Help RE: night time photography

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Johnrobbo, Sep 24, 2006.

  1. Johnrobbo

    Johnrobbo TPF Noob!

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    Hello there,

    I am new to the world of Photography, my Dad recently bought me a digital Camera; Casio Exilim EX-Z750.

    I went to London a few days back and tried taking photos of the London Eye, houses of Parliament etc from across the river but got nothing but blurs and/or incredibly dark photos. Even when i put the camera on the wall and used the self-timer. I used a variety of the preset settings under their "best shot" setting but nothing worked all that well.

    Can someone please help me to setup my camera for night time photography because Im sure a camera of this expense is not totally out of depth once the sun goes down!

    Thank you,
    JR
     
  2. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    If you post a couple of examples then it might be easier to see where things have gone wrong...

    Generally for night photography:

    Use a tripod
    Use automatic exposure aperture priority mode (if you've got it)
    Set the aperture fairly small f8 is good, f11+ and you'll probably get starbusts from the lights
    Make sure there are enough bright things in the frame to get an exposure (generally about ten seconds to five minutes is good) Any longer and cities will have pink or orange skies (rather than black).

    Rob
     
  3. Cuervo79

    Cuervo79 Guest

    Googling your camera lead me to your problem.
    Your shutter speeds are 60 to 1/1600, if I'm reading it right your lowest shutter speed is 60 wich is sometimes too fast for night shots.
    What I would recomend is that 1 experiment with the nightscene program of your camera at dusk and at night.
    2 manualy do the following:
    set the ISO to 400
    set the lowest setting of shutter speed
    set the lowest Fstop number
    now since you can't go lower than 60 you'll have to take your photos in the afternoon when the sun is setting, that way there is enough light still to get some details.
    Experiment with the time, and the ISO settings, use the lowest ISO first since you've got more light then gradually move to 400. Although the higher you go the more noise you'll have in the dark spots, hopefully not enough to really notice if your max is 400
     
  4. Cuervo, I believe that is 60 seconds, not 1/60th. That's plenty of exposure time.
     
  5. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It's a good question, John. There aren't any simple answers. You need to understand that light meters try to expose to produce the equivalent of a medium gray card. That would be a pretty large over-exposure for a city shot at night. So you will have to expose a lot less than a meter or auto exposure routine on your camera would dictate.

    If I had an assignment to make night shots of a city (and I've had lots of them) I would be sure my camera is mounted on a steady tripod and I would expose manually from experience. Then I would bracket. That means I would make exposures above and below the starting exposure to make sure I would get at least one right. One piece of equipment I have that you most likely don't have is a hand held spot meter. With that I can find an area in the subject that can be the basis for the exposure and use it as a starting point.

    I did some night skylines for the Chicago Chamber of Commerce years ago. I'll see if I can dig up one of the slides and digitize it for posting here.

    That doesn't sound like a very scientific approach but that's how we do it. In your case, trial and error with a lot of bracketing will be the answer. Good luck.
     
  6. David

    David TPF Noob!

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    Hi John. Night photography is always a tough one, and probably harder with a compact (not that that should hold anyone back) but the key is a stable platform to compensate for the exposure time you're going to need to capture the scene. At the very least you should find a flat and stable surface on which to rest your camera. Ideally you should get yourself a small tripod because it's amazing how many times there isn't a convenient surface to rest your camera on. I bought one of these for my camera bag. The compact version is cheaper than the SLR, but it works really well for both, and is pretty flexible for those awkward locations.

    The next thing is how to take the shot, and not just the actual camera settings. Even if you're using a tripod, if you depress the shutter by hand, the lens is going to move, even if it's only a fraction, and the further away the image you're shooting, the more blur you're going to get. If a remote shutter release is not an option, as with your compact, then use the camera's in built timer. This is always tricky if there is a chance of something, or more likely someone, getting in the shot, but that's the joy of digital, you can delete and try again.

    The final part of the equation is the camera's settings, and there are plenty of sites on the web that set out the 'standard' exposure time and aperture for a given scene. Here's one such link that may be of help. If you can't find anything that suits you then experiment. Start by putting camera in manual mode and set the widest aperture you can, and then play with the exposure time until you get the shot you want. But don't think you need to set the aperture first, or go for the widest opening. You mentioned the London Eye, and that moves some distance in a minute (your max exposure time), so you could always set the exposure to 60 seconds and then play with the aperture until you get a nice motion shot. Half the fun of night shooting is the experimenting. Just think stability and you won't go far wrong.

    Hope that helps.

    David
     
  7. EyeSpy

    EyeSpy TPF Noob!

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    i would like to find out will these tips for night time photography apply to photography in a concert hall too? usually inside a concert hall, the lights will be dim (and it looks like night!), taking photos pose a problem. i like to take photos of performers on stage but the photos usually turn up either dark and dull or too bright. (i'm talking about using a simple P&S digicam).
     
  8. Cuervo79

    Cuervo79 Guest

    lol, well it really looked weird for a camera to have 1/60 as the slowest speed.
     
  9. jacull

    jacull TPF Noob!

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    EyeSpy -

    Those are some of the most difficult shooting situations. I shoot a lot of perfomances on stage and it is next to impossible to capture quality shots with a camera that you don't have any manual controls over. You need a wide apererture, tripod, high ISO, and a slower shutter speed that will still capture the motion of the actors/performers.

    With your digicam, the best option is to get as close as possible and don't try using flash.
     

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