Night Photography Settings You Should Know

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It might not be as easy as it seems to be when it comes to shoot night photos. In many cases, the techniques for this kind of photo shooting can be opposite landscape photography. In fact, it can lead to an entirely black image if you choose the wrong camera settings. Therefore, to get the right night photography settings, the factors that you need to consider are aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

1. Aperture

Night Photography Settings You Should Know
camera settings for night photography

Normally, if wanting to obtain front-to-back sharpness, we often use a narrow aperture for landscape photography. But it needs a faster aperture (such as f/2.8) for night photography. In case, you have to double the price of lenses (about f/4), what you have to do to maintain the quality of the photos like the expectation is a higher IOS, slower shutter speed.

2. ISO

There is also the opposite between regular landscape photography and night one. While a low ISO should be chosen during the day when there is often less noise and grain, a high ISO is more preferable in the nighttime.

However, you should pay attention that the higher the ISO is, the more sensitive to light the camera sensor is. This is because it needs a shorter shutter speed to achieve the same exposure. At the same time, more noise and grain are included in the image. That’s the reason why you should keep the IOS as low as you can.

Personally, I often choose an ISO lying in the range between 1600 and 3200, and it depends on the moon phase and artificial light. But in some cases, the ISO can get a low of 800.

3. Shutter Speed

Night Photography Settings You Should Know
Night photography settings

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t keep the shutter speed too low because it will lead to blurry stars. There is a bit of calculation for the maximum shutter speed for the lens you need to do in order to keep the stars sharp: 500 for full-frame sensors or 300 for crop sensors,  then divide it by the focal length: 

14mm: 500/14 = 35 seconds (300/14 = 21 seconds)

16mm: 500/16 = 31 seconds (300/16 = 18 seconds)

20mm: 500/20 = 25 seconds (300/20 = 15 seconds)

24mm: 500/24 = 20 seconds (300/24 = 12 seconds)

Besides the three main above-mentioned factors, there are some other night photography tips needed to be considered in order to have great night photoshoots.

  • Set your camera in manual mode. It is much easier for you to take a night shoot than any other modes. Just flip your camera from automatic to the “M” for this mode.
  • A tripod is needed. As it takes at least 10 seconds for your camera to record a night image. It means you have to hold the camera for at least that period of time if you don’t want your night shoots to become blurry. A tripod will set your camera on a ledge and maintain it perfect for 10 seconds.

In short, although the night photography settings may always change from picture to picture, there are some typical features for three main factors for the night time photography: a high ISO_1600, an open aperture_f/2.8 or f/4, and the longest possible shutter speed_500 or 300 rule.

If shooting at night is impossible to you, consider using Virtual Dusk service to support you.