September 6, 2008

night photo fun!

i went to the fair and had a lot of fun taking pictures of the ferris wheel and all of the colorful lights, so i thought i'd share some fun night photo tips with y'all :)

when i first got my camera (a nikon d50), i was intimidated by night photography because i wasn't quite sure how to set it. but as soon as i started playing around and experimenting, i found out that night photography can be really fun and is really not tooooo hard.

the best way to get cool night shots is to set up with a tripod (or on a steady surface). this allows you to set your camera to take pictures with really slow shutter speeds. when i play with long exposure, i like to set my aperture (the f-stop) at a really high number, like f22 or f32, and set my shutter speed on bulb. this allows me to keep the shutter open for as long as i am pressing the shutter button.

this photo was taken using the above settings:

so was this:

notice that you can see the motion of the ferris wheel and the cars in these pictures because of the long time the shutter was left open (for a few seconds). it's even better if you have a remote (in this case, i didn't) because you will be less likely to shake the camera when pressing the shutter.

you can even use long exposure to play with light painting! hand someone a flashlight and ask them to "paint" something with it...and hold down the shutter for as long as they are drawing.

however, you can't always carry around a tripod with you, and don't always have a steady surface that you can rest your camera on (i didn't at the fair). in that case, i cheat a bit. you won't get the cool sense of motion like in the above picture, but you will get a vibrant photo of the lights!

when i don't have a tripod to use, i shoot wide open (at the lowest f-stop my lens will let me shoot with). i also try not to let me shutter speed be toooo fast (i keep it under 1/200. you can adjust this by lowering your ISO). this lets your camera take in lots of light, without camera shake. your pictures won't be as crisp as if you were shooting at a higher f-stop, but it will work in a pinch. some examples (these were all shot at the fair tonight!):

you can also get cool effects by blurring the lights. taking a portrait with a shallow depth of field (a low f-stop) will allow the lights in the background to become blurs. i love this effect!

you can also take a blurry photo of lights on purpose. simply set your camera to manual focus, and turn your lens until you see an effect you like.

another thing you may discover while playing with this effect, is that the shape of the blurs change when you change the f-stop. when you shoot at a lower f-stop , you get these hexagons:

(this particular one was shot at f2.8)

but when you set it at a higher aperture, the blurs turn into circles:

(i believe this was shot at around f7. the higher the f-stop, the larger the circles get).

you can also use this tutorial to create shaped blurs. it's really easy and super fun! i tried it here:

night photography is super fun to experiment with! i hope some of these tips inspired you to play :)


Tara said...

Oh wow! How fun are those! I wish I could figure out manual settings. The only time I've taken night photos, it was of fireworks and I just turned the setting to "fireworks". Very perfessional!

april said...

i love that you posted this tutorial. this will help me sooooooooo much

walesk said...

caroline, I love love love your photography style! these are awesome! thanks for sharing :)

young said...

Wow, this is a great post! Thanks for all the great tips, and especially about the shape background lights - very cool!

Lauren said...

very interesting..You have a lot of knowledge there, Caroline. Loved the examples..

Kimber-Leigh said...

these are terrific tips caroline! thanks SO much!

Ally said...

What great tips! Love the photos and our state fair is coming up - I'm thinking night shots!