Tag Archives: Cable Release

How to do night photography when starting out

Night shots capture the imagination and the eye.

It is all about making sure that your viewer is drawn into your photograph. The rich colours and strong contrasts are really great for attracting the eye. In this post we will look at doing great night photography.

Night photography is simple

A lot of starters think night photography is difficult. Well it is not difficult, it is different. There is less light – obviously. There is also more light in some ways. This is because the difference between the light and dark portions of your picture are more extreme. In A quick tip to help you see the light (or darkness) we saw that the camera is not as good as the eye in distinguishing wide differences between light and dark. When shooting at night that is something we should remember.

We should not point our camera at a very bright light source at night. This is because it will over-expose quickly and the rest of the scene will remain dark. The darker parts expose slower. Try to find ways to expose your scene where the spread of light is of less extreme whites and blacks.

The concept of night photography is about exploiting light when the rest of the environment is dark. The aim therefore is to make sure you are exposing for the light you want to bring out in your picture. Almost certainly that will mean you need to do longer exposure than for the daytime. As you will see in the video this is not complicated to do. You will need to explore some settings you may not have used before. But photography is all about learning – right? OK…

Here is one idea that will simplify the thinking behind all sorts of exposure situations…

  • Picture a bucket in your mind.
  • Now picture filling it up with a hose.
  • At first you turn the tap a very little.
  • The water trickles out.
  • The bucket takes a long time to fill to the brim, but does get there.
  • Now repeat with the tap turned up more (twice as fast).
  • The bucket fills faster. In half the time in fact.
  • Now repeat again filling the bucket to the brim – tap open fully (speed x4).
  • The bucked fills half as fast again.

The bucket of water is like an exposure. To get the picture light enough you need to fill the camera with the right amount of light (to the bucket rim). At night you have to wait a long time for your exposure to fill to the brim (water at a trickle) because there is less light around. In early evening/dusk you have to wait for the exposure to fill in half the time (tap at half speed) because there is more light before sundown. During the day all that light pretty much zaps the bucket (sorry camera) full of light in double quick time.

OK, now you know all there is to know about exposure. That’s it. All you have to do is practice with the camera settings to wait for a while to fill up at night, wide aperture, long shutter opening to let in as much light as possible.

In the video the CameraLabs team have described the types of setting you might use and how to set them up. The explanation is clear and the settings simple. I think you will learn a lot.

DSLR Tips: Night Photography by CameraLabs
As an aside…

You notice in my bucket analogy how we tested fills? In photography each time you go up or down a stop of light you are halving or doubling the amount of light. Of course, in the bucket situation the timing and change-of-fill speed are not accurate – its only a thought experiment. But you get the idea. I am trying to show you how an exposure builds up over seconds (at night) or thousandths of seconds (during the day). And, the rate it fills is related to the amount of light around. That is measured in stops. Consider reading this article: Definition: f number; f stop; Stop. It will help you to understand the relationship between stops of light and exposure.

Ten important additions to your camera bag

After camera and lenses your camera bag should hold some other essentials.

The things you need are not always obvious. But things happen when out shooting. Some extra items in your bag help you to carry on without a hitch.

What people commonly carry in their camera bags

Well, camera and lens(es), of course, but also most people carry something to wipe the lenses clean and possibly a tripod. The latter being the third most important piece of photography equipment. Lots of people also carry an off-camera flash too – it is much more useful than the on-board flash.

Items that might save the day…

Here are some things that when the chips are down you will find most useful to have in your camera bag.
Spare battery: Everyone should have a spare battery or batteries. Batteries can be a problem for many reasons. I dropped one onto concrete once when trying to put it into the camera after charging. It split – and, well, it took three hours to buy another one. That was most of my shooting time gone. I learned a lesson there!
Modelling putty: or something similar. A small spot of putty can be used to stick things down while you photograph them. Wedding photogs use it for holding the rings in place for the ring shot. But there are dozens of other on-location reasons for holding something in a particular position. Small and easily hidden the putty can do the job and be out of sight. You can buy it in craft shops or there are sticky putty packs for putting pictures on walls. That works too.
Memory Cards: These get old and sometimes fail to work. If you get an error on your camera check the card. It may be the cause. They are also easily lost, damaged and stolen. You may lose your pictures, but if you have spare(s) on hand you can at least shoot some more. Check out theses articles for more on memory cards…
20 Ways to Protect Files on Memory Cards (Part 1)
20 Ways to Protect Files on Memory Cards (Part 2)
Always keep more than one memory card. I actually carry quite a few and rotate them. Memory cards on Amazon
Light modifier: if you use a pop-up flash or an off-camera flash you should have a way to diffuse or deflect light from the flash. It is often the case that you will want to create fill in light, especially on a bright day. It counteracts the contrast created by strong ambient light. A modifier can also be used to create deflected or diffused light for portraits. This helps to avoid nasty highlights or washed out colour on the face.
Two clothes pegs (clothes pins): I use these for a number of things. Most often I use them to pin back my camera neck strap when the camera is on a tripod. This stops the strap from blowing in the wind which reduces the vibration. However, they are also great for hanging reflectors up or clipping back wires so they don’t catch on things and damage the wire.
Remote button release: (essential) If you want your tripod shots to be sharp you will definitely want to be able to fire your camera without touching it. A cable release, or hand-held remote are quite cheap items and will make your shots sharper by a long way.
Spare lens caps: Lens and end caps for your camera are small, light and fit in a bag tucked away. If you lose one you will have to put your precious lens into the bag without a cap – against that harsh material. You can bet your lenses will be scratched. No fear if you have spares.

Macro extension tubes: You can buy them for most cameras. They weigh ounces, fit into a small place and are quickly fitted to any lens. They extend your capacity to be able to do macro work without carrying big, heavy and expensive lenses. They cost remarkably little and can be bought online. A full range of macro tubes can be found on Amazon for all cameras.

Camera manual: My dad used to say, “If all else fails, read the instructions!”. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard. So keep your camera manual on hand. You never know when you need to use one of its functions and don’t know how. Or, this classic… your camera shows an error and you don’t know how to get out of it. The manual tells it all.
Compass/sunshine calculator: OK, this one is not for everyone. But I always carry a compass when out taking landscapes. You never know when you are going to get caught in fog, or just lost off-road. My compass is also set into a small card used to calculate sun angles so I can calculate sunset or dawn times. Again, not for everyone. But I like to be prepared!

There are probably some other wonderful things we could carry. If you have an essential item you think we should know about please leave a comment!