A lot of photo enthusiasts say, "The
sun's out--time to take pictures," and put their camera away
come nightfall. But if this is your philosophy, you're missing half the
fun of photography. You can take some exciting night shots of colorful neon
signs, the streaked taillights of traffic in motion, or shadowy figures silhouetted
by street lights. The photo opportunities after dark are plentiful.
During twilight, lingering light in the sky balances the colorful
lights of the city.
Reader photo by Charles Harrison, Cincinnati, OH
You can use fast film (or the equivalent
ISO setting on a digital camera) in the 400--1600 range for outdoor night
shooting. Also--particularly when using slower films--you'll
want to use a tripod or another means of camera support, unless you're
shooting night scenes with a lot of light, such as buildings in Las Vegas.
One challenge you'll encounter when photographing in existing light is
color balance. All color films are keyed to a particular light source, such
as daylight film that's balanced for sunlit scenes, and tungsten film
for photographing subjects lit by tungsten lamps. However, when you shoot at
night, lighting often comes from mixed lighting sources, such as mercury vapor
and neon lights, for example. It's difficult to predict how your final
pictures will look, or how close your colors will be to reality. It's
best to use a daylight film that you like--or set your digital camera to
auto white balance--and allow the colored lights to be rendered naturally.
You'll probably be pleased with the final results.
Photographing a neon sign using a little movement results in a
very colorful image.
Reader photo by Richard Lotman Brown, Kansas City, MO
If you're shooting when the
sky is pitch-black, sometimes lit buildings are rendered as disembodied lights
in the sky. For this reason, it's a good idea to shoot pictures in the
early evening, or twilight, when lingering light in the sky balances the colorful
lights of buildings and signs. Photographers often call twilight "the
magic hour," as it yields a lot of color for a relatively short amount
of time. You'll want to have your camera ready before this brief window
of opportunity begins, which also means scouting out a great location ahead
If your camera will allow you to use a slow exposure, you can
get some great motion effects at night.
Reader photo by Richard Bluestein, Boca Raton, FL