The Night Photographer Guide: This Is What You Should Know to Make Night Photos

The photography night Perhaps one of the photographic disciplines most spectacular. Also, on the other hand, perhaps one of the disciplines that distorts reality in any of its forms, since it offers us to capture scenes that the human eye is unable to see. I am referring to capture the milky way in all its glory (which at first glance is not easy) to get see traces of stars or even create the Circumpolar, unreal to get “Martians” landscapes in a terrestrial atmosphere.

It is the beautiful thing that has many times the photograph. Which used judiciously, allows us to alter reality and create worlds, create stories, create beauty.

#0 the basic equipment

Your two best friends, plus a camera having BULB (prolonged exposure mode) mode, for night photography will be your tripod and a cable release or by a remote trigger. Regarding the first, we have to give us account that the amount of light is reduced. This implies that we need stability. Advisable a tripod with some weight and that a counterweight to her place to eliminate or minimize any possibility of movement.

Also when shooting directly, press the shutter may cause vibration. To minimize them, in addition to using the option of the mirror lock-up -If your camera has it – you can use a shutter release cable. Infrared remote triggers are sometimes problems with the bulb mode and only allow exhibitions controlled up to 30 “, so you should consult the manual of your infra-red trigger. With the cable not this happens ever. A click to shoot, lock button and wait for the set time. Another click and ready.

Desirable in terms of the cable is to be of type intervalometer (with LCD), with a stopwatch to monitor the time. Automatically at the programmed time the second click will be automatic and intervalometer button will unlock the camera shutter. You can manage you with one simple screen without other options and control the exposure with your smartphone or your clock time.

Shutter release cable

In addition to this, once you advance in night photography will be useful the following elements:

  • A headlamp: those that are placed on the head. Something very necessary when walking at night. So we will see where they stand. I, personally, recommend those who have, in addition, a red light. The reason is that you can leave the light on while you talk with colleagues
  • Hiking boots: advisable to tread well and put in certain places, especially when we are in the field.
  • Flashes, flashlights and gels: You will taste and depends on the type of lighting that we do. Some night pictures of landscape type not often wear artificial lighting, but in if you want to surely illuminate nearby objects it is necessary to use any of these items.
  • Rechargeable batteries: Many, many and well loaded. It is not uncommon to be in the middle of nowhere and run out of batteries. Also remember that with cold, in winter especially, batteries last less.

Within the core team, in addition to the above items and our camera, I like to note some applications (there are many) that are essential to schedule our trips and work in night photography. From applications that give us information about the Sun and his position, the phases of the Moon, or those that help us to calculate the hyperfocal.

Although not part of the team, if you’re going to do night photography, my recommendation is that you never go alone, especially if it is in the field (even in town, so, in that case, possible thefts). Keep in mind that in the middle of the field there is usually little or no coverage, and if you pass something always is better to minimize the chances and having a partner who you can help or notify the emergency services.

#1 Fotografía twilight

Twilight – and not the film – is the interval before departure or after the sunset, during which heaven appears illuminated in a Dim, soft, and where the colors of the sky away from the usual blue of the day, which in photographic terms is truly a treasure to be discovered.

& copy Alfonso Domínguez Lavín

This crepusuclar phenomenon occurs to illuminate the upper layers of the atmosphere much less perpendicular.

# Twilight photography
1 When? At the time of dawn, at dusk or in the so-called “blue hour”
2 Use of closed diaphragms: f8, f11 f22 to f32 (remember that at f22 or f32 ends objectives are often fairly lower quality)
3 When using closed openings, we obtain photographs with great depth of field. Where practically the whole scene is focused.
4 If the exposure time is very short, uncommon missing tripod but as in almost all the photograph of landscape, its use is recommended to minimize to the fullest possible shimmy
5 Use of neutral density filters: complete, degraded and degraded inverse
6 Exposure time varies greatly depending on the light as in a few seconds you can change the atmosphere.
7 Usually use the lowest ISO possible (100 or 200) camera
8 For the above reason, they do not usually present noise problems

& copy Javier de la Torre

Urban night #2 Fotografía

Yes, at night in cities. It is different. But all night it changes, there are fewer people and in many places there are special lightings to make more attractive certain monuments or buildings at night.

& copy Javier de la Torre

# Night urban photography
1 When? From sunset, the night and the dawn
2 Use of diaphragms also closed: normally between f8 and f16, latter being a good starting point.
3 When using closed openings, we obtain photographs with great depth of field. Where practically the whole scene is focused.
4 Long exposure times (between 1 “and 30”, is the usual)
5 Use of neutral density filters for longer exposure times
6 It is usually easy to focus with autofocus
7 Usually use the lowest ISO possible (100 or 200) camera although on many occasions we can use high ISOs to emphasize certain details of the scene
8 The noise level is moderate

To achieve maximum clarity in our photographs, we must very well set the focus, which will not be as complicated as when we do photography night in the field, given that the urban landscape lighting may be, even, enough so that the autofocus works properly. Do not do this, my recommendation is that you enfoquéis in manual or use the hyperfocal, we’ll see then. If you don’t have much practice in this matter, do not worry, do one-shot focusing on manual, check the approach and, if not okay, go back to try. The picture of a monument is a good situation for manual focus.

