Night Photography at it's best is breathtaking. The lights and colours of buildings against a night sky provide an amazing contrast, and help make a stunning image. You see them all the time in magazines and on websites. In reality it's not as easy as you think to take good nightshots. Today's latest cameras feature several night modes that are supposed help you take better night shots. However, without a tripod, using night mode often ends up producing blurry shots. Take for example this night shot of an amusement arcade. It's badly blurred and no programme will get it sharp. Although no flash was used, from the distance it was taken the flash would have been innefective.  However, setting your camera up for a night shot takes carefull setting, and experimentation. Here we show you how to do this without expensive tripods or special flashguns and gadgets. Take the photo on the right. It was taken in Auto Mode and is very blurred.


This shot was taken handheld with a wide aperature and a 1/25th second shutter speed.

Here's the same sign from another angle. This time it's reasonably sharp. The 'Golden rule' for night photography is to always use a tripod. It might surprise you to learn that it was taken handeld, breaking all the rules. It was taken handheld utilising the manual settings on the GE X5.

Cameras (film and digital|) need a lot of light totake a sharp picture. But the faster the shutter speed, the less light enters the camera, and if you take a night shot with a fast shutter you get a dark image. The slower the speed, the more blurred the image is. However, there is a solution. A wide aperature will let a lot of light into the camera. In daylight a normal shutter speed and full wide aperature will produce an almost white image with the colour almost washed out or 'Ghosting' through, but at night a wide aperature and a faster shutter will produce sharper images. You need to use full manual mode and set the apurature as wide as possible, and the shutter speed reasonably fast. The faster the shutter, the darker the image will be, but the wider the aperarture the lighter it will be. With digital, you need to experiment with the aperature and shutter to get good results, Take a few shots to get a shot you like. Windows Live Photo Gallery will adjust the exposure for you.

The best night exposure is obtained with a tripod. Cameras that don't have manual modes need to be set to night mode for this. The flash is usually redundant in this mode Sometimes you can experiment with beach or snow mode as this handheld shot shows. The flash was on to provide the light needed to shoot this handheld photo as it was shot using snow mode, but it's got a lot of noise in it. If your camera has a viewfinder, then using it will give a little bit of extra stability. If not, then try and steady the camera with your body, or use a wall or bench arm to perch the image on. Keeping the zoom as wide as possible reduces camera shake.


Wow! This Stunning Photograph was taken handheld with a 1/25th of a second shutter speed and a full wide aperature setting for a sharp photo. It was taken as part of a burst which gave even extra stability.

 Fireworks present a challenge to photograph due to their speed and the night conditions. It's difficult to get a sharp photo. There are however a few tips that you can follow. Usually fireworks won't give enough light for a camera on auto or programme modes. The fireworks modes most cameras have need to be used with a tripod, which isn't the best if you're in the middle of a crowd at a display. But, with a fast shutter and a wide aperature sharp images can be captured. If you keep the zoom to full wide to minimze camera shake, and use the camera's burst mode so you only have to press the shutter once. If you've unlimited or multi shot burst mode use it. Aim at the central point of the display where the explosions occur. Hold the shutter down to keep the image capture flowing. It's better to crop an image to get a nice sharp photo than to get a blurred image.  1/25th of a second to 100th of a second should be good enough for sharp images, though you may need to keep it down to 1/40th or 1/50th of a secomd to avoid dark images. Look at the images as they are displayed on screen, and if they look blurred stop and refocus. Do this till you get a sharp image and then just keep the burst going. It's possible to get bursts of several hundred shots on a memory card till it's filled. A DSLR or tripod is not required, as the two photographs to the left show. The top image shows the tails and the heads of the fireworks sharply and clearly, whilst the bottom image shows the full explosion magnificently. They have both been cropped for better effect. You can also see the smoke from the fireworks clearly, adding to the 'WOW!' effect. 

Nearly all the shots pictured above would have been impossible to achieve without manual settings. With a camera with manual settings and a little thought, you can do night photography without expensive equipment.

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