strobist-style triggering may not be needed... a hand-help operation of a flash can do the same thing... and in a long exposure, one flash can be triggered several times to create an effect of multiple light sources...

  • Daniel McVey August 29, 2011 07:42 am

    Great article. For my night shots I like to use a super fast lens and a fast ISO, of course depending on the subject at hand.

  • dhira January 25, 2011 10:21 am

    nice tips!i try some:

  • devilitzz December 16, 2010 01:21 am

    Thanks a lot! Beautiful photos and tips!

  • andre rodrigues September 9, 2010 01:27 am

    Excellent tips! Thanks! Helped a LOT!

  • Landon October 23, 2009 08:40 am

    Thanks for this. I am working on a night photo assignment right now and will be sure to use some of these tips.

  • Katie Ward August 30, 2009 06:45 am

    I luv your pictures and they do inspire me to get out but the only camera I have right now is a FUJiFILM FINEPIX Z20fd with a 3x fujinon optical zoom lens. (yeah it is just a highschool student's best friend but night pics or anything without natural light sucks! and especially the Zoom. I can see closer eith my nacked eye than this thing fully zoomed. I don't know much about cameras though. How could I take better night pics? and do you have any suggestions? oh and what is a lens hood?

  • Jim Harris August 30, 2009 02:12 am

    Correction: 20-30 minutes...not 30 seconds as written below.

    I’ve got a Nikon D3. I’ve been trying to capture the rotation of the earth by pointing the camera at the north star for a 20 minute exposure. However, it takes 10 minutes or so for the camera to process the ‘job’ for noise reduction. In the end, the image is so grainy and noisy, it’s hard to distinguish the starts from the noise. How do I get a way from this so that only the stars are captured? I’m using a 24mm lens, manual mode at f/22 for 30 seconds at iso L03 (below 200). It seems that would be the combination to use, but I’m not getting good results. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    Read more:

  • Jim Harris August 30, 2009 01:38 am

    I've got a Nikon D3. I've been trying to capture the rotation of the earth by pointing the camera at the north star for a 20 minute exposure. However, it takes 10 minutes or so for the camera to process the 'job' for noise reduction. In the end, the image is so grainy and noisy, it's hard to distinguish the starts from the noise. How do I get a way from this so that only the stars are captured? I'm using a 24mm lens, manual mode at f/22 for 30 seconds at iso L03 (below 200). It seems that would be the combination to use, but I'm not getting good results. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  • Henna G. August 26, 2009 06:41 am

    Nicely done.
    This is one of my best shots,
    To me I think that Vegas is the best place to take some night photos.

  • Oscar.H August 20, 2009 04:31 pm

    nice article, thanks for the tips.
    i don't own a tripod (yet), so most of my night shots r hand held. but i must say, u still can get some decent shots even with out a tripod.
    i keep the shutter speed around 1/4 to 1sec @ f2.8 with my canon 17-55mm ( which im loving since it my 1st lens after my 18-55mm kit)

    please check out the picture i took of a NYC taxi @ time square recently.


  • yasky August 10, 2009 04:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing. It seem that tripod is a must for night photography, but a nice rigid tripod is not convenient to carry round.

  • deek August 10, 2009 04:40 am

    although i am only new to this photography i find this site very useful. the thing is i only use a bridge camera {fuji s2000hd} now although it does what it says on the tin but i was wondering could it be used for advanced picture taking. any tips are welcomed apart from == throw it out == lol

  • Matt Bamberg August 9, 2009 02:43 am

    I took a photo from the Paris Ferris wheel at 1600 ISO. It came out great!

    --Matt Bamberg, author

  • kym baddack August 8, 2009 08:36 am

    great article and excellent photos .i was experimenting with a hand held flash and came up with this totaly unexpected shot of myself twice in the one photo looks a bit spooky dont you think

  • Bungust August 8, 2009 05:41 am

    Great luminosity. I like the last. The most of all.

  • Scott Thomas Photography August 7, 2009 09:53 pm

    Another ultra wide angle lens to consider is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. It's a little less expensive than Canon and Nikon's DX wide angles and a quality lens. It can also be used on FX cameras from 15 to 16mm.

  • peter k August 7, 2009 07:07 pm

    Excelent photos with fine artistic understanding of light. I'ld add here that I prefere a remote shutter release (which is realy cheap) instead of timer, and I don't forget to set the ISO to minimum and to turn on the long exposure NR.

