If you’re not already shooting at night, it is definitely time to think about doing so. Keep reading to find out my top 8 reasons why you should be venturing out into the night and shooting in low-light.
There are some essential skills you’ll need to practice for your night-time shooting, from understanding long-exposures and how to process multiple shots in programs like Adobe Photoshop, to knowing the right tripods to use and which apertures will achieve the best starburst…
It can seem like a lot to learn but fret not; for now I’m going to focus on why you should be shooting at night. Once convinced you’ll be set you on a path of knowledge and discovery – aided by my future articles on how to shoot the most incredible low-light images.
Without any further ado, here are my 8 Reasons to Shoot at Night:
#1 Space & Time
One of the biggest advantages to setting out after dark armed with your camera and tripod, is that the majority of people around you will be doing exactly the opposite!
A huge benefit to shooting at night is that most of the destinations that are too crowded to get a clear shot during the day will be virtually empty after the Sun sets and darkness draws in. It is a fantastic feeling venturing out and knowing that the destination will be entirely yours – whilst most others are just settling in at home with dinner and a tv show or meeting with friends for a few drinks.
The lack of people crowding your shots (and adding lots of post-processing time to remove them!) is one of the biggest advantages to shooting your images after dark.
You will not only save on post-processing time thanks to a lack of pedestrians, but a space to yourself also affords you great opportunities to be especially creative and take more time to find and compose your shot – really allowing you to take full advantage of the opportunity!
#2 A Different Perspective
Everything changes after dark and you’re very rarely going to be looking at the world in the same way as you would during the day!
Particularly in cityscapes, you’ll less likely be considering the sky in your images as a main component. There are always exceptions of course (and everyone loves a good startrail photograph or image featuring the Milky Way!) but largely the sky will be dark, blue and offer little more than a faint glow from the lights below…
This shouldn’t be seen negatively by any means, as it will really push you to reconsider your normal compositional techniques and discover new and unique ways to photograph your subjects. You’ll soon find yourself wandering during the day not only envisioning shots for the present, but also taking a note of locations you want to return to and recapture after nightfall.
Similarly, you may find yourself in an area of immense natural beauty. A place where you may not only focus on sweeping landscapes but also smaller features of the foreground such such as trees, rocks and watercourses. These shots again will need to be reconsidered when shooting at night, and composed to incorporate other light sources such as the Moon, Stars or off-camera flashes.
Shooting at night is a great way to push your creativity and really force yourself to consider your compositional techniques and increase your repertoire as a photographer.
#3 Different Subjects
You know what you like to shoot. It could be dramatic modern architecture, candid shots of pedestrians or awe-inspiring landscapes – but whatever your subject and style of choice, exploring with your camera in-hand after dark can change your perception of the world around you and broaden your vision as a creative.
There are places that perhaps you wouldn’t even consider photographing normally but when darkness descends and the lights are switched on, the scene is illuminated in a way you could never have imagined and instantly you’re presented with a new and exciting image to capture.
Very quickly you will start to develop an eye for potential new subjects, that are otherwise uninteresting during daylight hours.
I still make a point now of exploring areas after dark that I’ve already visited during the day. There’s always something that you’ll have missed; from multi-coloured window lights creating a fairytale-glow in a quaint countryside cottage, vibrant floodlights spectacularly highlighting the features of city-centre monument or even just couples dining by candle light outside a photogenic restaurant.
It all changes after dark and even the most uninspiring locations by day can become a photographers dream by night.
It can be easy to think that when night falls it is time to put the camera away. All of that darkness is going to make it difficult to capture any images right? Wrong.
Shooting after dark affords you a fantastic opportunity to develop your ‘photographers eye’ for lighting, both natural and artificial.
Some of the most exciting images that I’ve captured have been scenes illuminated by neon street signs against an indigo sky or reflections of moonlight glittering across a secluded bay. After you’ve started shooting at night, you’ll quickly realise that many locations are best visited both during the day and in the evening, to decide what style is going to produce the best results for your shot. Locations will change dramatically once daylight falters and the lights are turned on – as we’ve already discovered in Reason #3.
