Best camera settings for shooting a city at night
The colours and contrast produced by street lamps and other artificial lights after dark transforms every city or street scene. Choosing the right settings is key to capturing these colours and contrast successfully though.
The contrast between the bright street lamps and the darkness of the night means you can’t rely on the metering of the camera to give consistent results.
So you’ll need to switch to Manual Exposure mode, and start by setting the exposure to 5 seconds at f/8 and the ISO to 200. Then take a test exposure, check the histogram and use a longer shutter speed if it’s too dark or a shorter one if it’s too light.
You’ll also find it easiest to use Manual rather than Automatic focus, as your camera will struggle to focus in dark conditions. The final setting you’ll need to change is the White Balance, which you should set to Tungsten.
How to set up your camera to photograph the city at night
Exposure mode Manual
The bright lights and dark shadows can easily fool your camera’s automatic exposure systems, so select manual exposure mode and take a test shot. Then use the histogram review to check the exposure.
White balance Tungsten
Select the tungsten or indoor preset white balance to accurately capture the colours of street lights and other artificial light sources.
Shutter speed 5 seconds
Lens 18mm to 24mm
Focus mode Manual
Drive mode Self-timer (or single shot if using a remote release)
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