  • Joel August 7, 2009 06:50 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration, Robin. Will definitely try out some night photgraphy here in Munich. Munich is gorgeous by night but I can't beleve that I've never done any night photography here. Well this post has definitely made me put it on my list of priorities.

  • Lynsey August 7, 2009 06:12 pm

    Robyn, you're amazing! It's only 9am but I want night time! ( And to go back to New York and take advantage of Times Square!)

  • Robin Ryan August 7, 2009 10:32 am

    @chandi: to avoid lens-flares (while using a lens hood already) try to increase the shutter speed and/or increase the aperature. a higher aperture will dissipate the light entering the sensor and should minimize flare. give it a shot and let me know it works for you!

    @alfeel: I know exactly what you mean, and I only left this out of the article because I wasn't sure how prevalent it was. On my camera I get 1px red dots in random spots when my time is long (30 seconds). I don't worry about it - I take them out in photoshop later... they're extremely small and you can remove them without distorting your image.

    @tracy: if you have Live View, use it. If not, do it the old fashioned way and set the distance manually (look at your lens for this). Since you are using a high aperture, you have a low of leeway in focusing here.

    @arun: agreed

    @stratman: excellent question. because the mirror is up, I believe that light won't enter (someone correct me if I'm wrong). I've never had a problem with light leaking in. You've got a few years on me, but I had a lot of fun with my first camera, the AE-1.

    @eric: see my response to tracy

  • Brandon Mulnix August 7, 2009 08:20 am

    Wow... Great article on night photography, Impressive tips! I am so glad we have photographers that like still life. I am a portrait photographer and work hard to figure out Night and Portrait combinations.


  • Jen Consalvo August 7, 2009 07:25 am

    Great article. I just linked to it in my latest blog post that included a night shot of a beach in Maine and some tips - here's the link:

    The pictures in this post and the ones from many of the commenters are beautiful. I hope someone writes some more advanced posts on this topic as well.

    @tracy, focus is definitely one of the hardest things. two things to try... first, bring a flashlight and see if it can brighten your subject (or part of it) enough to help you focus. another option.. before you leave daylight, manually focus on something the same distance away and keep it set there.

  • Eric Magnuson August 7, 2009 06:18 am

    I always have problems with my lenses focusing in very low light. One thing I've always wanted to try is bringing a laser pointer with me to shine on where I want to focus. Has anyone tried this? I guess it's sort of like a dot scope for your camera. :)

  • Stratman August 7, 2009 06:00 am


    Those are awesome photos you've taken! I would have assumed you used a tripod if you hadn't mentioned otherwise. I'm not exactly a novice with film SLRs, having owned my first one (a Canon AV-1) back in 1982 and graduated to an EOS 620 in 1987 but I'm a newbie with digital SLRs. Just purchased a new EOS 450D (Rebel XSi) with the EF-S 18-55mm kit lens last month. I also have an EF-S 55-250mm IS zoom and an EF 50mm 1.8 II, but I'm not certain if telephoto focal lengths make great night photography compared to wide angle lenses.

    I'm really not sure, but when taking long or bulb exposures, won't the viewfinder be blocked by the mirror which flips up as the shutter is opened, exposing the sensor? Therefore, will there be any chances of light leaking in through the eyepiece if it isn't blocked by a viewfinder cap (as Terry Chay suggested)?

    Great post, really enjoyed it! :-)

  • Arun August 7, 2009 03:32 am

    Thanks for the tips. I guess for beginners , both wide angle lenses listed may be a bit out od reach. The 18-55 kit lens that come with most cameras will suffice IMO

  • Tracy August 7, 2009 03:31 am

    Love the article and great timing. I spent the weekend trying to take some night photos and they sucked lol. How do you focus?? My auto wouldn't do it...and when I go manual I can't see good enough to do it. Especially pics like star trails?


  • Alfeel August 7, 2009 02:09 am

    Very intresting article, in theese days at seaside i was taking photos always at night and using long exposure..but i bave noticed that if u use more than 2 minutes of exposure there Are some red, green or white pixel!! And if u use the "long exposure noise reduction" function on the 40d Canon i have you have to suppress that pixels you bave to wait several minutes after the shoot! Any solutions? Thank and interesting article!

