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gary_hendricks
02-17-2005, 07:27 AM
Here is an article I published on my website about night photography. I hope it'll be useful to some of you in this forum.


How to Take Better Night Photos
by Gary Hendricks

Do you like to take photos at night? I know I do. There's something magical about them - pictures of the moonlight sky and dazzling neon lights convey a special something that daytime photos can't.

When I started out taking digital photos at night, boy, did I have problems! The issue is that many digital cameras do not perform very well under low-light conditions. To take good night photos, there are some tricks you need to remember - so here are a few of them.

Tip 1: Use Long Exposures
The key to successful night photography lies in a long exposure. Weíre talking about exposures measured in seconds. When a long exposure is used, more light is allowed into the camera, allowing the details in your night photo to be captured.

The problem with using long exposures is that you may shake the camera, resulting in poor pictures. The way around this is to use a tripod. I prefer to install a tripod with a shutter-release cable to ensure that I donít jolt the camera at all.

Tip 2: Take Control Shots
One problem with digital cameras is that there are always some pixels on the image sensor which are bad. When taking day photos, these defects are not discernible. However, they are pretty obvious in night photos. How do we correct these? Hereís a simple way Ė take a control shot, then use image editing to subtract out those bad pixels.

This is how it works. The next time youíre out to take night photos, go ahead and snap a picture of Scene A, as you normally would. Then, when itís convenient, take a photo of the exact same Scene A again, but with the lens cap on.

Now you will have two images, one night shot and one control shot (with the hot pixels). Load them up in say, Paint Shop Pro. Switch to the control shot and select Edit and Copy from the menu. Next, switch to the night shot and paste the copied image as a new layer. Then, select the new layer and change the Blend Mode to Difference and click OK. Youíll get the correct night shot with the hot spots subtracted out.

Tip 3: Try to Capture Motion
With a long exposure, you have many creative options when it comes to photography. This includes capturing motion. For example, have you ever wondered how those professional photographers shoot pictures of trails of car lights as they zoom down the highway at night? Itís all due to long exposures. Try to keep this in mind the next time youíre taking a night photo Ė you donít have to restrict yourself to still images.

Tip 4: Play with the Aperture
In addition to shutter speed (which determines exposure time), you can play around with the aperture size of your digital camera. There are two scenarios here. If you set a long exposure, try to use a small aperture to avoid overexposing any stationary lights. in the picture. On the other hand, if you set a short exposure, try using a larger aperture to avoid any motion in your shot.

Tip 5: How to Use the Flash
As a general rule, I turn the flash off when taking night photos. There are some exceptions though Ė one specific example I can think of is trying to shoot a subject in the foreground, with motion trails of car lights in the background. In this case, bring along an external flash unit and shine it on your subject manually. Set a long exposure, then have your subject wait until the picture is taken.

Tip 6: When to Take Night Photos
Whenís the best time to take night photos? I usually like to take them during dusk when colors and details are easier to capture. Iíd recommend that you do some research on the evening before the photo shoot. Decide on the location, then come back the next day to take the photo at dusk.

Conclusion
Hopefully, this article has taught you some tips on taking better night photos. The important concept to remember is that a long exposure is need for good night photos. This means you need to keep you digital camera really, really still. Once you understand that, the quality of your night photos will definitely improve.

Geoff Chandler
02-17-2005, 04:13 PM
Gary - that's really good stuff - thanks for posting it.
I stuck on one of my Night/dusk shots a while back inthe Digital chat Forum about 3 pages back now (General Digital Photography Chat London Night Shot) There are a couple of other shots in there as well.
I haven't taken many digital night shots yet but so far I am quite happy - my old SLR Olympus OM2n used to take great night shots so my little C-740 has a lot to live up to. I am hoping to take Croydon's Concert Halls - The Fairfield Halls at night soon - it's tricky I keep looking for a good angel and really I need a wider lens - so I might wait until I have bought my new Wide Zoom camera.
Certainly the time of night makes a huge difference - early/dusk seems to reward with nicer skys. Otherwise the long exposures can give a horibble orange tinge if you live in town.
Keep up the good work - I will keep dipping into your site now I have found it.
Geoff

