Hand Held Night Cityscapes


TPF Noob!
Jul 30, 2010
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I am going on honeymoon in a few weeks to New York and Las Vegas.
I have been trying to get tips on the internet/youtube etc on taking hand held night photos with my DSLR when in Vegas/New York.
Everywhere I read though the first tip they give is USE A TRIPOD! I don't want to be carrying a tripod with me so how do I take decent night shots of cityscapes in NY and Las Vegas.

I have done a nightshot in very low light by sitting down and using my knees to keep the camera still, and I doubt you wanna sit down in Vegas or NYC. Monopods are also a good option even though they tend to sway. I would personally get a small tripod and shoot from my hotel room or something like that. If you carrying your camera bag around anyways, stick your tri-pod in there too.
That's what I would personally do I mean I wouldn't want to miss out some amazing night shots in Vegas and NYC.
as a substitute for using a tripod, you can also support your arms/elbows on a solid object like a wall or tree and make sure your holding your camera correctly to prevent camera shake. The best way to hold a DSLR is to have the right hand firmly on the grip with the index finger used for the shutter button. The left hand cradles the base of the camera and lens (on the shorter lenses) or the lens alone (on the longer lenses). This will provide a good solid base to shoot from
Thanks lads.
I really meant though as regards settings on the DSLR,I am very very new to the world of DSLR's!
Shoot at a high ISO. That'll keep your shutter speed up. Although you'll have noise, you'll be able to hand hold pretty comfortably and your pictures won't be OOF. What camera/lenses are you bringing if you don't mind me asking.
Shoot at a high ISO. That'll keep your shutter speed up. Although you'll have noise, you'll be able to hand hold pretty comfortably and your pictures won't be OOF. What camera/lenses are you bringing if you don't mind me asking.

I have a Sony a500 that I have only recently purchased,my first DSLR.
So with it I have the 18-55 lens that was supplied with it and I also bought a Minolta 50mm F1.8 off ebay
The 50mm f/1.8 will give better low-light shots, but keep in mind, with that ultra wide aperture, comes very shallow depth of field. But that aperture will allow much faster shutter speeds than the kit lens can get.

You shouldn't have too much trouble in Vegas. At least on the strip. There's plenty of light 24/7. Some parts of New York (like Times Square) will be similar, but not quite as much.

For those times where light just isn't there, find a bench, railing, trash can lid, anything non moving that points your camera at the subject. Use your camera's self timer if you don't have a remote.

Good luck! I hope we get to see some pics!
I actually bought my first dslr at the Sony store in Vegas. When I got it had no real clue on using it so didn't get any good shots can't wait to go back again and try lol. Try and stop at b&h photo while in NYC I'm dying to go soon but heard it's heaven for photographers. Have fun on ur honeymoon
I'm almost certain I read about the sony being a poor high iso performer regarding noise etc but really you can make do without a tripod, google gorillapod, I think they are cheap and handy and can wrap around a fence post or handrail etc etc or simply use a wall or other solid object to rest the camera on, prop it into position using coins or similar and use the self timer function to take the shot. I just wouldn't be tempted to get in the frame in either city using this method though or you'll likely see your camera tearing off in the distance in the hands of some cretin. H
New York and Vegas are very bright at night, specially in the main commercial areas. I'm assuming that is what you are taking the shots of? TimesSquare in NYC and the strip in Vegas?

Bright lights, so as long as your camera can handle some decent higher ISO and you have fast glass, you should be ok.

-Yes, using a tripod is best. But with the hoards of people in NYC, its not an option
-Putting the camera on something steady would be your next step. Park bench, garbage can...anything that is flat and can help you keep it steady
-Next is bracing yourself on something.

But as you want to know about settings, the best I can do is post up images from my trip to NYC this past August:

I dont have the settings in my EXIF (odd, I usually do) so i'll have to check at home. But these were done hand held, using either a 50 1.4 or a 10-22 3.5-4.5. They would of been shot under 800 ISO I'm thinking



Now if you are heading in the back alleys, side streets, further off areas to get more interesting shots, then you'll have light issues. But on the main streets of downtown NYC in TimeSquare, no worries about hand holding your camera
I only (mostly) use tripods to get me in the shot. Forget the tripod, take a sweatshirt instead.

Shoot in auto everything. And turn off the flash
Cities tend to have plenty of light and you may be surprised to find you are not in desperate straights without a tripod.

Take note of the photo afterwords as to what shutter speed was used and the resulting blur or crispness Use this information to proceed.

If the photo was blurry and not crisp

Lots of options besides tripod:
Take another. Get real steady by leaning on something or pin the camera up against a wall or sign post. Like you on one side of a cafe half wall and pinning the camera against the other side. Or a soda machine, a bench, heavy table edge OR set the bottom edge on the ground or table top and wedge your fingers under to get the tilt you want.etc. Or set the timer and put the camera on something solid and let it take the photo after the timer goes off. Rather hard to get hand held shake from that method.

A sweat shirt makes a great photo bean bag/tripod support substitute. Use the camera timer to eliminate shake and get whatever tilt you want by scrunching the sweat shirt around under the camera.

I would be surprised if you need as much as 1 second exposure. Getting a stable base as I describe with out moving for less than 1 second is easily doable. But I don't know you. Maybe you are frail and wobbly. If you are Then mount a tripod socket on your walker. (kidding)

It is very difficult to get a clear shot when hand holding less than 1/60th a second shutter speed. Therefore as you find that the camera in auto is working around the 1/60th range you must intensify your steadying efforts. If you find that the camera in auto is working faster than 1/60th then just take a deep breath, hold and shoot. Simply review the resulting photo and proceed. Vegas has a lot of lights AND LIGHT POLES TO LEAN AGAINST!

A great tip: learn to use rear curtain flash to get a beautiful back ground exposure and wonderfully exposed people or what ever in the foreground.
Thanks for all the help guys,really appreciate the manner in which you all replied,I have felt really silly on other forums for asking questions as some replies can be very condescending,it would make you think these people were never beginners!
Dont you worry, people here can be as sarcastic and condescending as anyone on any other forum. :D

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