Night and Low Light Photography

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If you're ready to challenge your photography skills, shooting low-light and nighttime images is a great way to do it. Night and low-light images not only challenge your exposure skills, but they also open a new world of creative challenge, enjoyment, and the potential for stunning images. Some events and stock photography also involve low-light scenes and nighttime shooting, so having a good understanding of how to get good results without excessive digital noise is important.

For outdoor images, sunset and twilight are magical photography times for shooting of subjects such as city skylines, harbors, and downtown buildings. During twilight, the artificial lights in the landscape, such as street and office lights, and the light from the sky reach approximately the same intensity. This crossover lighting time offers a unique opportunity to capture detail in a landscape or city skyline, as well as in the sky.

For indoor images such as indoor gymnasiums, music concerts, and other events, you have to depend on the XSi/450D's good performance at high ISO settings to give you relatively noise-free images. You may also want to consider shooting in RAW capture mode and performing additional noise reduction during image conversion.

Low-light and night photos also offer a great opportunity to use Manual mode on the XSi/450D. Sample starting exposure recommendations are provided in Table 9.8.

Canon Eos 450d Images Samples

©Bryan Lowrie

9.25 While digital noise factored into this image of the Cathedral of Barcelona taken in very low light, noise reduction applied in Adobe Camera Raw was effective in reducing it. Exposure: ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/30 second using an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM lens.

Fireworks Photography

To capture fireworks, choose a lens in the range of 28 to 200mm or longer depending on your distance from the display and what elements you want to include in the foreground. Choose an ISO from 200 to 400. Because the camera may have trouble focusing on distant bursts of light, you can prefocus manually on infinity and get good results at public fireworks displays. Be sure to use a tripod or set the camera on a solid surface to ensure sharp images.

If you want to have more creative control, you should know that capturing fireworks is an inexact science at best. I usually set the camera to ISO 200, use Manual mode, set the aperture to f/11 or f/16, and set the shutter on Bulb, which allows you to keep the shutter open as long as the shutter button is depressed. You can experiment to find the best time, usually between 1/3 and 2 seconds. Check the results on the LCD and adjust the time as necessary.

Don't worry if you miss some good displays at the beginning of the fireworks show, because the finale usually offers the best photo opportunities. During the early part of the display, get your timing perfected and be ready to capture the finale.

Table 9.8

Ideal Night and Low-Light Exposures

Subject ISO Aperture Shutter Speed

Table 9.8

Ideal Night and Low-Light Exposures

Subject ISO Aperture Shutter Speed

City skylines

100 to 400

f/4 to f/8

1/30 second

(shortly after

sunset)

Full moon 100 f/11 1/125 second

Campfires 100 f/2.8

1/15 to 1/30 second

Full moon 100 f/11 1/125 second

Campfires 100 f/2.8

1/15 to 1/30 second

Fairs, amusement 100 to 400 f/2.8 1/8 to 1/60 second parks

Fairs, amusement 100 to 400 f/2.8 1/8 to 1/60 second parks

Lightning

100

f/5.6 to f/8

Bulb; keep shutter open for

several lightning flashes

Night sports games 400 to 800 f/2.8 1/250 second

Candlelit scenes 100 to 200 f/2.8 to f/4 1/4 second

Night sports games 400 to 800 f/2.8 1/250 second

Candlelit scenes 100 to 200 f/2.8 to f/4 1/4 second

Neon signs 100 to 200 f/5.6 1/15 to 1/30 second

Freeway lights 100 f/16 1/40 second

9.26 Despite the double-pane airplane windows, it's possible to capture print-worthy aerial dusk images, such as this one taken somewhere between Salt Lake City and Seattle. Exposure: ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/100 second using a Canon EF 24-70mm, f/2.8L USM lens.

Night and low-light scenes often necessitate using a high ISO setting, which increases the potential of getting digital noise. The Rebel XSi/450D offers two excellent Custom Function options to help offset digital noise: C.Fn-3 Long exposure noise reduction and C.Fn-4 High ISO speed noise reduction. Enabling one or both options decreases the maximum burst rate for continuous shooting, but it's great insurance for minimizing or eliminating digital noise.

Reference For details on setting Custom Functions, see Chapter 5.

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Digital Camera and Digital Photography

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  • max theiss
    What is a good lens for a canon xsi for night shooting?
    8 years ago
  • rina
    What is the lowest iso setting in canon d60 for night time architecture?
    8 years ago
  • Amerigo
    How to take good sport pictures at night rebel?
    8 years ago
  • anita
    What iso and aperture to use in night photography canon ae1?
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  • flora taylor
    How to set aperture of f16 and bulb on canon 550d camera?
    6 years ago
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    How to take night shots with canon rebel xsi?
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    How to use canon rebel xsi eos for open shutter at night?
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  • renata
    What is the best setting for photographing shooting stars with a 450d?
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    How to take night photos with canon rebel xsi?
    6 years ago
  • Haddas Yusef
    How to use canon d450 at evening?
    2 years ago
  • manuel
    How to capture lights and fireworks on a Canon EOS Rebel XS?
    2 years ago

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