gary_hendricks
02-20-2005, 03:08 AM
Gary - that's really good stuff - thanks for posting it.
I stuck on one of my Night/dusk shots a while back inthe Digital chat Forum about 3 pages back now (General Digital Photography Chat London Night Shot) There are a couple of other shots in there as well.
I haven't taken many digital night shots yet but so far I am quite happy - my old SLR Olympus OM2n used to take great night shots so my little C-740 has a lot to live up to. I am hoping to take Croydon's Concert Halls - The Fairfield Halls at night soon - it's tricky I keep looking for a good angel and really I need a wider lens - so I might wait until I have bought my new Wide Zoom camera.
Certainly the time of night makes a huge difference - early/dusk seems to reward with nicer skys. Otherwise the long exposures can give a horibble orange tinge if you live in town.
Keep up the good work - I will keep dipping into your site now I have found it.
Geoff

Oh yes ... Croydon's Concert Halls. That'll be a spectacular shot! Let me know how it turns out.

junji98
02-20-2005, 08:16 PM
hi gary. i am a relative newbie to digital photography. i was going over your tips and regarding the part on taking a control shot: one takes this shot with the lens cap on? please explain. i dont quite understand that...

thanks!

gary_hendricks
03-12-2005, 09:48 AM
hi gary. i am a relative newbie to digital photography. i was going over your tips and regarding the part on taking a control shot: one takes this shot with the lens cap on? please explain. i dont quite understand that...

thanks!

Yes, you take it with the lens cap on. This is to reveal the hot pixels in the camera. If you subtract this image from the actual night shot you take, you can get a night shot without those hot spots.

NYCPhotogal
11-29-2005, 08:15 AM
Gary, thanks for this posting, it's fabulous. I have a question about the night photos though, or ones in dark lighting. Most of the time if I am just taking scenery at night then I do set a slow shutter speed and open the aperture to capture the light. It comes out great. But how do photographers capture the same effect and lighting with people and movement clearly? People dancing or action at night without the harsh flash? Thanks!

Matthew
12-20-2005, 08:26 AM
I don't understand how one would "subtract" the hot pixels. I know how it would work in principle, but I don't know how to do it in CS2! Can anyone help?

Skylinux
12-24-2005, 12:24 AM
I have a question, I just tried Tip2, take a photo with lens cap, and I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I'm used to Computer LCDs where dead pixels can be seen.
Since you stated "One problem with digital cameras is that there are always some pixels on the image sensor which are bad." so I tried it.
Is it the "background noise"?

Could you take a look and tell me where the dead pixels are? The image you see is a 5MB Fine jpg from a Finepix s5200 with lense cap closed and set to Auto. I also tried it in RAW and it looked the same but it's a bit big for posting.

Warning, file is 2592x1944 2.3MB! NOT ANYMORE, this file does not have any dead pixels, see below. I compressed it to save bandwith but left it on my server for completeness.
http://www.network-technologies.org/grfx/posted_files/s5200_with_cap2005dec24.jpg

Ali_baba
12-24-2005, 02:48 AM
http://www.muamshai.com/photos/albums/userpics/10001/Downtown1.JPG

Photo taken in night time with f = 6.3 and exposure time = 10 sec.

sjseto
12-24-2005, 11:48 AM
I have a question, I just tried Tip2, take a photo with lens cap, and I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I'm used to Computer LCDs where dead pixels can be seen.
Since you stated "One problem with digital cameras is that there are always some pixels on the image sensor which are bad." so I tried it.
Is it the "background noise"?

Could you take a look and tell me where the dead pixels are? The image you see is a 5MB Fine jpg from a Finepix s5200 with lense cap closed and set to Auto. I also tried it in RAW and it looked the same but it's a bit big for posting.

Warning, file is 2592x1944 2.3MB!
http://www.network-technologies.org/grfx/posted_files/s5200_with_cap2005dec24.jpg

Skylinux, I looked at your EXIF data and the exposure is only 1/4s. Stuck pixels usually only appear in long exposures. A stuck pixel looks like a tiny random white dot, and there are usually only a few of them (unlike noise, which is a grain pattern that is everywhere in the picture). Can you manually set your camera to take, say, a 3 s exposure and try it again?

