You can’t just walk outside with a digital camera after sunset and start taking the photos you see in your mind’s eye. But you have options even if you can’t afford expensive low light cameras and other gear designed to make night photography easier. Consider these tips and techniques so capture the world you see after sunset.

Find some light.

If you can see it with your naked eye, there’s light shining on it. Find that light source, ensure that it’s enough for your camera, and orient it towards the subject in such as way that you maximize use of the available light. Whether that’s a candle from a café on the corner, a street light, or the moon reflecting off the ocean.

Get the gear.

Even if you can’t purchase a whole new camera, you have to invest in a tripod to do any serious night shooting. Tripods enable longer exposures with slower shutter speeds by eliminating camera shake. The less light you have available, the more useful a tripod is. A shutter remote is a great help at the slowest shutter speeds. The simple act of pressing the shutter button to begin the exposure can shake the camera; a remote means you don’t have to touch the camera until the shutter closes.

If you want to shoot people at night and will be using a flash instead of available light, you should invest in a handheld flash so you can direct it deliberately and diffuse it more easily for more realistic contrasts. Wide angle lenses also help, especially if they have a huge aperture, because they let in more light so you can reduce the noise from a higher ISO and achieve better sharpness without opening your aperture all the way.

Learn the settings.

Basically, you want your camera to let in as much light as possible to deal with the low amount of available light at night. Obviously you have to adjust this for certain brighter, high-contrast shots. To do this, you’d open your aperture as much as possible and increase the ISO. However, many people actually advocate using the lens’s sweet spot for the aperture, which is usually near the middle of the range, and dialing down the ISO to 800 or below, forcing to use a slower shutter speed to make up the difference.

Lastly, be willing to underexpose your shot a little. It’s a night photo after all. The best way to do this is taking a test shot and using the histogram setting to identify contrast and light imbalances; on most cameras, the light meter is virtually useless at night. Using your judgment you can craft beautiful photos full of the details you see and which still look like night shots.

Slow down to compose.

Slow exposures take longer. When every shot takes more of your time, investing more thought and planning before you press the shutter button will save you time in the long run. So slow down and compose your shot with your eye before you look through the digital camera’s viewfinder, and again looking through the camera on the tripod. Especially if you’re shooting a relatively fleeting night-time effect, extra planning so you don’t miss your opportunity is essential.

There are a lot of obvious digital camera tips for night shooting, especially relating to how to compose your shot or find the best piece of equipment. These suggestions give you more of an overall approach to the process of shooting after sunset so you can get photos of the world you see at night.


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