The Challenges of Shooting at Night

The Challenges of Shooting at Night

This week, I noticed that my most recent photos have one thing in common – they were all taken at night. Shooting photos at night can be very challenging. Limited light source is one of the reasons why it is so hard. Here are some of the challenges I encountered.

Grainy pictures due to high ISO

Easily noticeable grains on the image

ISO is a part of the exposure triangle that describes the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light. You may want to crank this up at night so you can get more light on your camera sensor. Setting it high, however, makes your images grainy especially at night.

You can still shoot at a lower ISO however another problem arises.

Slow shutter speed blurs images

Some objects will be sharp, some will be blurred giving an effect of movement and some will just be annoyingly blurred.

Lowering the ISO means less sensitivity to light. You have two options at this point: use a slower shutter speed or increase the aperture size. Lowering the shutter speed might seem a more sensible approach because you have a full range from fractions of a second to 30 seconds or more. Since light is recorded on the sensor while it is exposed to light, shaking camera and moving subjects will have a big effect on the image that will be produced.

This might be inevitable but you may use the blurring as an effect to have a contrast between still and moving objects. Composition plays a big part if you want to include this effect.

Autofocus simply won’t cooperate

Unintended Bokeh

This might be a small challenge that can be solved by using manual focus but some digital cameras don’t have that feature. It might get a bit irritating if the camera repeatedly tries and fails to focus on the subject. You may need to set different focus points for the camera to focus properly. Autofocus also becomes irritating if the camera focuses on the background instead of the subject.

Possible solutions to get beautiful photos at night

Taking photos at night might be hard but it’s not impossible to get acceptably pleasant images.

  1. For low ISO settings, you may use artificial light such as your built-in camera flash or a simple flashlight.
  2. For slow shutter speeds, you may use a tripod to make your camera stable. This, however, doesn’t address problems for moving objects.
  3. For Autofocus problems, again, use manual focus if available.
  4. Pictures taken using low ISO and slow shutter speed can still be enhanced using software.

Shooting at night is challenging, but if you practice enough, maybe you can improve your images straight from the camera. Reading about low light photography techniques will also help and there are a lot of resources in the internet and bookstores.

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