Night Photography Tips for Beginners (with Examples & Camera Settings)

Over the years of I have learned to love night photography. If you’re new to photography night photography can be difficult to learn.

Since there is less light for the camera to capture you’ll be tested to know your camera and settings. I have put together a list of night photography tips that will help improve your photography.

Long Exposure Night Car Driveby Dc

If you’re a visual learner you’ll see a video of my low-light photography tips below. I show you how to take photos at night handheld or using a tripod.

Of course we’re going to go over step-by-step settings for night photography in this article so let’s hop into my best night photography tips:

1. Use a Tripod or Support Your Camera on the Ground

Using a tripod or finding somewhere to sit the camera securely is essential to crisp photos at night. Your camera will be capturing an image for multiple seconds so you will need to keep the camera steady so handheld isn’t an option.

Luckily there are plenty of affordable tripod options that range in size and quality.

If you’re looking for a bigger tripod you can pick up a decent one on Amazon for around $50.

Neewer Alluminum Alloy 62"/158cm Camera Tripod with 360...
  • Quick shoe leg locking, giving a more convenient leg handling

But if you don’t want to carry a large tripod I highly recommend the Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2. I usually have this on the side of my backpack and it barely takes up any room.

Manfrotto MTPIXIEVO-BK, PIXI EVO 2-Section Mini Tripod for...
  • VERSATILE: You can use it with your entry-level DSLRS and devices up to 2.5Kg

Once you have mastered using a tripod you can look into more lightweight solutions like the MeFoto Globetrotter Carbon Fiber. Higher quality tripods typically are lighter and support larger cameras/lenses. If you are shooting with a 200mm for example you should look into the maximum load weight of the tripod you’re thinking of purchasing.

If you don’t have a tripod you can always find a ledge to sit your camera on. I often just sit my wallet underneath my lens and sit the camera on the ground.

Additionally if you’re a Peak Design fan like me you can also check out the Peak Design Travel Tripod. It’s one of the smallest tripods you can get which makes it easy to put in a bag.

2. Set Your Camera to Aperture Priority Mode

The label for Aperture Priority mode is different on brands but it’s usually (AV) on Canon or (A) on Sony and Nikon.

Aperture Priority Mode
Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority mode will lock your lens aperture to a specific f-stop number.

After learning how to use Aperture Priority you should switch to using full manual but I think this is a great way to learn the camera’s settings initially. This basically will lock your aperture to a specific f-stop and the camera will automatically figure out the rest of the settings.

3. Manually Set your ISO between 100 and 1600

Since you’re going to be using Aperture Priority mode your camera will automatically set the shutter speed and ISO. This won’t work for night photography since you want to get a clean image so you’ll have to set the ISO manually. This is one of the most important camera settings for night photography since this will enable you to take sharp images at night.

You’ll want to set your ISO on the lower end to reduce grain. Anything between ISO 100-1600 will give you a crisp image while taking photos at night. All camera’s noise levels differ so if your photo is grainy you should lower the ISO.

4. Set Your Aperture Low (f/2.8-f/5.6)

Aperture Priority mode lets you lock the aperture to a specific number. Going as low as your lens can go is a good idea, so if you have the kit lens it’ll be around f/3.5 but anything below f/5.6 will do fine.

The lower you put the f-stop the more light you will let in which is essential for night photography. Also note that the lower your f-stop is the shallower your depth of field will be. So if your photo comes out blurry make sure it’s correctly focuses.

Aperture Priority Canon Camera
Setting aperture on a Canon camera

Your camera will automatically set your shutter speed once you have set these settings. If you slightly press down your shutter button you’ll see the shutter speed the camera will use for the photo. This is how long the camera will open the shutter for.

5. Set Your Shutter Delay to 2 Seconds

You could buy a remote control to trigger your camera to reduce shake but I recommend just setting a 2 second timer so your camera won’t get any shakes from when you hit the shutter release.

Additionally if your camera or lens has stabilization, it’s recommended to disable that as well. If you’re using a tripod stabilization on a lens or sensor will add slight movement.

2 Second Timer Canon Camera
Using 2 second timer on a Canon camera

This is a convenient way to make sure your camera isn’t shaking without extra equipment.

Night Photography Gear

Here’s a summary of the gear needed while taking photos at night.

  • Camera: A camera that allows you to manually set camera settings. (If you’re in the market the Sony a6000 is a great camera for beginners.)
  • Tripod: A sturdy tripod or somewhere to sit the camera. (Neewer tripod for example.)
  • Remote Trigger: To reduce shake while taking a picture you can get a remote shutter release to take photos with your camera. Personally I do not use one since most cameras let you do a 2 second delay which will reduce any shake.

Example of Night Photography with Settings

Here are some of my favorite photos I have taken at night along with their settings. If you live in a major city cars passing by can be fun to photograph on overpasses and bridges. If you live in a rural area astrophotography is well worth the trip out of a light polluted area.

Tudor City Bridge Night
Long Exposure in New York City
  • Camera: Canon 6D
  • Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter Speed: 15 Seconds
  • ISO: 100
Griffith Observatory Night
Los Angeles at night from Griffith Observatory
  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark IV
  • Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter Speed: 0.6 Seconds
  • ISO: 400
United States Capitol At Sunset
US Capitol Reflection in Washington DC
  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark IV
  • Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shutter Speed: 0.5 Seconds
  • ISO: 100
Union Station Dc Wreaths 2018 3
Night photo at Union Station in Washington DC
  • Camera: Canon EOS R
  • Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter Speed: 2 Seconds
  • ISO: 100
National Cathedral at Night in Washington DC
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter Speed: 1.6 Seconds
  • ISO: 250

If you want to see more of my night photography check out this video I shot with my friend in DC. We explore the US Capitol at sunset and take night photos at other areas in the city.

Now that you know how to take pictures at night it’s time to go shoot. By taking more photos you’ll quickly learn your camera and settings for night photography. Just don’t get discouraged if your photos look bad at first, practice is the most important way to improve your pictures.

If you have any questions feel free to let me know in the comments.

Good luck with your night photography!

Leave a Comment

6 comments on “Night Photography Tips for Beginners (with Examples & Camera Settings)”

  1. Hello
    I was contemplating whether there is an equation I could use for High ISO Testing.
    For instance, say I stepped through an exam at 6400 ISO as you did in the article for a picture I needed to shoot at ISO 100 and the ideal shade speed ended up being 5″. The ideal histogram ends up being a 4 second introduction at ISO 6400. What might the right shade speed be for ISO 100?

  2. As a new comer night Photography tips was mandatory to me . Liked and appreciated your wonderful written . Thank you.