Stunning night pictures might seem like a mystery, but they can be easy to create, if you use the right tools and settings.
First your tools
Tripod - With little light available, the camera will produce long shutter speeds. Get the camera out of your hands and onto a tripod to keep it stable.
Cable release - Camera shake occurs when we depress the shutter, so use a cable release, remote control, or timer release to take your photo. You want to take the photo without touching the camera.
Graduated neutral density filter - Using a long shutter speed to illuminate subjects on the ground can sometimes result in a purple sky. A graduated neutral density filter cuts the light on the top half of the frame. This will help you block the sky from exposing while you allow light onto your subject. The result? Darker skies.
Flashlight - Easy to forget, but how will you find all those buttons in the dark?
Next your settings
Daylight white balance - Your camera might read the color temperature as cool, giving your pictures a blueish tint. Use Daylight white balance settings to create a color that looks closer to what the eye sees.
Low ISO - We normally reserve low ISO settings for the brightest times of the day, but with your tripod firmly in place, we can take the ISO down to the 100 - 400 range. This ensures we get sharper images (without the noise typically associated with high ISOs). It also forces longer shutter speeds, which can allow us to create dramatic effects with lights or moving objects.
Aperture Priority or Manual - I’d almost always insist on Manual settings, but if you don’t want complete control, try Aperture priority. That allows the camera to extend the shutter speeds as long as necessary to capture enough light.
Spot Metering - If you have a single point of light in an overwhelmingly dark image, it will likely fool your camera meter. Using your Spot Metering will allow you to tell your camera to ignore all the dark areas and only measure the light on your one focus point.
Long Exposure Noise Reduction - Many cameras have a noise reduction feature in the menu options. Long shutter speeds will sometimes create noise artifacts in your image. Turn on the noise reduction to let your camera reduce the noise.
Once you have your tools and settings in place, you are well on your way to stunning pictures. Now go experiment.
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