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Night Photography in 5 Easy Steps


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Step Three of Night Photography-Make adjustments to settings as necessary
Fireworks with Camera Settings

Fireworks with camera settings shown

© 2007 Liz Masoner licensed to About.com, Inc.

If your camera does not have any adjustment options other than a nighttime setting, then turn the dial to your camera's nighttime or landscape setting and skip down to part 4 of this section. If you camera has other abilities, use them. There are four things you will set on your camera for nighttime photography:
  1. Film Speed - This is marked by "ISO" on some cameras. Unless you are shooting nighttime sports, use a slower film speed. This will reduce the grain visible in your images and produce a much clearer image.
  2. Aperture - The aperture will be determined in mostly by your subject. Aperture controls how much depth of your image will be in focus and will be marked on your camera as F-Stop. If you are taking an image of your family standing in front of a landmark, you need a larger aperture (smaller F-stop number) than if you are taking an image of a lighted fountain and the lighted museum several yards behind that. Set you aperture based on your subject, in the next two steps we will adjust the exposure.
  3. Shutter speed - Unless you are shooting nighttime sports or another situation where you need to freeze motion, your shutter speed will be your third step. Set your shutter speed for a proper exposure on your metering bar. Remember to take your meter reading from the darkest part of the scene you want to appear well lit.
  4. Flash - You will use flash to "fill in" areas that need additional light. Remember that flash does not have an unlimited range so this works best for areas relatively close (about 4 to 9 feet) from you. If you use your camera's on-board flash I would recommend using it only when you must illuminate a person. If you have an add on flash that works with your camera you can use the fill-flash feature to set it to less power and illuminate things like the bases of lighted fountains that may otherwise be lost in shadow.
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