Are your architectural photos starting to feel a bit samey? If you’re looking to spice up your portfolio, capturing pin-sharp night photos of buildings can be a real striking showpiece in your architectural archive.
But night photography can also prove a real challenge if you don’t use the right settings and techniques.
To make sure your get off on the right foot, we’ve put together our best 7 tried-and-tested techniques that are guaranteed to improve your architectural night photography.
7 architectural night photography tips
Tip 1: Sparkly lights
Using a narrow aperture (around f/16) will not only ensure a deeper depth of field, so your shots are sharp from foreground to background, but will also make street lights ‘sparkle’ in your scenes to give your shots an added magical effect.
Tip 2: Compositional considerations
Carefully study the scene before you start taking photos. Are parts of the scene in darkness? Do areas of the shot become more interesting, brightly lit or colourful as it gets darker? If so, don’t be afraid to zoom in on the most photogenic areas. Zoom in with your wide-angle zoom lens or ‘zoom with your feet’ – just move closer to your subject!
Tip 3: Use Mirror Lock-up
The slightest movement can create unwanted camera shake, and this even includes the mirror moving up and down inside your digital camera. You can quickly enable Mirror Lock-up in your camera’s menu to get around this potential pitfall.
Tip 4: Don’t touch your camera!
When taking long exposures at night, even touching your camera to press the Shutter button can create enough movement to leave you with blurred results. Use your digital camera’s built-in self-timer to trigger the shutter after you’ve pressed the button to avoid any problems.
Tip 5: Control the White Balance
If you’re using Auto White Balance, it’s easy for your digital camera to get confused with what it thinks is the best White Balance (WB) setting when shooting under street lights at night. To ensure consistent results, manually set WB; try the Cloudy (6000K) setting to warm up your scenes (making them more orange) or Tungsten (3200K) to cool down the temperature (making them look more blue).
Tip 6: Which ISO setting is best?
The ISO setting you need depends on the night photos you’re taking. If you’re shooting city scenes at night with long exposures, you’ll be using a tripod (see tip 3), so you can keep the ISO at 100 because you won’t need fast enough shutter speeds to shoot out of hand. This will also keep noise levels down – ideal for retaining maximum detail in scenic night shots. If you’re shooting an outdoor performance at night and working handheld, you’ll need to bump up the ISO (try ISO 1000 or ISO1600) to ensure a fast enough shutter speed for capturing sharp shots.
Tip 7: Include people
Invariably we photographers go out of our way to avoid capturing people in our scenic shots. However, when it comes to night photography, including crowds of people in your frame can add interest and life to your scenes. If people are stationary, try using them as a creative silhouette to enhance photos. Or, if people are walking through, try using a shutter speed of around 1/4-1/2sec so they’re ‘creatively’ blurred.