Stephanie

Skylinux
12-24-2005, 08:30 PM
Skylinux, I looked at your EXIF data and the exposure is only 1/4s. Stuck pixels usually only appear in long exposures. A stuck pixel looks like a tiny random white dot, and there are usually only a few of them (unlike noise, which is a grain pattern that is everywhere in the picture). Can you manually set your camera to take, say, a 3 s exposure and try it again?
Stephanie

Ok, I changed exposure time to max, which is 3s. I think I found one. It's in the top right corner. I circled it.

http://www.network-technologies.org/grfx/posted_files/s5200_with_cap_3s-2005dec24.jpg

alubkin
12-24-2005, 09:04 PM
i can see quite a few on that... you might want to look at it while verrry slowly scrolling from left to right and right to left, so you can distinguish it from dust on the monitor. Look at the lower left... there are two, fairly bright white spots

Skylinux
12-24-2005, 09:35 PM
i can see quite a few on that... you might want to look at it while verrry slowly scrolling from left to right and right to left, so you can distinguish it from dust on the monitor. Look at the lower left... there are two, fairly bright white spots

I went over the picture after posting and found more towards the bottom.
Thanks for confirming how they look like on a digicam.
I will update the picture to show more spots.

strongheart
03-24-2007, 04:58 PM
Thanx for the excellent article.

One thing to add to the arsenal of night photography is a black hat.

Long exposures may get ruined by incidental light,
a stray parking car nearby or a flashlight or camera flash cigarette lighter etc.
A black hat could be used to cover the lense for a moment or so (without touching the camera) until the offending light source is gone.

A human foreground subject can get flashed, cover the lense and the subject can walk away. If the poser was against a dark zone, all is well, but if the subject was blocking background light (s)he'll look like a ghost in the photo.

~S~

core!
04-05-2007, 05:49 AM
Exif which I read was like

Exposure Time = 10"
F Number = F6.3
Exposure Program = Manual
ISO Speed Ratings = 64
Exif Version = Version 2.2
Date Time Original = 2005-12-18 17:50:44
Date Time Digitized = 2005-12-18 17:50:44
Components Configuration = YCbcr
Compressed Bits Per Pixel = 5
Exposure Bias Value = Ī0EV
Max Aperture Value = F2.83
Metering Mode = Spot
Light Source = unknown
Flash = Flash did not fire, compulsory flash mode
Focal Length = 6.3mm

Saleh
09-15-2007, 10:08 PM
nice tips thanks very much:)

Saleh
09-15-2007, 10:12 PM
i would like to know how to select the best shutter speed from the first time sime times i took 5 shots then i found the best shutter speed how to know from the first time ?

TheObiJuan
09-16-2007, 02:07 PM
We should turn this into an interactive lesson. Try it and post our results and methodology.

MystY
02-09-2009, 07:12 AM
Hi, I just joined this forum and reading the tips provided here is great.

Regarding the tips for night shots, I have 1 question concerning Tip 2:

"This is how it works. The next time youíre out to take night photos, go ahead and snap a picture of Scene A, as you normally would. Then, when itís convenient, take a photo of the exact same Scene A again, but with the lens cap on."

I don't understand what you mean by take a photo of the same scene again with the lens cap on. Wouldn't that just give me a black image? And couldn't I just point my camera at any direction (with the same ISO, WB, A and S settings)?

toriaj
02-09-2009, 08:08 AM
That's right, you'll have a dark image with nothing in it but noise/hot spots. As the guide goes on to say,

"Now you will have two images, one night shot and one control shot (with the hot pixels). Load them up in say, Paint Shop Pro. Switch to the control shot and select Edit and Copy from the menu. Next, switch to the night shot and paste the copied image as a new layer. Then, select the new layer and change the Blend Mode to Difference and click OK. You’ll get the correct night shot with the hot spots subtracted out."

The dark image is used to isolate the noise/hot spots so you can remove them from the image in PP without affecting the rest of the image.

BTW I've never used this technique. I think you're right that you could point the camera in any direction.