Simplifying Night Photography

gear

As a night photography workshop instructor over the last 5 years I have seen a lot with our students. I have seen very happy students and I have seen, at times, very upset students. 99% of the time, if they are upset, it’s because they don’t know their gear well enough to work with it in the dark. This is not a bad thing, it’s just part of the learning experience.

I am writing this today to help ease some of that frustration. I am writing this to help ease some anxiety you may have because you want to get into night photography but at the same time you are scared you don’t have the correct gear.

Today I am going to tell you exactly what you need. That’s it…I run a no BS approach to photography. I wont sugar coat things, I wont say they are OK if they are not. Why accept somethings that’s OK only to get home and find out that it’s not. Unacceptable.

YOU ONLY NEED 3 things, 2 really, to begin your quest as a night photographer.

  • Digital Camera  with at least an F/4 lens.
  • Tripod – Med sized to full size will work fine
  • Remote cord – Optional

Surprised?  I thought so. Let me explain

Camera and Lens – This is where you will adjust your settings and capture your images. You don’t need a 40 or 50mp camera to get good night images. You simply need a camera. Any camera that can expose for 30 seconds will do the trick as long as your lens is F4 or faster, this means that it could be a 2.8, 1.8 or 1.4 lens. If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money get an F4 or 2.8 as they will work just fine to capture images. I use an F4 lens for some of my work and have no issues. I also use a 1.4 sometimes.

Tripod – This is what holds your camera steady while your shutter is open. I suggest a tripod that does not have toothpicks for legs… Really, you think your camera will hold still on toothpick legs, it wont! If you do have a tripod that has very thin legs then I would simply suggest that you do not extend them and shoot with the legs fully collapsed and close to the ground to hold the camera as steady as possible.

Remote Cord – Optional – Why optional? Because your camera has a shutter button that you can, believe it or not, press down with your finger or thumb if you like. Seriously, it works, try it. If your camera is on a stead tripod and the tripod is tightened down so that the camera does not move then yes, it’s ok to use your finger to press the shutter. I personally like the remote cords that connect directly to your camera and not the wireless ones. Why? I have never seen anyone have issues with a remote cord that connects directly to the camera. I see people all the time fuss about because their shutters are not going off because they can’t get their wireless remotes to work. I have also seen a lot of people who try to program their intervalometers on their remote cords even when they have a camera that can do exactly what they are trying to do. If the camera can do it, let it do it. Unless you have a very specific need and need to take a long series of images that are over 30 seconds each you do not need an intervalometer. You can simply set your camera to any exposure time 30 seconds or less and press the shutter on the remote cord or camera and it will take the image. If you need to take a series of back to back shots just change the setting on your camera to continuous mode and press and lock the remote cord button. It will now take as many images as you like until your memory card is full or you release the shutter.

Let’s review.

You need a digital camera that will allow for exposures up to 30 seconds long.

You need a tripod to hold your camera steady

You need a remote cord if you wish to take back to back images for a series.

 

DO NOT get caught up in the gear game. You simply don’t need that much stuff. So now you’re looking around your room thinking, hmm, I have a camera, I have a tripod and he said I really don’t need a remote cord so I think I’ll go see if I can take some pictures of the night sky or even a city skyline at night.

Pro Tip – Set your camera on Manual mode, change your ISO to 6400, set your lens to the widest it will go, ie, 2.8, 4 or 1.4, set your shutter speed(exposure time) to 30 seconds and shoot. These are starter settings. If the image is too bright then you can cut your exposure time or ISO down.  For information on how to focus in the dark please visit our website at www.nightphotographyworkshop.com

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