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How to take photos at night

Top camera tips for legendary low light shots…

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You don’t have to put your camera away when the light starts getting low. Follow these simple tips for taking unforgettable night-time shots…

1. Take control with manual mode

Manual mode gives you complete control over aperture and shutter speed – two things you need to get right for shooting at night.

If you adjust the settings while monitoring the view on your touchscreen, you can make sure the image looks right before you take the shot.

2. Shoot in RAW (not JPEG)

Okay, so you’ve got your camera set to manual. You can now take even more control by shooting your files in RAW rather than JPEG.

RAW files aren’t processed or compressed, giving you much more detail than a JPEG. This extra data gives you much more control to adjust exposure, contrast and colours when you’re editing in Photoshop.

3. Tweak your ISO levels

The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera will be to light. The ideal number for night photography is a high ISO starting at around 1600, but it’s worth experimenting to find the best setting for your shot.

4. Adjust your shutter speed

The shutter speed is how long the shutter remains open while taking a photo. A slower shutter speed will give you a longer exposure, allowing more light into the camera – perfect for night-time photography.

The shutter speed is measured in parts of a second – usually 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8. However, when shooting at night speeds can be as high as 30 seconds.

Top tip: Different night-time scenes demand different shutter speeds. Taking a photo of a fairground ride with cool-looking light trails requires around 15 seconds, while capturing a floodlit castle takes just 4 seconds

5. Understand your aperture

The aperture is the size of the opening in your lens. You can easily control the size of your aperture by tweaking your camera’s f-stop.

• Small apertures: f/22, f/16

• Medium apertures: f/8, f/5.6

• Wide apertures: f/4, f/2.8

Wider apertures are best for night-time photography, as they let more light into the camera.

6. Keep your camera steady

If you’re using low ISO settings, smaller apertures and slow shutter speeds, you need to keep your camera steady.

Slow shutter speeds = long exposure times. You’ll get blurry results if you try and hold the camera in your hand, so a tripod is essential.

7. Experiment with your settings

Be brave! Make large adjustments in your settings and you might get some interesting results. For example, fast shutter speeds might ‘freeze’ moving lights while very slow speeds leave cool light trails across the picture.

8. Get a camera that loves the night

If you really fancy getting into night-time photography, it makes sense to go for a camera with specs suited to low-light conditions.

The Canon EOS R6 mirrorless camera has a high maximum ISO, so shooting in low light is easy – and the DIGIC X processor helps reduce image noise.

Another good choice is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera. Its huge ISO range of 100 to 32000 makes it perfect for shooting low light, and with dual pixel RAW files you can easily adjust your images post-shot. Dual pixel RAW files are actually made up of two separate images, so they’ve got double the information of normal RAW files.

9. Try ‘night mode’ on your camera phone

Finally, why not use your phone to grab some great night-time shots? Most have a ‘night vision’ mode in the camera settings, so give it a go.

Google Pixel phones have a ‘Night Sight’ setting that makes things clearer than the human eye – you can even use it for photos of the moon and the night sky. All you need to do is press the shutter button down until the ‘hold still’ message disappears.

Another good shout is the Samsung Galaxy S22 series, with pro cameras that come with a Nightograpy mode. This uses the power of AI to combine 30 images into a single clear shot.

Any questions?

If you’re thinking about getting into photography, our camera buying guide is a great place to start. Take a look at our reasons for buying a DSLR camera too.

If you’d like to talk to an expert about choosing a camera or any other piece of tech, pop in-store or have a video chat using ShopLive.

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