DSLR Night Photography Tips

DSLR Night Photography Tips

Today I will be writing about….? You gues right DSLR night photography tips. Yes! I want to share with you my experience, what gear you will need (not a lot) and everything about your camera settings

So let’s get started. 😀

Why Take Pictures at night?

That was my first question before I went out with a friend to learn about some night photography tips techniques. The answer is simple. At night everything looks different. You have shadows, lights, and a totally different atmosphere. Places that look pretty average during the day become the perfect location. Even a normal lantern can be interesting. 🙂

DSLR Night Photography Tips
Pretty interesting isn’t it.

The Gear you will Need:

  1. Camera
  2. Any lens
  3. Tripod
  4. Flashlight for light painting and because you WILL 100% need it. 😀
  5. your phone or a remote control for your camera. If you want to shoot in bulb mode.

The Technique Behind it.

Since you don’t have a lot of light at night you need to have either a high-end camera, with a super sensitive sensor like the 1dx, or a tripod. One of those two things is available for 28€ (not the 1dx). We go with the tripod. The tripod gives us stability, so we can lower our shutter speed as low as we want.

Quick Tip nr 1.

Try to find a place without wind, because the wind will pull on your camera and blur your image.

Quick Tip nr 2.

If you happen to use an 18-55mm lens from canon you will run into problems, when trying to set focus to infinite. Because some genius guy at Canon decided to not mark the infinite focus point on the lens. But don’t worry! Point your flashlight at an object 2 m away from you, so your camera has enough light to focus on it. Now turn your autofocus off and try not to touch the focus ring. Job done. Your lens is now focused in infinite.

My Night Time Photography Settings

Shoot in raw:

Rule number one Shoot in RAW because some of your pictures may look fantastic on your camera screen, but later on your computer, they are way underexposed. Plus at night you have a very high range from bright to dark.

DSLR Night Photography Tips


A few people turn up the iso and that’s 100%, correct if you try to shoot freehand. But as soon you put your camera on a tripod, turn down the Iso, because you don’t want any noise in your picture. Right?

Shutter Timer

Since the camera is mounted on a tripod, don’t be afraid to drop the shutter time down to 30 sec. or how far you need to. If you need to go over 30. seconds set your camera to bulb and connect your phone (if supported by your camera) or your remote control with it.

DSLR Night Photography Tips

Use Manual Mode

Turn your Camera to M so you can control aperture, Iso, and shutter. That is a great way to learn more about the Manual mode and getting a feeling for it. Without missing shots and won’t need automatization anyway, since you got a lot of time to take a picture.



Try to use a high aperture (small) to get the nice light flares (I don’t know what they called) 😛 f/16 should be good enough.

DSLR Night Photography Tips
This effect comes from your Aperture. Not a must but it’s nice.

Find the Right Exposure Time

I always take test shots and work my way up to where I want the picture to be. Try to expose a bit too dark, so you won’t overexpose the highlights and blow them out. The reason why is, because your picture will have black areas in your picture anyway since it’s a night picture. But you don’t want the highlights burnt out in a night picture. A good rule of thumb is to start at -2 and adjust from there.


Use a camera remote, mobile or the self-timer on 2 sec. on your camera. This is important so you don’t shake the camera while pressing the button.

Night Time Photography Ideas

Look For Wet Places

Rain is awesome or maybe when it stopped raining. This is actually my favorite time to go shooting because you will find reflections everywhere and together with the lamps at night it’s a perfect combination. Marinas are awesome too. Sometimes when there is no water I even take a bottle of water with me and empty it in front of my camera. I may look stupid doing that but it gets the job done. 😀

See the wet floor? Nice isn’t it 😀



Try Hdr since you are on a tripod anyway. You might not like the look of them, but it is always a good backup if you over or underexposed a picture.( I think at night it’s ok to use HDR nobody sees you anyway).

Your HDR doesn’t have to be so colorful. This is just to show you whats possible with HDR at night.

Try to Capture Light Trails.

This one is very easy. Just go near a busy street and aim your camera at it. The driving cars will do the rest for you.

