12 common errors of night photography (and how to fix them)
The days may be getting longer, but (hopefully) they will also be getting warmer. Spring and summer are perfect times of the year to explore the world of night photography, but as you can imagine, there are many challenges when working with long exposures. Below we’ve identified 12 of the most common problems you’ll encounter when shooting night photography and offered our tips for overcoming them.
Do you have your own night photography tips, or perhaps problems you’ve encountered in your own night photography endeavours that we haven’t covered here? Why not share them in the comments!
Night Photography Tips: Painting with light
Painting with light is one of the easiest ways to transform your night photography scenes from ordinary to extraordinary. Although you rely on natural light for most daylight photography, introducing artificial light into your night photography allows you to get really creative. However, when you’re attempting to paint with light, watch out for the following problems:
Ensure accurate exposure by setting the right ISO. If an under-
exposed shot is pushed when editing in Camera Raw, noise could ruin it. It’s fine to use ISOs up to 1600, or to make exposures a few minutes long. This will help to balance the natural and painted light.
2. Obvious painting
The more even the light, the more realistic the results. An overexposure such as this one doesn’t quite give you the dreamy, atmospheric effect you want from your night photography. Don’t expect to get it right first time – it could take many goes
to get it right, so check every exposure and assess your technique. Expect to become frustrated and tense, but remain adaptable and focused.
3. Visible torches
Try to avoid standing behind the camera and painting from waist height, as it will be very obvious where the light source is coming from and the ground at the base of the image will seem overly bright. If possible, hide behind a rock or tree. Lift the torch up and paint quickly.
Night Photography Tips: Moonlit landscapes
Moonlight is a truly magical medium. Whether shooting straight towards the moon or basking beneath its light, shooting a lunar landscape provides an exciting way to add variety to your night photography portfolio. However, when attempting to ‘shoot the moon’, watch out for these common errors:
4. Poor focus
When it comes to composition, try to exclude any subject that’s too close
in the foreground. Depth of field is very limited when shooting at f/4-5.6, even if you’re using a wide-angle lens. Use your camera’s rear LCD screen to regularly check your results, and make focus adjustments if necessary.
5. Blurred stars
If your shot seems under-exposed, increase the ISO (most cameras perform well up to ISO 1600). Do not lengthen the shutter speed or the stars will appear as short trails of light. Just remember to keep post-
shoot adjustments to a minimum to avoid adding unwanted noise.
Night Photography Tips: Star trails
The key to a good star trail picture is clarity. A long exposure will render stars as a mass of densely packed lines, as the Earth rotates on its axis. Combine this with recognisable features, like a building or trees, and the result is a mind-bending vortex that’s unlike any standard night photography shot. Watch out for these common problems when shooting star trail pictures:
6. Passing planes
If a plane passes through the frame while the shutter is open, any blinking lights will produce a line of dots that can be distracting, so you’ll need to time your exposure accordingly.
7. Long-exposure noise
Noise isn’t just a problem at high ISOs; it can also become apparent when using a very long exposure. This is why it’s better to merge multiple shorter exposures.
Night Photography Tips: Northern Lights and other sky phenomena
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a photographer’s dream. The aurora is one of the most tantalising and compelling phenomena on Earth. Camera technology is now so good that DSLRs can capture the spectacle with outstanding quality, and it’s only going to get better. However, here are a few common errors to watch out for when shooting such sky phenomena:
The aim is to capture the aurora’s intensity and shape. Long exposures will cause motion blur rather than burnt highlights, so limit shutter speeds to five to ten seconds.
Once again, the sky is the important factor here, so do not expect the foreground landscape to be correctly exposed unless it is well lit by strong moonlight.
10. Watch the tripod
Check and check again.
This is a rare photographic opportunity and you’ll kick yourself if you return home to find that your shots are soft or your tripod has been knocked.
Night Photography Tips: Astrophotography
Astrophotography represents the hardcore end of night photography. Unlike shooting in moonlight, the lighting is so greatly reduced that you often find yourself shooting in near darkness with just the stars to light the way. Compositions can be difficult and exposure mistakes can be easily made, all of which makes it one of the most challenging, but also most rewarding, photographic genres. Here are your two biggest obstacles when attempting astrophotography:
One of the biggest issues with astrophotography is under-exposure.
High ISO camera technology is not quite up to par, and you’ll find yourself compromising between ISO levels, star trails and noise reduction until the technology improves.
As there is literally nothing but shadows in night shots like this, don’t be afraid to use large amounts of noise reduction and to experiment with the results. Carefully push
the blacks in Adobe Camera Raw, zooming into 100% to check for noise.
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on Friday, March 23rd, 2012 at 4:23 pm under Night, Photography Tips.
Tags: hot, long exposure, low-light photography, night photography