10 Tips for Shooting Night Photography

Picture of a dead tree in front of a multi-colored night sky

Straublund Photography / Getty Images

Shooting night photos can be a challenge, especially with a point and shoot camera. Night photos also can be among the most dramatic photos you'll shoot. City lights can create a beautiful look, with the correct aperture setting. Shooting night photos of fireworks is fun, but your camera needs a long shutter opening. Capturing photos of your friends during a nighttime party requires a good flash unit.

Having the right equipment and knowing the correct techniques should improve your night photography results.

Tips for Shooting Night Photos Successfully

  1. Try a tripod. Shooting night photos requires a slower shutter speed to allow more light to reach the image sensor, meaning camera shake is a greater possibility at night, which leads to blurry images. Getting a good tripod will keep the camera steady at all times.
  2. Use a remote shutter. To further minimize the chance of camera shake leaving you with a night photo that isn't as sharp as you'd like, use the tripod along with a remote shutter or your camera's timer to shoot photos. When using a slow shutter speed, even pressing the shutter button can cause a slight movement with the camera that will leave the night photos with a slight blur.
  3. Use a steady surface. Rather than holding the camera, try placing the camera on a sturdy surface, such as a table or the top of a wall, when shooting night photos. A tripod is the best option, but, if you don't have a tripod, a sturdy surface can work well, too.
  4. Steady yourself. If you must hold the camera when shooting night photos, brace yourself against a wall or door frame to keep your body as steady as possible, minimizing the chances of camera shake. In addition, hold the camera close to your body, rather than at arm's length, to steady yourself.
  5. No tripod? Increase the speed. When shooting in fully automatic mode, the camera selects the shutter speed for you, and it will select a slow speed for night photography, which can be a problem if you don't have a tripod available. However, you may be able to manually increase the shutter speed a little bit, which may reduce blurriness in your photos without sacrificing too much in terms of available light reaching the image sensor.
  6. Use the blur. When shooting a stationary subject at night, use a longer shutter time and allow the objects that are moving around your subject to become a little blurry. This technique will allow your subject to stand out because it will be in sharp focus, compared to the rest of the image.
  7. Use what's available. Shooting night photos can give you some unique reflections and lighting angles, so take advantage of them. For example, shooting at a steep upward angle can create interesting looks. Or, shoot night photos around water, giving you some interesting reflections and beautiful effects.
  8. Supply your own light. If you have external lights available, you can use them to enhance your night photography. A bright, focused light beam can highlight your subject at night in an interesting manner, for example. Close-up photos probably will work better when you're supplying external lighting.
  9. Try plenty of settings. Even with the best techniques and equipment, night photography can still be a hit and miss situation. To increase your chances of getting just the right look, shoot plenty of photos of each subject, using a variety of settings.
  10. Long shutter times. One common mistake photographers make with night photos — especially with photos of a cityscape — is choosing a shutter speed that's far too fast. Leaving the shutter open for 10, 20, or even 30 seconds can create a cool cityscape photo. However, a tripod is a requirement for this type of photo.

Be sure to "keep your eyes open" at night, looking for interesting subjects. Something that might appear to be a boring photography subject during the day can have a whole new interesting look at night. Good luck with shooting night photos successfully!