Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video Shooting a simple night photo, part of Photography 101: Shooting in Low Light.
When you start doing night photography, it's easy to get caught up in all the fancy and expensive equipment that you need. You know, high-end camera bodies, expensive lenses, big heavy tripods, and cable releases. But the truth is, while all that equipment helps, you don't need it. The most important part of a great photo isn't the gear. It's the photo itself. It's what you're capturing. So, that's just a great lesson in general for photography. Keep your eyes open looking for really interesting, dynamic, exciting scenes. Let's take this place here for example. This isn't something that we knew we were going to shoot today.
We knew we wanted to get out of the city, go out in this desert somewhere and find something interesting. We had a general idea of the direction we were going, but we didn't know that we were coming here. We saw this on the side of the road, decided to pull over and investigate and it turned out to be pretty cool. And that's another good point. If you're going out shooting for night photography, you need to start in the daytime when it's light. You need to be able to find these locations. We never would have seen this in the dark. So you gotta find your cool setups before it gets dark and then just have the patience to wait it out. So, let's talk about the scene that we have here today.
This is inside of some odd concrete building with this funny hole in the wall and it's partially broken down. But I'm using this as a frame. Looking through this, what you can't see right now are the mountains and then the stars in the background. We actually have a pretty bright night here. The moon is illuminating the interior here. Right now, it's being illuminated by these lights, but we're going to turn them off in a moment and take the picture. But the moon is illuminating this, inside of this this room. It's illuminating the hills in the background. The stars, of course, are their own light. And the skies, reasonably bright as it is, and there's clouds in the sky as well.
And they're all going to look fantastic in a nice, long exposure. So, let's talk about the gear itself here. Remember, I said nothing fancy. So we've got a Canon EOS 7D on here. A Tokina zoom lens. The tripod itself is nothing particularly fancy. It's a reasonably good tripod. That's another good point too. You know, a good tripod's important, right? You do need that camera to be solid, but if you don't have a good tripod, set the camera on the ground. Prop it up under a rock. Those things aren't going to move and you can set up a camera on just about anything and make it solid. Yeah, it might be a little harder to get the angle that you want, but if you don't have a good tripod, just find a rock to set it on.
That'll work too. Now here, we're not going to use a, a cable release because I'm just going to use the built-in self-timer feature on the camera. Set it to two or ten seconds, push the button, take my hands off the camera. It has time to settle down from any motion from touching it ad then that exposure will be made. So, let's give it a try. Guys, can we kill the lights? Let's see what this looks like. As you can see, this is a really cool shot. Framing is always a good idea and in this case, this concrete wall, the round curves of it and the broken-away pieces make for some really interesting and dynamic frames.
You can see the mountains in the background, the stars in the sky, the clouds in the sky, and it almost looks like daylight just because the moon has exposed this really nice blue. We had a nice long 13-second exposure, so it just looks beautiful. It's almost a combination day and night photo, but, of course, it was just one shot. Just because we had that light from the moon balanced with the dark sky, it looks beautiful. Now, something else you could consider. If you're setting up for a shot like this, maybe you can do a whole bunch of exposures. Take the same picture over and over again, 30, 60, a couple of hundred times, whatever it may be.
And then string them together into a movie and make a time lapse. You'll see the stars moving across the sky, the clouds moving through as well. As the moon moves, the shadows are going to change just ever so subtly, so you'll see that little shift as well. It could be a really cool thing. There's a lot of possibilities, a lot of things that you can do just with the simplest of gear. So just don't forget, the most important thing in creating a great image is the image itself, the composition, the lighting, the setup. It's not about the gear that you have. Great gear helps, but it's not required.
Joseph explores indoor, candlelit scenes; bright cities, where he shows how to capture spectacular traffic trails; and the great outdoors, under the natural light of the moon and stars. The course also contains tips on using your iPhone or other smartphone for low-light photography—or even as a light source—and enhancing noisy, high-ISO images in post-production.
- Setting up low-light portraits
- Using the iPad as a light source
- Shooting a long exposure of city lights
- Shooting simple night photos
- Exposing for the moon
- Processing night shots with StarStaX