At this time of year with its short days and long nights, it is an ideal time to have a go at night photography.
Subjects and locations that look a bit drab during the day come alive at night. Even the most mundane buildings look great when lit with artificial light. Interesting buildings such as Tower Bridge or St Pauls Cathedral look even better when photographed at twilight, in my opinion.
The good thing about night photography is that you don’t really need much specialist kit to get going. Your regular camera should be fine. Ideally you need to be able to choose aperture priority or manual exposure, although a camera with night mode option may well work fine. A tripod is essential because you will be using slow shutter speeds due to the low light conditions. A cable or remote release is helpful to reduce camera shake when triggering the shutter. If you don’t have a cable release, use the self-timer mode on your camera.
The main thing to take into consideration when shooting at night is timing. To get the best results, plan to shoot a few minutes after sunset when there is still some colour in the sky. By timing your photography for this time, not only will it capture those silky blue tones in the sky but the brightness of the artificial light will more or less match the brightness of the sky. This makes it easier to retain detail in the building and the sky without over or under exposure. You can probably shoot for about half an hour after sunset. After this, the light levels drop too much and the sky goes black.
It’s better to get to your chosen location when it’s still light. This gives you time to compose the image, select the aperture required to give you the depth of field necessary for the photograph, and focus. Once the camera is focused on the required spot, switch to manual focus. As the light drops and it gets dark your camera’s auto focus may struggle, so manual focus is best.
Once the optimum time arrives to take your images, start shooting. Keep an eye on the camera’s histogram, taking particular care when assessing the highlights of the picture. There may well be a small amount of over-exposure where you have artificial lights shining in the shot but don’t worry about this.
A night shoot is a great experience, so why not give it a go?