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Shootings during dusk or dawn or during the night have a very particular attraction because of their light atmosphere and colouration.

Professional tip: Studio photography

Shootings at night – lighten up the dark

Shootings during dusk or dawn or during the night have a very particular attraction because of their light atmosphere and colouration.

Especially at this time of the year you will find very atmospheric motifs. Street lights shine through thick fog patches and envelop the streets in a mysterious light. The houses are magnificently decorated with illumination chains and Christmas decoration and at as the year comes to an end you can capture the colourful firework.

The blue hour, the transition between sunset and the darkness of night with dark-blue sky provides a beautiful scenery for landscape or architectural photography. The orange light of many street lights in connection with the deep blue sky produces particularly beautiful colour contrast.

You also obtain interesting light effects if you take photos of illuminated objects in motion, such as motor vehicles.

When choosing your motif you should make sure that there are no dominant light sources, because these could lead to overexposure.

The right camera setting for successful shots

In special shooting situations with less light, special camera settings are required to make good photos.

Due to the low brightness in the motif, the autofocus can in many situations not be used. In such cases reset your camera and use manual focussing. If you work frequently with manual focussing, a diffusing screen with sectional view indicator and micro-prism ring are a great help.

For exposure time setting and white balance one cannot blindly rely on the camera automatics.

The camera measurement is based on a mean value, the mean grey level, just like in case of an external measurement with a grey board. If you a motif with mainly dark areas, these will be overexposed and appear grey instead of black. In order to obtain a correct exposure, a n exposure time correction or a manual intervention is indispensable. Manual exposure time setting is also necessary in case of very long exposure times, for example if you photograph vehicles with motion diffusiveness or if you would like to capture several light effects of the new year’s firework. To make sure that your photos will not be blurred or jittered you need a stable tripod and a remote trigger for your camera.

The white balance makes sure to adjust the camera to the light colour of the available illumination in order to obtain the correct colours. If it would not be matched, photos taken under light bulbs would have a yellowy-reddy colour tinge. The automatic white balance orientates itself on white appearing, bright areas in the motif. With night shots in particular this very often causes incorrect results. Better results can be achieved if you adjust the white balance manually. If you would like to utilize the prevailing colour atmosphere of, for instance, street lights, you should set the white balance to daylight. Most cameras offer settings for artificial lights or the possibility to enter the colour temperature directly in form of a Kelvin value, in order to obtain a neutral colour atmosphere. The white balance can be directly adjusted based on the existing illumination by using a reference white balance with the help of a grey board.

Especially if there is only little light available, one will try to set the sensitivity of the sensor to a higher level. However, this leads to more noise and therefore to a poor image quality. You should therefore set the sensitivity (ISO-value) as low as possible.

When taking photos at night, you shoot the motifs with a very large contrast range, which cannot be detected by the camera sensors with the full tonal range. In order to make this possible, you can, in case of stationary motifs, make a HDR-shot. For this purpose the motif is shot with a exposure series and then stacked with an image processing program. This way you receive photos with a tonal range that cannot be achieved with a single shot.



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