Night Photography: set up your camera to shoot anything

Night Photography Tips: best camera settings for any subject

Choosing the right aperture for night photography


Night Photography: how to choose the right aperture

When setting up your camera to shoot night photography, it’s usually essential to keep the camera perfectly stable. 
In low light, faster shutter speeds are harder to achieve.

In some situations, such as floodlit sporting events, it might be necessary to hold the camera in your hand, but in most night scenarios you need a steady platform to rest the camera on.

The ideal choice is a sturdy tripod, which will keep your DSLR completely still, even with shutter speeds that are minutes long. However, you can also keep the camera remarkably steady simply by balancing it on a flat surface, such as a car roof or a window ledge, and then firing the camera using the self-timer function to avoid any unwanted vibration (and the resulting camera shake).

Now you’re free to select the shutter speed, aperture and ISO that will work best for the subject – and not just those that will give you the least camera shake. The exact settings you need will vary with the subject (see the table below) and exactly how well it’s lit.

But for tripod shots (find out the best way to set up a tripod), keep ISO at 100 (to minimise noise) and use a narrow aperture (f/16). The shutter speed may be seconds long, but with your camera fixed firmly this isn’t a problem (find out some of the common problems at every shutter speed – and the best settings to use).

Here is a quick, but handy, photography cheat sheet listing some of the rough camera settings you’re likely to need for some of the more popular night photography subjects.

Night Photography: cheat sheet of best camera settings for any subject

PAGE 1: Overview
PAGE 2: Choosing the right aperture
PAGE 3: Choosing the right shutter speed
PAGE 4: Choosing the right ISO settings
PAGE 5: Choosing the right White Balance
PAGE 6: Using flash in your night photography


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Manual Focus: what you need to know to get sharp images
Download free photography cheat sheets
99 common photography problems (and how to solve them)


  • Don DeMaio

    How could you shoot aerial fireworks with a 20-second exposure? Most fireworks don’t even last for 20 seconds?