In general we have three types of situations:

  • Blue hour: The blue hour is nothing more than the hour before the sunrise and the prior to its implementation (these time intervals are approximate) producing a deep blue in the sky. This light has certain peculiarities. For example, during these periods of time, natural light is very diffuse, resulting in a high quality of the lighting of the scene. On the other hand, the location of the Sun on the horizon causes a curious physical phenomenon, so spectacular sunrises or sunsets filled with warm colors occur. In addition to photographing landscapes with this light as suggestive, photographing during these periods it is highly appropriate for urban landscapes for a simple reason. And it is then cities are lit by artificial light from street lights, buildings, billboards, etc, so mixing natural light with artificial, and can capture heaven and illuminated urban construction at the same time, as for example, the photograph you can see below.
  • Moderate light pollution: Play with color temperature allows us to modify the tones of the photograph. We can enhance the Orange Rising color temperature with the preset of cloudy, which will use a temperature of between 6000 and 7000 degrees kelvin, depending on the camera model. If we want more blue tones, use the preset of tungsten, which are 3200 degrees Kelvin. Remember that if you work in RAW, you can easily change the temperature in the processing.
  • Excess of light pollution: Think of a scene in the heart of your cities. Albeit closed night we will face a vast legion of street lamps of all types-from lights, bright or even windows lights posters. On these occasions, as we must always take account of the scene, and the picture that we want to do, before, we know that it will be difficult to compensate so much light pollution. We can opt to spend photography black and white, night getting high contrast. There are times that we can bring us some pleasant surprises as it happened in this picture you see below

But and if there is no light pollution? As already in XatakaFoto they told him one day.

Long exposure night #3 Fotografía

The first thing we need is to learn how to perform a correct measurement. There are enough ways of doing so. Normally if we are in the field, away from the city and with low levels of light pollution we tend to expose, as a general rule, to the sky. IE will try to achieve a correct exposure of the sky depending on if we want more or less stelae or want to show via Lactea, using high ISOs.

& copy Juan Carlos Martín

# Long exposure night photography
1 Are typically use diaphragms rather more open to capture more light (from f/2.8 to f/8) being a good starting point for many people using f/5.6
2 They are typically used more angular focal to show scenes of more broadly (10 to 16mm) but it is not uncommon to also use focal older 50 mm
3 In this case to be closed overnight, are used much longer exposure times. We are talking about 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on what you are looking for. This is the case except in some cases where the Moonlight can drastically reduce the exposure, especially in summer time
4 It is difficult to compose. For this reason, I recommend using the high ISO possible and shoot a picture of several seconds to see the composition on the screen. Reset the camera and tripod. Repeat repeatedly until a satisfactory composition.
4 Usually use the lowest ISO possible (usually 100) to minimize picture noise. This, however, increases the exposure time, which also causes noise. Normally have to find a balance between the exposure time (provided by the movement of the clouds and stars) and ISO (higher generates more noise). The in camera noise reduction works by performing a second picture with the shutter closed and left the first exposure, the so-called hot pixels. This second picture takes as well as the first to expose, doubling the time that we need to take a picture. If you do a picture of five minutes, until after 10 minutes, the camera will not end and if you do a one-hour, you have another hour the camera applying noise reduction.
The noise increases exponentially as we use high sensitivity values, especially when we overcome the native modes the camera sensor and enter values (in the example the last two). Noise generated digital sensors is not always the same, since in reality is neither more nor less than that, electronic noise, interference. It seems logical to think that if I repeat the decision, will I get the same photograph (provided that it is not a static scene, obviously) but with a different and random noise each time, although similar in quantity and type, but not exactly the same. You can see the trick here.
5 We have not mentioned it before in previous cases, but it is mandatory to shoot in RAW, the advantages offered by this format on issues, especially post-processing.
6 Although the most common is the ISO 100, we can work with virtually any camera up to ISO 1600, currently. In fact to get the milky way we use ISO 1600 or higher.

& copy Alfonso Domínguez Lavín

Thus, a simple way is as follows. The measurement is the step that requires more calculations and we have to be concentrated to save time and not have too many wrong tests. In the parameters that determine the measurement, the following aspects will be present:

  • ISO sensitivity, the lower less noise you will need the picture. The recommendation is to work at ISO 100, but if your camera has low signal noise and you have a little bit in a hurry, you can upload the sensitivity.
  • Diaphragm, the more open, the lower the exposure time and also more stars they will come on the picture.
  • Shutter, We will almost always work the BULB position to do long exposures. The exposure time will determine if we have the stars as strokes or points. If we want to have the stars as points, must apply the following formula to get the maximum exposure time: divide 500 by focal distance with which we work, but on the scale of Full Frame.

