Night Photography – 7 Hints for Getting the Perfect Shot

Taking photos at night is a unique practice filled with plenty of deep colors, exciting lighting options and the perfect balance of exposure. 

While the process might take a little longer to master than traditional photography during the daylight hours or in a studio, fine-tuning your skills and taking on the never-ending quest for the perfect night shot is a mission many choose to conquer at some time in our amateur or professional photography careers. 

If you’re keen to try out night photography for the first time, you might be wondering what to bring along on your shoot. Basic items to bring along would include a tripod, wide-angle lens, a lens hood to minimize lens flares, a flashlight, and a little imagination. 

Night Photography - 7 Hints for Getting the Perfect Shot

Here are some of our top 7 tips when starting to photograph subjects at night:

1. Do it manually

The beauty of night photography means that you can experiment with light and have a play with the ‘rules’ of photography. While it’s important to understand the basic rules of photography and shutter speed, it’s a great opportunity to explore your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to see what works for you. Working in manual mode allows you to set everything yourself and have complete control over your camera.

2. Understand bulb mode 

While manual mode works a treat when you are shooting at night if you need a shutter speed that is longer than third seconds you will need bulb mode to get the right exposure. In this mode, the shutter stays open for longer which means you can take your exposure to several minutes long. 

3. Shoot in raw format

When you do venture out at night to do a photo shoot, it’s important to shoot in raw format, which means the files are 14-bit files. The higher the bits, the more color in the images which can make for a better image overall and allows you to have a wider variety of color options in your images.

Night Photography - 7 Hints for Getting the Perfect Shot

4. Bring along a flashlight  

A flashlight can come in handy for a number of reasons namely the ability to shine a light on your camera controls when necessary as well as being able to light areas in the foreground of your picture when needed. Either way, having a flashlight with plenty of batteries is a must for your nighttime photography shoot.

5. Take test shots at a high ISO

Before you spend too much time shooting at night, take a quick test shot at a high ISO to see if your shoot is going to work and your exposure is suitable. When you have done your test and you’re happy with it, simply decrease the ISO and increase the shutter speed to your final settings and you’re ready to get started on your night shoot.

Night Photography - 7 Hints for Getting the Perfect Shot

6. Learn all of your functions in advance 

When you are out shooting photos at night it can be a pain to continuously shine a light over your camera to ensure you are using the right functions. Learn and memorize your functions ahead of time so you’re totally comfortable with all your functions and you don’t have to fumble around in the dark to work out your essential functions. 

7. Visit your destination in advance

This final tip is probably something that can be easier said than done in some cases, especially if you’re looking to photograph the Northern Lights! If you can, visit and familiarize yourself with your shoot location in advance. It is also a great idea on the evening you plan to shoot to arrive nice and early and get there while the sun is still out to ensure you give yourself plenty of time to set up and get photos while the light is changing during dusk.

Taking photographs in the daytime can be one thing; embracing night photography is a whole other ball game and a process you might need to adapt your skills to get the perfect shot.