As a photographer, you’ll soon find out that light (or lack thereof) is an enemy that you will battle every time you unscrew the lens cap from your camera. The way that light is captured in your finished photos affects everything – from the exposure level of your subjects to the mood or feeling that the finished images evoke with all who view them. Many photographers find night shoots particularly challenging for this reason – instead of battling too much light, they now have to figure out how to tackle situations where there isn’t enough.
As Halloween in particular draws near, you’ll want to brush up on your night photography skills to help make sure that you’re accurately capturing the types of events that you want to re-live again and again. If you’re worried about the quality of the finished product, there are a few key tips to keep in mind.
1. Turn Off Your Flash and Never Look Back
If you’re going to be taking pictures at night, one of the first things you need to do is go into the “Settings” mechanism on your camera, turn off the flash and never think about it again. A flash is great in certain situations, but night shoots are not among them. The issue is that a flash does exactly what it’s supposed to – it sets off a bright “flash” of light, injecting light into a situation where there previously was none.
Because of the way things look at night, however, all this will really do is ruin your pictures. Your subjects will immediately appear “blown out” or will otherwise look far too bright, which will harm things like color accuracy in the process. No flash is powerful enough to completely illuminate an outdoor area, so the space immediately behind your subjects will disappear into darkness. You’ll be left with stark, flat images that leave a lot to be desired. Instead, get more comfortable rearranging your subjects close to light sources that may already be in the area, like lamp posts or lights from inside homes or businesses.
2. Maximize Your Image File Settings
When you’re taking pictures with a digital camera, you will often be asked to select the “quality” of the image as it relates to the file size. If you’re going to be shooting photos at night, you always want to select the highest quality (and therefore largest file size) that your camera can handle.
The bigger the file size is on a digital camera, the more detail the camera’s lens actually captures. Darkness and nightfall naturally subdue this visual information, so you’re going to want as much detail as possible to try to combat this. While you’ll be able to take more pictures with a smaller file size, you’ll also end up with images that look darker than they would on a different setting. When you’re already dealing with too much darkness, every little bit of detail helps.
3. Use a Tripod Whenever Possible
Traveling with a tripod certainly adds a new level of difficulty to your night shoots, but the benefits are more than worth it. If you’re the type of photographer who lacks a steady hand, you may notice that a lot of your night pictures tend to have a slightly blurry appearance. This has to do with the way the camera is moving in your hand and how that is affected when the camera’s lens records this information. If you’re able to lock down your camera on a tripod, however, this isn’t something that you’re going to have to worry about. Finding ways to brighten your images will still be a concern, but blurriness or fuzziness will not be.
4. Fine-tune Exposure Level
Finally, one of the most important settings that you’ll want to keep an eye on during all instances of night photography is your exposure level. This refers to the total amount of light that the camera lens “takes in” to be recorded on the chip contained inside the device itself. Have you ever wondered why a room may look perfectly bright to you but the finished photos come out dim? It’s because your exposure level is set far too low for the amount of available light you’re working with. Go into the “settings” on your camera and play around with exposure level adjustments. Remember that you’ll want to change this setting often as the amount of light you’re working with naturally changes.
If you look at night photography as a challenge and not an obstacle, you’ll find that you get better at your craft as a result. Night shoots are great for invoking a particular mood, which is particularly handy during an event like Halloween. Speaking of which, we hope that all of our readers have a fun, safe celebration. Just remember these four simple tricks, and you’ll have plenty of canvas-worthy photos by the end of the night.