This is a lesson aimed for beginners. Learning to take a night shot is a very high yield lesson. No you don’t need to live in Greenland or the arctic circle to take a night shot, but its sure would be helpful if you wanted to get the aurora…sorry I digress.
So how many times have you picked up a camera at night, saw something you wanted to capture, pressed the darn button, and nothing came out but haze and blur…
Lets call it point-and-shoot mentality. Naturally during the daytime, or even at nighttime at a party …you point, press the button down halfway, the camera’s brain decides on the flash, and batta-bing, batta-boom you got a picture…maybe one in five will come out…and if that frustrates you, This lesson is for you.
Most low-lighting shots require that the camera be absolutely still for a good capture. The slightest, and I mean the slightest movement(microscopic movement of the hand) will mess up the shot. Secondly, the flash needs to be off. Why? most little point-and-shoots have flashes that can barely light an object 10 feet away because of the principles of light falloff. Its useless for an object a mile away.
If you are shooting a cityscape, or a luminous object(something that produces its own light), then don’t worry about flash and keep it off(I’m sure all strobists are snickering at this point, but why are you still reading this article).
There is a simple reason…and if you understand it…it will open a lot of doors. When a camera’s brain looks at a dark scene, it says to itself, I need to keep my shutter open longer so that i can capture more light on the sensor…well if the shutter is open longer, any movement will cause “blur” I’ve just described one concept, which is called shutter speed…or slow shutter speed(read shutter open longer).
So if you aren’t holding the camera, where do you put it…well anywhere still. Try a tripod, a bench, a table, any solid surface. The next key is DON’T press the shutter button…remember any vibration can mess things up. So set the camera’s automatic timer, and let it do all the work….
There, you’ve taken your first night shot…and in the process learned a bit about exposure(amount of light hitting the sensor) and shutter speed…
Well what if you tried doing that at a party…things would be blurry…why, because the subject moved…and the shutter was still open…so at close distances when you want to capture slices of time, use faster shutter speeds and artificial lighting(cough flash). Thats also why your point-and-shoot works for most occasions that are worth carrying a digicam in your pocket or purse.
Hopefully you’ve picked up the pattern here, and are starting independently of automatic mode. We’ll delve more into low light photography at a more advanced level next time we cross the subject.