6 Crucial Camera Settings for Night Sky & Landscape Photography

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Night photography introduces many challenges that are easily avoided during the day, like noise, blurriness, and your camera’s hypersensitivity to movement. Luckily, modern cameras provide you with an array of night-friendly settings to help get a sharp, properly exposed photo of stars, planets, and night landscapes.

1. How to use and balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO at night

Before embarking on a night photography journey, get to know the three crucial settings—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—that allow you to create a properly exposed photograph.

Camera settings

Aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings. Photo by Hideya HAMANO

Aperture

Aperture is the amount of light that you let through your lens. The lower your aperture, the more light you let through (so, an aperture of 1.8 lets more light in than an aperture of 5.8). Because photography is essentially the recording of light, you need to let in more light as your scene gets darker. So, if you’re shooting an unlit night landscape, you’ll use a lower aperture (measured in f-stops) number than if you’re shooting an image of the aurora borealis, since there’s more light available in the latter scene. Typically, your aperture options range from approximately f/1.8 to f/22.

Aperture also has an effect on the depth of field, or how “deeply” into an image things are in focus. The larger your f-stop number, the greater your depth of field. Luckily, depth of field changes are much less noticeable in nighttime photographs than in daytime ones.

Effect of aperture on depth of field

A shallow depth of field produced by a lower f-stop choice. Photo by Olli Henze

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