11 Essential Tips for Shooting a Night Landscape Photography

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Tip #2: Start shooting before dark

Once the sun sets, the colors and light in the sky quickly change. There may be various shades of reds, oranges, and yellows or blues. The sky will become a deeper and darker blue for the next 30 to 60 minutes after the sun goes down, before becoming completely black. If you have arrived early enough, found the composition you like, and set up your camera on the tripod, then go ahead and start shooting early. You will find that although you are shooting the same scene, the different colors and light will give each image a very different look. For instance, silhouettes will be much more visible against a dark blue sky rather than the total blackness of night.

Tip #3: Include a foreground element

This is not a hard and fast rule, but you will typically want to find something to include in the foreground when shooting a landscape. This applies not only during the day, but also at night. Maybe there is an old barn or car, maybe a tree or some rocks, or even a small pond or lake. Since it will be dark, the foreground may be a silhouette against a starlit or moonlit sky. Alternatively, use a small flashlight to ‘paint’ the foreground object to give it some definition (more on that later). A foreground element will make the shot much more interesting and engaging to the viewer, and will help to lead the eye through the scene. After dark, it may be more difficult finding something that will work for the foreground, so get on-location early (see Tip #1).

Tip #4: Use a tripod

Shooting at night, you will likely be working with relatively long exposure times, with shutter speeds of five to ten seconds or even longer. A good, sturdy tripod and ball head will be critical to stabilize the camera and give you sharp shots. Jim gives his suggestions for some great tripods and ball heads to fit every budget here.

Tip #5: Use larger aperture settings

Shooting daytime landscapes will typically call for stopping down the lens to f/16 or even f/22 for maximum depth of field. However, you will not have that luxury shooting night landscapes due to the lack of usable light. You will need to find the right balance between the depth of field needed (aperture) and the amount of light (or absence thereof) that you have to work with. Start out with an aperture of maybe f/5.6 and work from there. If more light is needed, you may need to use even wider apertures. Using these larger apertures may mean that you won’t be able to get everything in focus in a single shot. If this is the case, take two or three separate shots, focusing at different depths in the scene and blend the shots in post-processing.

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