  • Chandi Devi August 7, 2009 01:31 am

    I love night shooting, especially the full moon. However, I am almost always getting lens flare. I have an older Nikon D-70, which I love, which has ISO200 as it's smallest. I was told to shoot at Iso 200, F11 1/200th SS, but it still gives me lens flare, (where the interior of the moon is outside in another greenish orb), and usually, the moon is bright with a black interior. Some pix look great that way, especially when the clouds are passing over very fast or there is a lot of cloud activity, but otherwise, it is just such a disappointment.
    Is there any help here? AmI missing something?
    I am using my smaller Nikkor 18-70mm DX ED lens on manual.

  • Paul Drumm August 7, 2009 01:30 am

    Nice article with some very helpful hints on getting started with night photography! Thanks!

    I guess I find it helps too when you have an object of interest that's lit up quite well in the darkness, giving the shot a focal point. A very obvious example being the Eiffel Tower in Paris. These were taken last year, some using a tripod and others using the surroundings as support to keep the image in focus (I used a litter bin for one and the side of a bridge for another so I definitely agree with the tip on not necessarily needing a tripod).

    Any comments are appreciated too

    Thanks again for the helpful techniques and tips Robin

  • Robin Ryan August 6, 2009 11:15 pm

    @Vilmis - yes, shutter release cable or remote is helpful. not necessary, but can't hurt and will sometimes help :) and I'm more a fan of the 2-second timer.

    @pablo - I talk about the equipment that I use because I know it. I don't know Nikon equipment and won't recommend a junky lens by accident so as to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

    @zack - great idea, especially for some areas.

    @corey - while you're correct about the 1.6x crop factor, the EF-S 10-22mm does not fit on a 5D or any full-framed canon (afaik). It does, however, fit on the 40D/50D/Rebel series.

    @michael - excellent questions and one I've never really thought much about. I haven't shot in any areas I'd feel uncomfortable at night, but if I did I suppose I'd bring a friend with a good death stare, get in and out quickly, and try to be as inconspicuous as possible.

    @everyoneelse - thanks! hope this article was helpful

  • Michael Reynolds August 6, 2009 01:03 pm

    Having attempted a few late night urban photo shoots, I admire your courage. Your tips are great, but I'd like to see one addition on how you handle security. Maybe I'm just too cynical, or spent too much on my gear!

  • Focx August 6, 2009 12:18 pm

    I managed to get a nice shot from Munich last year:

    The sodium-vapor lamps provide great colors.

  • pirut August 6, 2009 10:58 am

    great post! i love the tips.. will use it for my next own assignment.. :)

  • Corey Thompson August 6, 2009 05:28 am

    Great write up, I love night photography a lot. In reference to the wide angle lenses, I'd just like to point out that After you consider the crop factor with a 10-22mm lens on a small sensor Canon DSLR, the perspective is supposed to be similar to a 16-35mm lens on a large sensor Canon 5D. 10 x 1.6 = 16mm, 22 x 1.6 = 35mm

  • Brandon Burns August 6, 2009 03:48 am

    I've found that 30 minutes after sunset gives a great blue sky. To the naked eye the sky is black but to the camera it produces a great deep blue. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Dan August 6, 2009 02:39 am

    Also, for the newbies out there, a tripod is key but not just any tripod. The difference between a cheap aluminum tripod and one of those fancy carbon fiber or other pro-level tripods is significant. I've been using an aluminum cheap-o, but i know my images would benefit from shelling out the extra money. If it were only that easy...

  • Zack Jones August 5, 2009 10:18 pm

    Great tips and sample images. Thanks for sharing them. Another essential "tool" in my opinion is to bring a friend along. There's nothing worse that being totally involved in getting the shot and having someone walk up and exclaim "Hey man, what cha doin?" when you least expect it.

  • Gavin August 5, 2009 08:48 pm

    Great tips, thanks! I'm using the 10-22mm EF/S and loving it, it's really straight (very little distortion), very little ca and pretty sharp too :-)

  • Dan August 5, 2009 05:35 pm


    Thanks for sharing...

    I just got my DSLR last weekend and i've been fascinated shooting night scenes. Your sharing will greatly help me a lot in mastering night shots.

    Thanks very much...