One Last Thing

If you still don’t know or don’t want to go outside at night to take pictures, just give it a chance you will be surprised. 🙂

That’s already it! So go outside and get started. 🙂 If you have any kind of questions or opinions, feel super free to tell me in the comments! I will get back to you in no time. Until then have an AWESOME Shoot. 🙂

Cheers Aaron.

10 thoughts on “DSLR Night Photography Tips

  1. Win Bill Huang

    These are great photography tips. I really liked what you did to the aperture. The street lights seriously looks like fireworks. It is very nice. As for the light trails. I think you have to do something to the shutter speed right? What exactly do you recommend? I have a friend who got married last year. What they did is that they took a bunch of pictures at grand canyon. It was very nice. I have a feeling that they did at night too, or else the sunlight would have created blown out lights everywhere. If I want to go there to do some nice photos one day, what extra equipment do you recommend I bring? I already got married, but I never know if my wife wants to do some “extra” addition to our photo album.

    1. Aaron

      Hi WIn, thank you for the nice feedback and yes you create light trails when a light moves through your picture while the shutter is open. For the grand Canyon I would take a tripod, remote control or phone and ND filters to shoot some nice long exposure at the golden hour. I also have two post about golden hour and long exposure. If you want to find out more about it. I hope I was able to help you and that your wife will shoot some Amazing Pictures at the grand canyon. Till then have an awesome day 🙂  

  2. Brendon

    i am very new in the photography world so I found this to be very helpful. I never realized the potential of night time shoots. This may sound dumb, but are using any sort of flash for the shots you have shown? Or are you depending on the surrounding available light?
    Thanks for all the yips, I will be back to learn more!
    Thanks Brendon

    1. Aaron

      Hi Brandon, I’m happy that I was able to tell you something new:) And no No flash in any of these pictures all the light comes from the surroundings and the long exposure. But you are also not really depending on the light around you. What I mean by that If you leave the shutter open long enough every location will become bright enough to take a picture. I hope I answered your questions. 🙂 Always happy to have you back 🙂 Till then have an awesome day 🙂 

  3. niko

    There’s definitely some great information in this article. I am completely new to photography, I got a Nikon D5300 as a gift and barely know how to use any of the features on it. Are the night time setting you mentioned standard on all digital cameras? Meaning could I set mine to match yours? Also, under gear you need, you put a flash light for light painting. I am sorry if you have mentioned what this, but could you shed on light on what this is?
    Anyway, your pictures are excellent. Keep up the great work.

    1. Aaron

      Hi Niko, thank you for the great feedback. 🙂 Yes all the settings are universal to any Dslr. (if you want to find out more about your camera, I have different posts on my site about the functions). Light painting is when your camera shutter is open and you paint form or patterns in the air with the flashlight. those forms will then appear in your picture. But don’t worry I got a post coming up for that. 🙂 I still hope My short explanation was somehow helpful. Till then have a nice night and shoot some insane pictures.:) 

  4. Michael Wallace

    Hey Aaron,
    I enjoyed your site. Believe it or not, I love night photography, especially light painting. I only realized that technique a few years ago and started shooting about the same time. I need a lot of practice, but I enjoy it.
    I hope to remember the tips you suggested on my next venture.

    1. Aaron

      Hi Michael, thanks for your feedback 🙂  That’s great I love the fact that it gives you new totally different challenges. And yes practice is everything especially when you are not doing it as a job. A good way to stay in practice is to do little projects and challenge yourself. I have a little post on how to come up with ideas. Have a look if you want. Until then shoot some nice pictures and have a awesome night. 🙂

      1. Hey Asron,
        I re-read your article and found some things I missed before. Using HDR at night, how is that done? I think that would be a cool shot. You use F16 for all shots when using a tripod? I have used F11. Your reflection shot is amazing! Do you focus on object itself, or in the water? Hope I didn’t ask too many questions. I do like the night stuff!

        1. Aaron

          Hi Michael, HDR at night is don the same way as it is done at daylight in case you don’t know how to do that: ( https://whatcameraguide.com/tips-for-long-exposure-photography ) The only thing you have to keep in mind that your lowest exposure can’t go longer than 30 sec. No, I don’t use f/16 always I only use it when I try to get this star-like effect with the lights.(but I quite like it a lot) 🙂 The reflection picture is zoomed in with focus on infinite. I hope I answered all your questions 🙂

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