GETTING STARTED GUIDE: INTRODUCTION TO NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Mario note:  The lightpainting is just one of the many ways and techniques to portray that there are interesting things at night. Vicente Nadal today gives us a basic introduction to night photography in general, reviewing basic concepts that will help you take your first steps in this type of photography. 

Surely you have seen many times these impressive night photos of landscapes, cities or stars and nebulas and you have entered a tremendous desire to take photos of that style … but when you have tried it you have found it too complicated.

This is the article you were waiting for, and not because I wrote it, but today I would like to introduce you to the fascinating world of night photography as God commands. Believe me, the difficulty you seem to have is not so bad. Yes, you have to know and master certain concepts first (for that I am writing and you are reading this), but the visual result of this type of photographs is extremely gratifying. It is worth it.
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Photo of the City of Science in the blue hour – ISO 200 f3.5 t1 / 3s 18mm – Nikon D2x – 18-200VR

First of all, it must be said that the subject is in itself extensive enough to dedicate an entire blog, both night photography itself … My purpose with today’s article is to help you lay the foundations of good learning by exploring some How many basic concepts we all need to master before launching into this type of photography, concepts that, once mastered, the rest is shot.

THE BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH

You already know that to take photos you need light and that your absence is our worst enemy … but strange as it may seem to us in reality there is always a small thread of light.

In this article we talk about night photography … but how night? Well it depends on what you want to photograph. If what you want is to photograph buildings in the city and cut something on the horizon, the best time is the so-called blue hour .
The blue hour is one in which the artificial lights of the buildings balance their intensity with sunlight.
For the purposes of our eyes it seems to be daytime but in the photographs the result is a nighttime photograph.
A perfect example is my photograph of the Emisferic of Valencia taken at that strange time when the lights are balanced.
If what you want is to photograph the stars or the milky wayYou will need some more darkness. In addition to having to take the photos on a closed night, you cannot take the photos near a large city because the light pollution that it produces will prevent the camera from seeing the stars well. That implies as it is logical that you can not take the photos with moon, or full or otherwise.

Night photography by Rodrigo Saldanha de Almeida creative commons

NECESSARY EQUIPMENT

No special equipment is necessary but some things that need to be taken into account:

  • Camera: any that allows prolonged exposures. It is convenient to carry spare batteries.
  • Objective: better be luminous and angular. Between 15 and 24mm, maybe 35mm.
  • Trigger cable or remote control: If it is a better mechanic, otherwise you have to carry spare batteries.
  • Robust and heavy tripod: Avoid even the smallest vibration.
  • Flash: to make flashes and paint with light in some shots.
  • Flashlight:  or you can open your head. It is interesting that it is one of those that go in the head to be able to have the hands free, like those of the cavers.
  • It doesn’t hurt to bring you warm clothes, food, a folding bench, etc. It all depends on how sybarite one is.
  • GPS: to know where you are and not to get lost and to know how to locate the north and the places of interest to be photographed on the map.
  • Filters: to color the flash light or to filter the light received by the camera.
Night photography with the Lightpainting technique – Photography by Juan Andrés López – creative commons

EXPOSURE CALCULATION

Perhaps this is the most complicated part since night photography is done with low sensitivities, 100 or 200 ISO at most.
Ideally, the exposure to the first one is as accurate as possible without the need to take many long exposure photos that will overheat the sensor. For that we start by putting a very high sensitivity, open the diaphragm as much as possible and calculate the exposure to the sky.
Suppose that for ISO 6400 and f / 2.8 it gives us an exposure of 30 seconds, using the reciprocity table we will have the following:

  • ISO 6400> 30 sg
  • ISO 3200> 1 minute
  • ISO 1600> 2 minutes
  • ISO 800> 4 minutes
  • ISO 400> 8 minutes
  • ISO 200> 16 minutes

If you are going to photograph with a more closed diaphragm, f / 4 for example, you should continue to increase the exposure, double for each diaphragm point you close.
If we have a hand flash and adjust it to illuminate objects close to ISO 200 and f / 2.8 we can create some spectacular photographs. Expanding or trimming the exposure can lighten or darken the sky.

Long Exposure Night Photography, Photography by Maurid80 – Creative Commons

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Some additional tips to succeed in the night photography session:

  • Plan the session well. Choose the places with time, it is even better to go day before to know the way and select the most interesting point of view, with the darkness that can be a problem.
  • Experiment with mixed lights, artificial and flash, flashlights, etc. Night photography admits creativity almost without limits.
  • Play also with white balance. For this it is very interesting that you shoot in RAW and then in the development let your creativity fly by making amazing adjustments.
  • Participate in Facebook groups, forums and blogs on the subject to learn from the experts.
  • Fans of this type of photography usually take group excursions to take night photography. Participate in your excursions.
  • Have a plan of the celestial vault on hand to know the situation of the stars at each time of the year. There are smartphone applications that give you that functionality. Try Google Sky
Night Photography, Photography by Maurid80 – Creative Commons

Surely with the reading of this article you are already looking forward to running tonight to take pictures … Before, please, give me a minute and leave a vote of recommendation and share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Thanks to you who share it I can write this article


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