Don't Fear Darkness

Here's an easy summer project to increase your proficiency with your camera.  Go through your photographs, and count the number that were taken after the sun was down.  Most people have very few night time shots.  What's your percentage of night scenes?  Do you have any at all?  I don't mean sunrise or sunset images - I'm talking night. Las Vegas, Nevada, at night.

Yeah, I know, most of the events we like to capture are in daylight hours, but that's usually a cover for "I'm not sure how to take photos without loads of light."  The night has some interesting looks, too.  You just need to think about a couple of extra things - but only a few.

A fest in Augsburg, Germany.

Because of the reduced light, your camera will need adjustments we've already discussed before: you should increase your ISO; your exposures will be longer; you'll need to open up your aperture; or some combination of all of these.  Use a tripod or monopod for stability.

photographer, at night, with tripod.

Backlit scenes, like big, stained glass windows will fool the camera's meter to believing there is enough light for the entire frame. This is a time to pay attention to your LCD and bracket your shots.  If you want the area around the glass to be more than a black frame, you may need to use layers, with different exposure values, in Photoshop.

stained glass window in a church in Manassas, Virginia

If the image has a combination of artificial and natural light, you may have to balance the different temperatures.  They don't have to be balanced to the exact same temperature because your viewer is used to seeing mixed lighting in certain scenes.

Old courthouse clock tower in Warrenton, Virginia

Night time photowalks can be great fun.  They will present you with images that are interesting and challenging.  Take your time and try several variations of the scene.  Summer is here, so the weather is warm.  End the evening at your favorite restaurant for some good food and wine. Your portfolio will have more interest, since, as we proved at the beginning of this blog, most photographers won't have many night shots. You be different.

winter storefront, at night, in Warrenton, Virginia