Shooting nightscape photography can often times be a challenge. Taking great nightscape photos can take hours of preparation and the right conditions have to be met in order to get the perfect shot. The following tips will help you to think about what you want out of your nightscape photography session while we cover some of the basics as well.
Tips For Taking Fantastic Nightscapes
Don’t forget your tripod
Night photography means low-light, which also means a very high ISO, which doesn’t always translate well when hand-holding it at slow shutter speeds with blurry results. A tripod can help you avoid the blurred results.
A good night photography kit is a must
Gimbals can be helpful to stabilize the camera when the camera does not have enough stabilization built into it in many cases. Gimbals allow you to move the camera without having to move or touch the digital SLR itself which can shake the image further if you weren’t already using a tripod.
Using a remote shutter release is highly recommended
The remote control allows you to fire at the exact moment you want to take your image, and not in the middle of the photon soup. There are two types, radio triggers (wireless) and infrared (IR). IR triggers can be wireless or wired. Wired triggers will work better with low light conditions and require less power from your camera itself which can extend battery life. Wireless IR cameras are more expensive, but more reliable when used with wireless triggers.
Pick the right lens
You will want to pick a lens that offers you a wide viewing angle. This is often easier when using a full frame sensor camera. The wider angle the better, but make sure you have enough zoom to have something in the shot and still be able to take it from well outside any foreground lights or other sources. The best focal length for nightscape photography is 8mm – 15mm (wide-angle).
Choose your position carefully
The right position can make a huge difference in your nightscape photography results. Look for low light areas away from direct light sources. You will have more contrast and more interesting results that way. Interesting foreground features can also help you to frame your image and give it balance. If you are capturing the entire night sky, avoid any foreground features that might take away from the scene you are trying to capture.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast
Cloud cover is a huge factor in nightscape photography. Cloudy or foggy nights are not ideal, but clear skies offer a drastically better opportunity to capture great nightscape photos. Consider the moon phase and the direction in which it rises and sets. Shooting towards the moon can cause lens flare that could make your photos less desirable. As far as weather goes, be prepared for everything from dry conditions to heavy rain and snow.
It can be a lot of fun to photograph some of the more hidden and interesting features in your area, like old bridges, abandoned buildings and weathered barns. It is also a nice break from the typical nightscapes you see all over the internet. These types of scenes offer a unique perspective on your local area that differs greatly from typical views you might see every day like cars driving down city streets at night or people enjoying their evening cocktails on the patio behind their home. These scenes are also some of the best to photograph and good composition can be a challenge.
Nightscape photography tips
There are no limits in nightscape photography. Photography is all about “seeing” something, nobody tells you what to see, but you can have the best intentions of capturing a “fantasy landscape” but if it comes out pixelated and blurry, nobody will care. Instead, you have to capture something ordinary, or momentary, which the camera doesn’t always do so well. This means you have to be patient with your equipment and yourself.
Creating a sense of atmosphere with your nightscape photography shots is great, but to succeed in capturing these scenes you have to be aware of what is going on around you. If you are on the mountain trying to get a shot of a lit up mountain with the moon shining through the clouds and you are not careful, the sky will wash out and make your photo less than ideal. To capture “atmospheric” nightscape photos, you have to be mindful of what is going on around you.
Find a rock
The more “atmospheric” your photo is, the better it will be. Rocks can make a great foreground in most scenarios, but make sure they are not so small or so large that they become distracting from your photograph. Rocks aren’t always the best subjects to photograph when trying to enhance atmosphere; you can also have success with other objects like a piece of wood or other natural (not artificial) materials you might find nearby.
Vary your composition
An effective composition in nightscape photography is not always the same as it is for your day to day shots. Your landscape photos are often taken with a wide-angle lens, which means you have less angle coverage than you do with a telephoto. Because of this, you need to make sure you are planning your shot while keeping this in mind before you begin. You can also crop after you take your shot to add extra detail to the composition.
The second most important element for nightscape photography is focused light. To achieve this, the camera must be set on manual focus and manually focus on what you want in your photo. It may take some time and practice to understand this concept, but many of these lenses are quite cheap and not very complicated if you already understand photography. Other than that, this technique is something that requires practice.
The main point of nightscape photography is to create an aesthetically pleasing image. It needs to be easy on the eyes, and if it isn’t, it is not worth shooting.
Taking a step back
Another tip for your nightscape photography is to take a step back and think about what you want your photo to look like before you take it. You can make a mistake in setting up your shot, or even taking the photo, and when it comes out you will be disappointed in the end result. Instead, try to think about how you want your photo to look before you start shooting.
Nightscape photography is a fun and interesting way to capture the world around us. If you have some patience and a good idea of what you want in your photo, nightscape photos can be a great addition to your repertoire.