5 Steps for Beginner Night Photographers | Photography Basics

This blog is dedicated to Rob Howe. Overall legend and the number one requestor of a basic tutorial on night photography.

This blog is going to be as simple as the title suggests, 5 steps to taking better photos at night. To make it easy for you to get started we have also included an equipment list. The links we have included give us a small kick back if you decide to make a purchase.

So if you are considering purchasing some of the equipment we would be stoked if you support us (The boiz!) by purchasing the equipment through our links. Let’s get into the blog aye!

Our first efforts at capturing the stars sucked! So will yours but it will only get better with practice.

Our first efforts at capturing the stars sucked! So will yours but it will only get better with practice.

Step 001 - Put Your Camera in Manual Mode

Manual mode can be quite overwhelming when you are first learning to take photos but when it comes to night photography it is far easier to just go straight to manual mode. Manual mode will allow you to make easy adjustments to get the right exposure for the situation.


Step 002 - Invest in a Tripod

Alternatively if you are not sure if night photography is going to be your thing use a brick wall or anything solid to set your camera on. However if you want to get into any area of photography you should really loo at putting a tripod to the top of your wish list.

Tripods are essential for those of you that want to make night photography a regular hobby. In fact, if you want to improve in any area of photography (from travel - portraiture) you should be investing in a decent tripod.

See Also - 8 Reasons Why you Should Travel with your Tripod


Step 003 - Start Low with your Aperture

If you are unsure what aperture is then check out our blog on Exposure Basics it will give you all the tips you need to understand the basics of using manual mode. Set your aperture as low as your lens allows, this will commonly be referred to as your f stop.

Depending on your lens your lowest f stop may be; f5.6, f4, f2.8 or even as low as f1.4. Start at f2.8 or the lowest your lens will go (f1.4 is probably too low). A lower aperture allows you to let more light into your sensor, the sacrifice will be the focus of your image.

A lower aperture will reduce the depth of field which essentially means that less of your image will be in focus. As a beginner this is a sacrifice you will need to make, as your night photography skills improve you will find ways to mitigate this problem.


Step 004 - Start with a Shutter speed of 10”

If you want to get into night photography then you are going to need to get used to long exposures, hence the tripod. Start with a shutter speed of 10 seconds and adjust to suit the exposure you are after.

If your image is too dark then lengthen the time the shutter is open try 15” (15 seconds). If the image is over exposed then speed up your shutter speed. As a beginner it will be trial and error until you begin to understand how to use the other functions and tools on your camera (like the histogram).

If you think long exposures over 10 seconds sounds a little strange don’t stress, night photography goes hand in hand with long exposures. Some night time images can have exposures with a shutter being open for over 10 minutes!


Step 005 - Pump Up that ISO

The higher the ISO the brighter your image will be. But don’t pump it up too high!

The higher your ISO the more grain you are going to introduce to your photo. Grain essentially results in an image that looks pixelated and not very sharp. Depending on what camera you have you may be able to have a higher ISO without introducing too much grain, we recommend starting at 1600 and not going much higher if you can help it.

If the image needs more exposure then adjust the aperture and shutter speed first before increasing the ISO. If you can drop the ISO then the lower the better.


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The Equipment is List

-An entry level DSLR
-A small flashlight or headtorch
-Spare Batteries (for all your equipment)
-Tripod
-Remote Shutter Release (or Intervalometer)
-Lens Hood
-Neutral Density Filters
-Fill Lighting (Large torch/spotlight)
-Coloured Lighting: You can just use coloured overlays on your spotlight.
-Smartphone (timer)


Night Photography is a whole different ball game and you will find yourself breaking a lot of the rules and guidelines you use in day time photo shoots. That is what make night photography so interesting.

The best advice we can give you… Get out and start shooting!