Night Photography

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Joe549, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. Joe549

    Joe549 TPF Noob!

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    I am using a 35mm Pentax Superprogram and I need to know how to take photos at night without using a flash, i.e moon shots, campfires etc. What film speed should I use and at which F-stop? I have pretty much gotten the hang of daytime shooting but have never gotten any night shots to turn out.
     
  2. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    Wow what a difficult and broad topic to cover.
    Since there is no short answer to your question it would probably be easier for you to show us a few pictures you're not happy with. From there we can see what needs to be changed to get your desired results.
     
  3. Joe549

    Joe549 TPF Noob!

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    That's kinda hard to do since I can't post pictures and I also don't keep pictures I don't like. I realize there is no straight answer as the factors are always different, but is there a good starting point that I can work from?
     
  4. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    Joe I'm going in to this knowing absolutely nothing about your experience level or what problems you're currently facing. Since you have a handle on daylight photography I would think you could at least tell me what's happening if you can't show me.

    Some common problems with night photography are blurred subjects, blurred entire images, shallow depth of field, image noise, and exposure.

    To answer your original question, you will generally want faster f-ratios and higher ISO, but even that depends on available light. There is no rule of thumb like there is for daylight. The moon is never in the same phase. Each phase has a different amount of light. A single street light is vastly different from shooting in a city with lots of lights. A campfire is different still. The toughest thing about night photography for me is exposure. Exposing properly for somebody standing 10' away from the campfire is going to make anyone closer than 7' overexposed and anyone further than 15' underexposed. Light falloff is extreme compared to daylight photography. Same if you use your flash. Different objects will be exposed based on their proximity to the flash.

    The image blurring is fixed by using a tripod or shorter exposures by using faster lenses and/or higher ISOs.
    Subject blurring is fixed by shorter exposures by using faster lenses and/or higher ISOs.
    Shallow depth of field is caused by using faster f-ratios, so the only way to fix without losing light is higher ISOs or longer exposure.
    Image noise is caused by using too high ISOs or too low of an exposure. This is fixed by longer shutter speeds or faster f-ratios.

    Everything has a fix at the expense of something else.
    Did any of this help in the slightest?

    Here is a shot with 3 different light sources: street light, house light, and moonlight. Because of the different light sources, there's no way to get a correct color balance throughout the image, so you kind of have to wing it.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    Sorry, would have helped if I posed the EXIF data for you:
    24mm f.l.
    10 second exposure
    ISO 1600
    f/6.3
     
  6. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    For a full moon you will need 1/125 sec. at about f 5.6 and ISO 200. Adjust your fstop according to your results, possibly up to f8 or f11.

    For a campfire use a camp flashlight large style from on the far side of the fire in a low position shining up toward the people around the fire. Shutterspeed 1/60 sec. at f2.8 at ISO 400. Adjust from there depending on your first results and the size of the fire and ambient light etc.

    skieur
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  7. Moglex

    Moglex TPF Noob!

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    That's if you are trying to photograph the moon itself.

    If you are trying to photograph objects on earth by moonlight you will need considerably greater exposure.
     
  8. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    A moonlit scene is a little easier if there is water in it such as a lake, river, ocean etc. Then you are talking 10 to 15 seconds time exposure at ISO 200 and f2.8 to f.4. Without water you would need to move the ISO up to 800 to 1600 and hope that the picture noise is minimal.

    You cannot get both the moonlit scene and the moon in the photo because of the extreme difference in brightness between the two. The solution to that is two photos at different exposures and then cut and paste or two photos and using layers to blend them together.

    I have a moonlit scene in my gallery which is somewhat primitive in that it was done with an old Minolta compact. Take a look, if you wish.

    skieur
     
  9. Joe549

    Joe549 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the replies, they are giving me some ideas of at least where to start. The one thing I am noticing is that a tripod is almost absolutely necessary, is this correct?
     
  10. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Also by the way, a software colour solarization filter can allow you to change day into night to add another element to creativity and yes you do need a tripod for time exposures.

    skieur
     

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