Night Photography tips and advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Toasty2012, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. Toasty2012 macrumors newbie

    Mar 19, 2012

    I have recently taken up photography as a serious hobby and have been taking my photos during daylight hours or with a flash.

    I am off to Las Vegas next month and wanted to experiment with taking photos at night. I want to take some photos in Vegas itself and also wanted to take some pictures in the desert, I hope to get some star trails. I have a Canon 5D MKII and have a range of lenses so I think I have the right equipment.

    What type of lenses do you think will be best for Vegas all lit up and what do you think would be best for star trails in the desert?

    Also, can anyone recomend any tried and tested settings that I should be using. I had a little practise on star trails this weekend and they didn't come out at all well!:confused:

  2. jabbott, Mar 19, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012

    jabbott macrumors 6502

    Nov 23, 2009
    I recommend fast-aperture prime lenses for capturing night life without a flash... 24mm, 35mm or 50mm, all of which are f/1.4L. If you are shooting handheld, use whatever ISO speed allows you to capture photos at a shutter speed equal to or greater than your focal length. For star trails, use a wide angle lens such as the 14mm f/2.8L, 24mm f/1.4L, or the 16-35mm f/2.8L or 24-70mm f/2.8L on their wide ends. You will probably want to be well away from Vegas to avoid light pollution. Also bring a tripod and remote shutter release to stabilize everything while doing long star trail exposures. Focus is tricky in low light, so for astrophotography I set my lens to MF and use Live View magnified to 10x to set focus manually on bright planets or stars (see page 122 in the 5D Mark II manual for more info). Some people use mirror lockup as well to reduce mirror slap vibration (see page 101). Use an eyepiece cover from your camera strap if you aren't looking through the viewfinder during shooting. Bring a headlamp to get everything set up but turn it off before taking any shots. Alternatively, if you are close enough to interesting geological formations, you could include them in your frame and use your headlamp to light paint them during long exposures. Also make sure the moon either isn't present or is a new moon as otherwise it will greatly reduce the number of visible stars. Most importantly, practice a lot before heading out there so that it is second nature when you go to get your real shots.
  3. adonisadonis macrumors member

    Feb 17, 2009
    Since I'm also interested in night photography although I've only just started, may I add a question on how to expose using bulb mode especially in star trail? will it not overexpose? or How can I guess for exposure? sorry just started photography as a hobby. thanks.
  4. Fezwick macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2002
    Rhode Island
    I find the best way to shoot star trails is with multiple exposures and then stack them in post processing. Doing one long exposure usually results in a grainy picture. The sensor in your camera can overheat if left open for too long as well. Search for a program called StarStax. Works really well, but you must shoot in jpeg.

    I usually shoot at f/2 at 200 ISO with 30 second shutter speeds, but experiment with the settings and see what works. Make sure that long exposure noise reduction is turned OFF.

    As far as focusing, I find autofocusing on a bright star works well. Just make sure you shut off autofocus after doing this. Try getting the pole star in your trails as well as this makes it more interesting to look at. The widest lens I have is a 35mm, so for me this is kinda of difficult if I want something in the foreground.

    Everything jabbott said is good advice. Have fun!
  5. emorydunn macrumors 6502


    Jun 5, 2006
    Austin Texas
    The trick to that is to have NO perceivable light falling on the scene.
    In this photo I walked accross the bridge until I couldn't see anything and yet the bridge is fully lit (from a very, very distant street lamp). I usually leave the shutter open for 45 minutes. If you want to shoot a scene that has a lot of light falling on it then exposure stacking is the best bet, but if it's dark enough I think one long exposure is better (and more impressive sounding when you tell people).
    The image below is shot at ISO 100 at f/2.8 for either 30 or 45 minutes.

    As for noise there are two things to do: the first is to make two exposures, one normal star trail and another with the lens cap on. Then using Photoshop you can remove the noise.
    The other thing is simply to make sure the sensor doesn't overheat. This is achieved by shooting when the temperature is no more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit above freezing. My photos are usually pretty noise free when I do this.
  6. adonisadonis macrumors member

    Feb 17, 2009
    thank you all for the tips and suggestions. I'll try all your suggestions and sorry for late reply. many thanks.

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