Night photography will help you work with light in your images in new and exciting ways, and compound your understanding of different lighting techniques as a photographer.
Many of you will already be aware that even shooting during the day can be very weather dependant. Lots of sunlight means the contrast between shadow and light will be too strong, too much cloud and you will struggle to capture high quality images that are sufficiently exposed without some motion blur. You might even have perfect conditions for your photograph, but then the Sun appears from behind a vale of clouds and within seconds the opportunity is lost. Surprisingly, this is where night-time photography can be a little more reliable.
The sky at night is dark. Sometimes it will be really dark and on other occasions it will be a slightly brighter shade of dark, but nonetheless, it will be dark.
This means that when you are shooting in cities or with artificial light sources, very little will change regardless of what the weather is doing. The time you spend out with your camera can more reliably result in the images you had planned, and that also means that your time can be spent far more efficiently.
#5 New Skills
Every change you make in-camera should be instinctive. Altering your aperture, adjusting your focus point or even just knowing the field of view you’d expect to see through each lens – these should be natural adjustments that don’t require thought, they should happen intuitively.
This isn’t something that will happen overnight, far from it. There aren’t any shortcuts and the only way to achieve this is to spend countless hours using your equipment in as many different scenarios as possible. You’ll learn how all of the different external factors such as subject, lighting, motion, time etc will impact your images and what you need to change in-camera to counter this.
Shooting at night will teach you to use your camera in ways you’d be unlikely to encounter in any other scenario, and bring you closer to achieving unity with your camera and equipment.
Long exposures are a great example. You might use them in other forms of photography to create silky smooth water (with the help of a neutral density filter) or show motion through the photograph; but at night you can use long exposures to create spectacular light trails within images – something that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. When combined with lower apertures, long exposures will even help to accentuate vibrant starbursts from static lights –just another way that venturing out after dark can help you to learn new and invaluable photographic techniques.
#6 Bring it Home
Post-processing is where the magic really happens with low-light and night photography. It is the stage in the photographic process that allows you to realise the true potential of the images you’ve captured.
Photographing scenes at night or in low-light conditions will very often call for multiple or long exposures. This allows you to capture the widest dynamic range and create an image that has immense detail and visual appeal… provided you know how to combine the exposures and edit them correctly in post-processing.
Shooting at night will force you to develop your post-processing skills and quickly help you to become adept at editing images using software such as Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop.
#7 Diversify Your Portfolio
Incredible photographs in your portfolio of the night-time world, from breathtaking cityscapes to mesmerizing startrails will never fail to impress your viewers and are a fantastic way to diversify your portfolio as a Photographer.
These intriguing images of a world rarely seen by most will always be popular as wall art, posters and gift cards for your friends, family or even visitors to your website. They can be a great talking point and the interesting perspectives (often of familiar places) and attractive contrast of lights, colour and darkness make them irresistible to a range of potential buyers.
Similarly, photographing at night and producing images of a high quality can show a great deal of skill and highlight your ability as a photographer and retouch artist – meaning you’ll have an advantage when looking for potential new clients and employers.
#8 Time in the Day
We would all like more time in the day. Busy schedules, meetings, and general life can all get in the way and make it difficult to find time for the things we really enjoy. Evenings for most are usually the time we reserve for relaxation and enjoyment – meaning low light and night photography can be a far easier pursuit for aspiring photographers with a busy schedule during the day.
There is no excuse not to go for that evening walk, camera in-hand and eyes open to a whole new world of photography…
These Top Reasons to Shoot at Night will hopefully give you more than enough cause to go out and capture some incredible images of the night time world – a beautiful place that is rarely appreciated by the majority of people around you. Why not grab your camera, venture into the night and start adding some really unique and inspiring images to your portfolio!
If you’d like to see more of my own night & low-light photography along with more articles please visit www.aaronnorthcott.com. You can also follow me on my social media channels here: