Jan 21, 2005

How to Take Spectacular Nighttime Photos

by Gary Hendricks

Night photographs express a special something that cannot be seen in normal daytime photography. Whether it is a photograph of a moon and starlit sky over a windy deserted beach, the excitement of a downtown cityscape when the lights go on, or just a picture of you and some friends in front of a favorite hangout, nighttime photos, when done right, are sure to attract attention.

However, even for experienced photographers, nighttime photography can be a tricky situation. Photos often look unfocused, blurry, or lacking crucial details, and many may not come out at all. There are some tricks, though, to taking spectacular nighttime photos with your digital camera, tricks that can be explained yet only completely learned through practice. Here are some of them:

1. Your choice of camera does count
You should realize that the cheapest cameras may not be capable of taking great photographs at night. It requires more work, both on your's and the camera's part, to take spectacular shots in very low-light situations. Though you don't have to spend over a thousand dollars for night photography, don't expect too much out of a sub-two hundred-dollar camera, either.

2. Take some dusk photos
Consider taking some photographs around dusk, when the sun has not yet completely left the sky. Dusk photos can sometimes be even more dramatic than those taken in the pitch-black sky, as the added light helps illuminate details easily missed in a completely dark environment Check your local newspaper where you are shooting photographs or a website such as http://www.weather.com for sunrise/sunset times, and be ready to shoot around a 20-30 minute window for best results.

3. Plan your photos
Plan, plan, plan! While it is always a good idea to study an area first, this is crucial if you are planning on snapping photographs around dusk! You will not have much time to plan, and if you spend five or ten minutes just getting a perfect angle or framing the perfect shot, the overall lighting will change as the sun slowly sets. And of course, remember when composing your photos that the sun sets in the west.

4. Be prepared for the environment
Always carry a map so you remember how to get to your home, camp, or hotel. Check the weather before you go and wear a poncho or coat if necessary. Carry a flashlight, or, in the most extreme environments, a flare, to help others find you if you become lost. Also, bring along a WELL-CHARGED cell phone in case of emergency! You're taking photos at night to have fun and create spectacular results. Be prepared for unexpected situations so they don't ruin your experience.

About the Author
Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site at http://www.basic-digital-photography.com. Read his tips on digital photography and learn to shoot better photos with your digital camera.