This article is full of night photography ideas. Many photographers are intimidated by the idea of shooting at night. Photography is all about light and nighttime can prove to be a challenging time to shoot when you find yourself sitting in the dark.
If you are looking for help and inspiration, this article will explore some ideas and night photography tips to keep you motivated. Think of night photography as a way to confront your technical fears and get creative with your photographic skills. We will help prepare you to take night photography shots and get the best use out of your photo subjects and exposure settings.
Table of Contents
Each of the photo subjects below will vary in exposure settings, but if you are looking for some overall go to settings start with these when shooting at night:
- Set your shutter speed to around 1/15th of a second
- Set your ISO to 6400
- Finally, use a lens with an f/2.8 aperture or wider
If your aperture does not open very wide then you will want to adjust the shutter and ISO more to perfect the look of your night photography.
1. Shooting Cities by Night
Photos that show the night sky with city lights are an interesting way to test your night photography ideas. Some of my favorite cities to photograph at night include New York and Paris. These cities are known for their beautiful nighttime scenery, architecture, street lights, and for being some of the most photographic cities in the world. Using long exposure settings, you can completely change the mood of the city.
When you want to shoot a city at night make sure you write a shot list before leaving home, it’s easy to get lost in large cities, so it’s better to plan your photo locations before.
Think about different vantage points and compositions that would look good in low light. Try to arrive at your location before sunset to seek out the best locations for the perfect nighttime shot.
Photography tips vary a lot when trying to achieve proper exposure for night photography. But the most important thing is to bring a camera that is better equipped to shoot at night.
For example, you will gain more control over your subjects with a camera containing a large sensor, a camera with higher ISO capabilities, and a lens with a wider aperture such as f/2.8.
Also, it is important that your camera is in full manual mode for night photography. You may need a tripod as well, but for urban photography, you may find that you can place your camera on a steady wall or nearby bench.
2. Creating Light Trails
One of the top ideas for nighttime photography is shooting light trail photos. Similar to light painting, these are colorful effects produced when a photographer sets their camera to a slow shutter speed such as 1/30th of a second to create long exposures. They produce long streaks of light across the photo.
If you want to add an extra wow factor to your nighttime street photography, think about how you can create moving light effects using traffic lights, cars, and speeding trains.
Tips and Camera Settings to Shoot Light Trails
- Use a shutter speed of about 1/10th to 1/40th of a second
- Set your ISO as low as possible: try to set it to ISO 100
- Shoot in RAW to get more detailed photos and to capture subjects you can edit better later
- Set your aperture to about f/8 to f/11 range so your subjects are fully in focus with a deeper depth of field.
You will want to test these settings and adjust accordingly until your nighttime light trails become more visible. ISO settings, aperture, and manual focus are key here.
Another great idea is to set your camera on a tripod. At such slow shutter speeds, you are more likely to create blur and camera shake without a stable base for your camera. You will want to consider shooting your night photography without flash to achieve the best results.
3. Capture the Night Sky
Instead of looking around at ground level, look up for new beautiful night photography ideas. From photographing stars to a big bright moon, or even the milky way; photographing on a clear night will surely capture some stunning photo images.
When shooting any night photography situation it’s a good idea to set your camera to manual. Because there is very little light entering your camera sensor, therefore, your camera will have a difficult time focusing in the dark. When shooting the sky or a star, consider bringing the following gear: a wide aperture lens with such as f/2.8, a tripod, and a DSLR camera.
Other night photography tips include downloading these apps to plan the best locations to shoot the night sky. Here are some of our top picks for night photography:
Dark Sky Finder- this app provides a light pollution map, so you can avoid areas and cities where the light may block photographing stars or the moon.
Go Sky Watch- Simply point your phone to the sky and this app will provide a quick search identifying stars, constellations, and planets.
4. Photographing Ferris Wheels and Carnivals
This is one of the most popular night time photography ideas! Make sure to set your camera to a long exposure mode to photograph the beautiful moving lights of a Ferris wheel against a night sky! Bonus points if you can take a photo of a star or two against the carnival night lights.
Try to seek out your local carnival by night as well for colorful and fun night lighting. Carnivals are full of moving rides and bright lights that can easily be photographed using a tripod and a slow shutter speed. A great shutter speed to start with is 1/30th of a second, set your ISO to 100, and don’t forget your aperture should be adjusted based on those settings to capture great night photography shots.
5. Museums and Famous Attractions by Night
Check out your local city guide or travel website to locate all the museums and attractions in your city. Nighttime photography becomes much more interesting when using long exposure camera settings to take photos of museums and government buildings.
In general, these places are made to attract eyes, so normally they are illuminated by night. Discover your own city in a new way by using your camera to capture it at night!
If you want to make the photos of local buildings even more interesting, consider adding a human aspect, such as a person running through your photography landscape.
Some buildings especially in Paris, have rights reserved to deny selling prints of them, so be sure to do a bit of your own homework on copyright protection before selling any prints.
Fireworks seem to be more and more present in our everyday lives and not just made for special holidays. Add a colorful explosion to your night photography ideas. A pro photography tip for shooting fireworks is to set your shutter to around 1/15th or 1/20th of a second.
Also, make a calendar of upcoming events that have fireworks planned in your area. You could photograph the fireworks exploding in the sky alone, or include the crowd in your photography.
Consider buying your own sparklers to photograph during the display as well. Sparklers are cheap and add a bit more excitement to any photograph. Furthermore, using sparklers in your photographs gives you more control over movement and light.
Shooting portraits by night is a fun way to create moody silhouette photos. This a great nighttime photography idea if you want to shoot people in an artistic manner.
Set your model against your light source and meter your camera for that light, not for your model. Always be sure to set your camera to manual focus to capture great photos and to have more control as you take a photo.
This is a great photography idea for when you are camping. Use this outdoor setting to take night portraits of family and friends or even the wilderness set against a black night’s sky with only the fire illuminating the trees. You can use fun props such as marshmallows or cooking over an open fire.
Don’t forget, you may need to make your subjects move around the fire to get the shots that work best. If you need help, you can use a friend to hold a prop as you set your camera to the proper exposure.
Shooting fountains at night is a great idea if you are already shooting in a city. Most squares and parks illuminate their fountains by night making them interesting subject matter.
When you slow down your shutter speed, you will create a smooth water effect. Use a tripod and set your ISO control to 400 and your aperture control to about f/5.6 to f/8, after those camera settings you will have a better idea of how to set your shutter speed.
Control your shutter speed in increments to see how the blur in the water changes in your shots. If you don’t feel comfortable in manual mode you can change to shutter priority control mode.
Look for different shots as you move around the water. Change your perspective by getting lower or higher in urban settings. You may need to climb up on a bench or get low to the ground to help your subjects look more photogenic.
We can find reflections all over nature and in cities. A simple puddle on a street, a lake in the mountains, or even a building full of glass windows.
Reflections become more interesting to photograph by night. Play around with these photography tips and ideas such as creating ripple effects in water, or standing in the reflection of a building.
Another idea is to photograph the night sky reflecting on a building. If you find a reflection, you need to move around it and look for different perspectives than you see from your everyday view.
Night photography is a great use to test new ideas. Having a day job may make it difficult to find time to shoot, but there is no excuse for missing out on night photography.
Use the night photography tips above and get creative, you may be surprised by how many ideas you find just outside your doorstep.
And don’t forget to keep all the photography techniques we learned in mind when shooting city lights, landscape photography, night portrait ideas, and nighttime city photography in general.