  • pablo August 5, 2009 05:22 pm

    Is Canon the only brand to make wide-angle lenses? Wouldn't it be better if instead of pointing to a single brand, the authors would always point to a configuration?
    For example, instead of mentioning a specific Canon lens, he could have simply stated:
    "Get a wide-angle lens, around 10-22mm. If possible try to get a fast one with aperture f/2.8".

  • Ste_95 August 5, 2009 03:29 pm

    Have you evere seen Genoa, Italy at night?

  • Ilan August 5, 2009 03:09 pm

    When shooting night, I always try to find "spots" of strong light.
    I don't go around with a tripod, but I do have a wide lens (17-50mm f/2.8 by Tamron) and with strong enough light, I don't have to use a tripod. And I'm not big fan of flash, so natural light should do.

    Here is an example, a shot taken in the Boqueria market in Barcelona - As you can see, most of the light here, even though it's dark, came from the strong light around the object

    Thank you for the tips! :)

  • Jed August 5, 2009 02:11 pm

    Great article and sample images. I've also just recently been taking some night shots and absolutely love it.

  • Vilmis August 5, 2009 01:29 pm

    "What are our tools in night photography?"

    I am missing one important thing in this list - shutter release cable or wireless remote. It makes your life much easier instead of waiting for 10 seconds delay with timer set on.

    Also use mirror lock-up function if your camera has one. This will prevent camera vibration.

  • Scott August 5, 2009 10:37 am

    A quality article with some wonderful tips. For me the flashlight is more of a paint brush, with an extended exposure you can walk into the frame and use a light to draw. This style of night photography gets the creative juices flowing especially when using the background. when bringing a human figure into the picture, use a flash source to quickly illuminate the subject near the end of the exposure, this is a better alternative to attempting the statue pose. here is a link to some of the work ive done over the past year.

  • MeiTeng August 5, 2009 10:34 am

    Great tips and I love your Rock iii photo! The blurred skaters added an element of interest to that image.

  • OzShadow August 5, 2009 10:32 am

    When it comes to night time photography I find that shots taken from different angles or things that people don't normally see usually are the ones people comment on.

    Back alleys for instance are always a good idea, and if you bring sparklers you can get a shot like this - - However if you do that, just get someone to keep a eye out for security, me and my mate almost got locked in to the area we shot that photo in.

    Fire twirling also can make a normal cityscape taken during the night a bit more interesting as well. This shot was taken during a flickr meet (before you ask, yes i'm the one doing the poi in the photo, on the rock, trying not to fall in the river!)

    Sometimes selective color as well can help - this shot here - was taken on ANZAC day of the Brisbane flame of remembrance. Wide angle + having everything bar the stonework kept in black and white made it a powerful image!

    If you cant tell i love takeing photos at nighttime :)

  • Bim August 5, 2009 10:08 am

    Very interesting article. Thanks. I need to get my hands on an DSLR soon.. my canon powershot G7 just isn't very good in the dark even with a tripod.

  • dcclark August 5, 2009 09:30 am

    I'm really glad to see this article -- night photography is extremely fun, and seems to really encourage creativity.

    You mention bringing a flashlight, to hilight (light paint). You can also use it to help autofocus -- it's extremely hard to focus correctly, auto- or manual-focus, at night. Having something to lighten up the subject and allow you to focus is a great help.

    Once, bringing along my flashlight turned out to be really useful not only for focus, but also because it got the creative juices flowing. Combined with a very long exposure, here was the result: The Council of Dave -- no editing at all, that was a single exposure (with me running around a LOT in the dark!).

  • Shehzad August 5, 2009 09:29 am

    wow.. that's some awesome pictures!

    i'm actually heading out to Vancouver in two weeks, looking forward to some awesome scenes there!

  • terry chay August 5, 2009 09:18 am

    Nice post. Two more tips

    1) If your camera has Long Exposure NR, use it. (What this does is take a dark image and do background subtract of noisy pixels, this is especially important on CCD based sensors which use higher voltages than CMOS).

    2) close the viewfinder shutter or block up the viewfinder using a viewfinder cap or some clothing or towel. (There is light leak that gets through the viewfinder. This normally doesn’t happen during regular exposures because they are both very fast and your eye is in front of the viewfinder. But during long exposures at night, you want to prevent this light leak from exposing the image.)