Example: If we have a camera with APS-C sensor and work with the zoom 18 – 55 mm in the position more angular which is 18 mm, multiply 18 by 1.5 (18 × 1, 5 = 27) to have the focal length at Full Frame and divide 500 by this amount. The maximum shutter time for not having the stars with movement, taking the photo with focal length 18mm, is 500/27 = 18, 5 seconds. For Full Frame will be the same but do not perform the multiplication.

& copy Juan Carlos Martín

Once we know how to affect measurement parameters to our photography, a starting point, when we have Moonlight illuminated elements of our photography, it is a test with 100 ISO, Iris f:4 and 500 seconds of exposure time. But not to be an eternity to see if we have successful, it is best to apply the law of reciprocity: raise the ISO to the maximum that give our camera (for example I’ll use 3200 ISO) and will reduce the time as many steps as ISO steps have uploaded. We have ISO 100 to 3200 ISO: 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 ISO which are 5 steps. Now reduce the time five steps, starting at 500 seconds: 500, 250, 125, 60, 30 and 15 seconds. Our test measurement is ISO 3200 diaphragm f:4 and exposure time 15 seconds, allowing us to quickly see the results and make adjustments that interest us. Made after don’t forget go down to ISO 100 and carry out the process in reverse to get the correct exposure time.

Each must learn to find your light in the dark, as we see here:

Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark by Walley Films on Vimeo.

In addition to stelae of stars, the clouds movement or well show the milky way in long exposure night photography can find us with the realization of circumpolar. A technique that captures, through several screenshots from the same position and with the same duration, the circular motion of the stars relative to the Polar bear, which, as we know, points to the North.

tutorial Startrails for Circumpolares – Cultural Association Club photography from Huelva

#4 the hyperfocal is your friend, discover it

When one starts in photography and especially if what you like is the photograph of landscape one of the biggest mistakes is forget the opening (or let the Auto mode, even), focus to infinity, and shoot. We will we focus on that mountain or tree that we see there far.

Thus, normally, what is in the foreground may be something more out of focus while the background remains clear. Well, this in some photographs may look good, but when you start to understand the composition and how to balance it, you usually realize that perhaps the first plane should have the same degree of detail (sharpness) as the background. This often happens because we thought, wrongly, that the landscapes we look only to infinity at the horizon, in the background, ultimately.

& copy David Martin Castan

Then do we define the distance Hyperfocal? The hyperfocal distance It is the minimum that I focus my camera in certain conditions of focal length and aperture to get reasonably clear area that is behind the point of focus to infinity. Thus have three variables: camera, focal and opening.

For those that querrais know the formula, is this:

Hyperfocal distance = focal² /(círculo de confusión x número F)

Also keep in mind that the circle of confusion varies depending on the size of the sensor (full frame, APS or CSC for example).

In the formula, it follows quickly and the targets wide angular “have” much depth of field right? the lower the dividend of that smaller formula will be the same ratio.

Hiperfocales table for 35 mm and APS-C

35 mm sensor f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22
20 mm 1.66 m 1.21 m 0.83 m 0.60 m
24 mm 2.40 m 1,74 m 1.20 m 0.87 m
35 mm 5.10 m 3.71 m 2.55 m 1.85 m
50 mm 10,41 m 7.57 m 5,20 m 3,78 m
70 mm 20,41 m 14,84 m 10.20 m 7,42 m
100 mm 41.66 m 30,30 m 20.83 m 15,15 m
135 mm 75,93 m 55,22 m 37,96 m 27,61 m
APS-C sensor f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22
15 mm 1.40 m 1.02 m 0.70 m 0.51 m
20 mm 2,50 m 1.81 m 1.25 m 0,90 m
24 mm 3,60 m 2.61 m 1,80 m 1.30 m
35 mm 7.65 m 5.56 m 3.82 m 2.78 m
50 mm 15.62 m 11,36 m 7.81 m 5.68 m
70 mm 30,62 m 22,27 m 15.31 m 11.13 m

But if you don’t want to go crazy with math to calculate the depth of field, remember that we talked about some tools in the first chapter, you can take a look. So with my data, using DOF Calculator I get a hyperfocal distance 0,635 m. More exactly: from half 0,635 m of my camera to take the picture you’ll be focused perfectly. Or you can use another application for Android that I like quite, made by Iván Sánchez “Fusky” a well-known photographer specializing in night: Hyperfocus. If you use iOS can use SetMyCamera.

