If you’re drawn to the heavy saturated colours of night photography but hate lugging a tripod – or perhaps you physically cannot carry a tripod – you’re in for a treat. Here we show you three quick and effective low-light photography tips on how to set up your camera to shoot hands-free night photography.
The latest digital cameras offer excellent high ISO performance. Increasing your sensor’s sensitivity enables you to achieve fast enough shutter speeds to shoot handheld in very low light conditions – and even at night!
Better still, even at these high ISO settings, you can capture detailed, colourful images with very little noise pollution.
By following our low-light photography tips below you will learn how you can really push your camera’s ISO capabilities and shoot sharper pictures handheld!
Set your ISO high
First you need to set your camera’s sensitivity. Press the ISO button on top of the camera and choose the maximum setting, such as ISO3200 or ISO6400. You can expand the ISO further – eg to H1 (12800) on the 7D, or H1 (51200) or H2 (102400) on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III used here – but we’d suggest you stick to the maximum unexpanded ISO setting for the optimum combination of sensitivity and quality.
Your camera will be working hard to try and keep the noise levels down, but when you’re shooting at your highest ISO settings you’ll need to give it a helping hand. In the Menu, set the High ISO Speed NR (Noise Reduction) option to High. Take some shots with and without this setting enabled, then zoom into the images at 100% to compare noise in the shadow areas.
If you’re shooting a night scene with a wide-angle lens, you only need an aperture of around f/5.6 to capture enough depth of field for the scene to be sharp enough from front to back. And your shutter speed (with a little help from the Image Stabilisation) only needs to be fast enough for your focal length: 1/50 sec at 55mm for instance, will be fine for night shots without a tripod.
12 common errors of night photography (and how to solve them)
Light Trails: what you need to know to master this night photography favourite
Night Photography: set up your camera to shoot anything
Night photography tips for the architectural photographer