Night photography is a task which is more complex and difficult than the average person or amateur photographer might think. In fact, it can prove to be a rather daunting task to even the most experienced professionals. However, the rewards can be quite fruitful, when executed properly.
To understand how to take stunning night photos you must first understand mixed light. When shooting at night there can often be multiple sources of light. You will typically have a constant source of light, like the moon or a streetlight, and then you will also have variable lighting from other sources like fireworks, camera flashes, car headlights, and alike. What separates the good night photographs from the stunning is the ability to find a perfect balance between the two. This isn’t achieved by a 50/50 balance - you often want to strive for something closer to one light source being one half, to one quarter of the other.
Once you’ve achieved the perfect balance you’re looking for between your light sources, it’s time to set your exposure. Depending on what your focal point may be, your exposure should be set anywhere from 3 seconds to 300 seconds. It is strongly suggested that a tripod be used.
When shooting a cityscape scene you will encounter several different light sources. City shots are often balancing the city against another element, like the sky, or a foreground focal point like a river, hills, or anything else that may help add depth and texture to your shot. Or simply add a darker contrast that also helps frame your shot. The desired outcome with night cityscape photos, more often than not, is color. To maximize the color picked up in your shot is usually achieved by an exposure of around 30 seconds or less.
Below are several examples of various cityscapes and other assorted photos shot at night and in low light level situations
City Night Scenes Wallpapers 00
A breathtaking shot of a coastal town.
City Night Scene
Another marvelous skyline shot at night.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
A disgruntled leopard spotted in the night.
A stunning image looking up at the Eiffel Tower all lit up.
A river view cityscape image.
Beautiful Night Scene
A beautiful night scene.
The first arch on the Brooklyn Bridge
New York City
New York City, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Times Square, New York
Beautiful snow-capped mountain village.
Aurora borealis, NWT
Snow falling in a quiet town.
More night photography!
The night sky over Tahoe, California.
Beautiful Night Scene 3
Evening rush hour.
Night Photography Tips
The Twilight Runner
Beautiful Night Scene 4
The last burning hours of sunlight.
Beautiful Night Scene 5
The waning hours of light in a bustling city.
Disneyland California Sun Wheel
Evening fun at Disney California Adventure.
Another cityscape taken with commuter traffic in the foreground.
Russian Aircraft Museum
AUPS Night Photography
Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, Scotland
Salt Lake City Night
The moon over Salt Lake City, Utah and the lights below.
HDR Night Photography
A beautiful shot of a port.
Night at Loch Lomond 8
Loch Lomond with the final seconds of sunlight blazing across the surface.
Brussels By Night 5
Alone on the Cobblestones
Marine by the Fires Light
Marine by Firelight, Camp Fallujah, Iraq
Chicago Night Skyline, Chicago, Illinois
The London Eye accented by some astonishing color.
There are several other scenes that make for phenomenal photos other than cities and city lights. Stars provide an excellent canvas to work with, as do fireworks, campfires, and flashlights. This is the application where exposure time can vary greatly, starting as quick as 3 seconds and lasting on up to 300. The longer your exposure, the longer your light trails will be.
Fireworks provide excellent light and color for a backdrop and they can be rather fun to capture. Often, a 4-12 second exposure should work out nicely for capturing stunning night images. Sparklers and flashlights can also produce some creative night photos, have your subject write their name in the air or simply wave them around aimlessly for a cool streaky effect.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to night photography than buying a camera and enough coffee to keep you awake at night. And as with anything, the more practice you have the better you will get. You will develop preferences for what to focus on and how long of an exposure to use. So, now that you’ve seen some stunning examples and learned a few of the basics, get out there and start capturing some breathtaking scenes!