This is very useful at night or in low light conditions. We focus to the hyperfocal distance and already we can leave our approach in manual and forget the auto focus the rest of the night.

A note, the depth of field is not an “absolute value”. It also has relationship with photography output support and distance from which will be. It is not the same to see photography from the monitor, on the screen of the camera on a wall to 20x25cm or 100x150cm size. The sense of sharpness will be different in each case.

#5 Lighpainting

Lighpainting means ‘Painting with light’. Etymologically it means virtually the same as the word photography. It consists of drawing different shapes with a light source during a long exposure photography.

The history of the Light painting dates back to 1914 when Frank Gilbreth and his spouse, Lillian Moller Gilbreth first used by small lights to follow the movement of the manufacturing process of your company in a long-exposure photography. His intention was not to produce the photographs as an artistic activity, but to study the possibility of simplifying the work that worked in your company, still produced which for us today is known as the first photograph in which the scene was painted with light.

Later, in 1935, Man Ray was the first artist to explore the technique of Light painting. His greatest contribution to this discipline occurred in his series of photographs: “The space of writing”. Man Ray opened the shutter of your camera and used a small flashlight to create a series of lines and swirls in the air.

& copy Iván Sánchez “Fusky”

The impressive thing about this technique is that you can use any kind of lighting and use a variety of colors to achieve different results. Now it doesn’t matter much white balance. Everything is creativity.

& copy Iván Sánchez “Fusky”

It is recommended to perform the lightpainting with lanterns led with different color gels, because these create lines thin and accurate than any other type of flashlight (for example spheres of light). But it is worth any light source. Are also widely used: steel wool to create effects type “sparks of light” or the shining thread.

#6 ruins, composition and other concepts

Yes, please don’t forget the rest. Of the fundamental. A picture that says nothing, in which nothing happens, that does not have a history, in short… It is useless.

There is one subject that is quite recurrent in night photography: the ruins. Night photography love which we like to photograph ruins. If the long exposure generates in the viewer the idea of movement and the passage of time, in the case of the ruins this second effect also occurs. There are plenty of online resources for this purpose, like for example: uninhabited villages, an interesting blog on this subject. Perhaps within our national landscape, one of the most interesting is the village of Belchite, Zaragoza, completely abandoned and destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, to which belongs the following image.

& copy Miguel Angel Martin Campos

Therefore, we are usually dedicated to search locations as abandoned hermitages, factories in disused, abandoned mills, dry trees in the middle of the field and other items that suggest us the passage of time.

#7 calculate the exposure time

There are many ways to calculate the exposure time for night photography. Depends in each case what we want to achieve. One of the easiest ways to for a correct exposure of the night sky is the following:

  • We use ISO 100 and f/5.6, for example. We shoot a picture at ISO 3200 (normally not pass of 30 ”), a little eye and “trusting” us of the exposure meter of the camera
  • We look at the histogram and see if we have passed or stayed short. If it is underexposed we go up to ISO 6400 and try again 30 “. However, for this example, Let’s imagine that it is properly exposed at ISO 3200
  • If we want to shoot that ISO 100, without varying the opening, we have whenever we download an ISO step we multiply by 2 the exposure time. So ISO 1600 would be 1 minute, ISO 800 would be 2 minutes, ISO 400 would be 4 minutes, ISO 200 would be 8 minutes, and finally to ISO 100 would be 16 minutes of exposure.

& copy Javier de la Torre

Keep in mind that greater exposure time, the sensor can warm up more. Some old cameras are not very prepared for this experience. I remember from a fellow from 8 minutes the camera was well hot. In spite of this, if we want greater exposure time we could make some way opening.

& copy David Martin Castan

In general, the calculation of the exposure time is the same for all type of long exposure photography so I recommend you read the long exposure of Engadget photo Photography Guide.

#8 processing and lighting parts

Here We could be talking about hours and hours of the theme. In addition to compensate for lighting or delete key. I recommend the following trick. As you have already seen, in the night of long exposure photography (which tends to have more followers), it is very common to light up using flashlights or flashes.

Sometimes when doing night photography we have a very typical problem: given a certain exposure time are not able to illuminate or paint the scene at that time. Normally because the scene is too big. While we have our army of well-trained flashes or lights, it gives us time to illuminate everything in one shot.

Not bad, do it by parts. Suppose we have 4 minutes for a correct exposure of the sky. We can quietly illuminate the bottom make a perfectly lit road. Then in a second take to illuminate another area. In a third, the rest. Ultimately, as many times as you need it. We are illuminating what gives us time.

Conclusions

It’s not easy. But it is very fun night photography offers many variants. I hope that with this guide enter you want to start you in so exciting discipline. And remember, if it’s in the company of someone much better, safer and will spend it you better.

All pictures belong to their respective authors and have been loaned to Engadget for publication in this post.

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