Even if you are just beginning to learn about photography you will be aware of the special requirements for capturing subjects that are in the dark or with very low light available. Most people are aware of this when they first purchase a point and shoot camera for everyday use.
Evening cityscapes with the glimmer of thousands of lights require special settings and planning before a successful image can be captured. There are also special methods needed to capture celestial objects like the moon or the stars, and a modern digital camera is the ideal tool for night time photography.
The basic requirement of a digital camera for night time photography is to have:
• A Fully Manual mode (Many automatic settings are too fast to take a proper photo of the night sky)
• Self-Timer (This removes your “hand shake” and prevents blur)
• Tripod (Will help you to take repeat images without blur)
Taking a Few Practice Shots
With a digital camera on full manual mode all of the settings required for ideal photos can be adjusted to allow for exterior lighting or brightness. A digital camera also allows for experimentation and many “retakes” if necessary. Take a few images with the slowest shutter speeds and the aperture fully open, this may allow in too much light, but you will be able to review your photos and make adjustments as necessary. Then it is just a matter of adjusting the shutter speed and/or aperture to get the picture you desire.
Shooting the Paths of the Stars
A fun project in night time photography is to leave the shutter open for greatly extended periods of times, for minutes or tens of minutes, to trace the paths of the stars overhead. This is best achieved by composing the picture to have a focal point, such as a tree or horizon line to heighten the drama in the traveling stars above. A great idea is to put the camera, on its tripod, on the ground with trees and grass surrounding.
Shooting the Moon
Another method of night time photography involves photographing the moon, which is a great deal trickier than it sounds. The moon is best photographed when there is a comparative object, such as a cityscape or tall building nearest to it in the image. The same manual adjustments and tripod usage will have to occur when photographing the moon as when photographing stars in the night sky. Next a process called “bracketing” (or simply experimentation) will be employed to determine the best settings for a good image. The manual focus is set at infinity then the exposure level is determined by using each shutter speed through the 1/1000 setting, while the aperture or f-stop is at 5.6. Film or ISO speed of 200 is recommended for moon photography. Keep checking results on the LCD and soon a perfect image of the moon will be recorded on the camera!