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EOS M5 Shooting Techniques: Night Cityscapes

The EOS M5 is equipped with a 24.2-megapixel image sensor boasting unquestionably high image quality even when used for night photography. In this article, let's look at techniques that make use of the Creative Filters mode, slow shutter, and exposure compensation to vividly and impressively shoot nightscapes. (Reported by: Yoshiki Fujiwara)

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/16, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

I set my camera on a tripod, but on this day, the wind was blowing so strongly that the camera strap flapped around. Hence, I removed the strap to prevent it from causing camera shake, and narrowed the aperture to f/16 to bring out starbursts in the image.


Scene 1: Capture light in fine detail to create a vivid finish

Use "Art Vivid" in HDR

When photographing night cityscapes, it can be difficult to capture differences in brightness depending on factors such as the presence or absence of artificial light. Depending on the scene, if you shoot normally, white blowout may occur where the light source is strong, and black crush may occur where the light source is weak. Hence, if you want to capture the city lights in fine detail, try using HDR (High Dynamic Range) in Creative Filters mode.

When shooting in HDR, the camera takes a total of 3 shots, with one being under-exposed, one correctly exposed, and one over-exposed. These are then combined in-camera to create a single image with an increased dynamic range. On the EOS M5, you can choose from five different effects. An effect that I would recommend for night photography is Art Vivid, which maintains a natural atmosphere while slightly enhancing the colours.

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Creative Filters mode: HDR (f/4, 1/4 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto

An extremely high contrast night cityscape shot with HDR. As is it taken without white blowout, the image appears more vivid. Hence, you are able to create shots that seem more dramatic than when viewed with the naked eye.


Tip: If you do not use HDR, your photos may be affected by white blowout and black crush

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 12mm (19mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/8, 10 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

If you shoot normally, the brighter areas of your photos may be too bright, and the darker areas may be impacted by black crush. The colour of the Ferris wheel in the top left corner of the photo comes out properly when taken in HDR mode. However, white blowout occurs when taken normally.


Shooting procedure

1. Set the camera onto a tripod.
2. Rotate the Mode dial to the Creative Filters mode.


3. Press the [Quick Set] button, and set the shooting mode to "HDR".


4. Rotate the Main dial to select "Art Vivid".


Scene 2: Capture the flow of time with light trails

Use slow shutter speeds

If you take shots of moving cars using a slow shutter speed, the car lights will appear as light trails in your photos. When capturing light trails, try to find a location where cars are passing in both directions so you can capture both headlights and tail lights. If only headlights are visible, you will only be able to capture white light trails. To liven this up with some colour accents, add in red and yellow light trails by making sure that the tail lamps are captured as well.

The standard settings for shooting light trails are f/8, 10 sec, and ISO 800. However, you can change the settings according to the brightness of the location, traffic volume, and desired expression. It is also critical that the traffic volume is of at least a certain level during the 10 seconds of shooting. In the photo below, because the cars were travelling at lower speeds through the intersection, I narrowed the aperture to f/14, lowered the ISO speed to 100, and maintained a longer shutter speed of 15 seconds.

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 21mm (32mm equivalent)/ Shutter-priority AE (f/14, 15 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Shot over a window sill of a building. There was an intersection at the angle I was looking down from, and I found it difficult to take pictures without the reflection from the window showing. In this case, I used a reflector board to prevent the reflection. However, if you are using a wide angle to get a deeper depth of field, you can use a large black cloth.


Tip: The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the light trails become

4 seconds

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 21mm (32mm equivalent)/ Shutter-priority AE (f/5.6, 4 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the light trails become. Because cars stop at the traffic light, it is important to observe the movement of the cars and choose a good timing for the shoot.


Shooting procedure

1. Set the camera onto a tripod.
2. Rotate the mode dial to "Shutter-priority AE".


3. Set the shutter speed to 15 seconds.
4. Point the Remote Controller RC-6 remote control (sold separately) toward the remote control sensor, and use the remote.


Want to create unique light trails? Here is how you can use your built-in flash and light trails to make cars look like they are whizzing past at lightning fast speed:
Flash Techniques #5: Using the Second-Curtain Sync Mode for Fast, Furious Light Trails


Scene 3: Capture starbursts as an accent in night photography

Narrow the aperture to f/16

In night photography, strong light sources are an element you can use to add an accent to your photos. When shooting at maximum aperture, light sources are captured as a point source. However, at an aperture of f/11 to f/16, light sources produce streaks of light called starbursts, which allow you to apply some sparkle to your photos. Keep in mind that the narrower the aperture and the stronger the light source, the longer the light rays of the starbursts become.

This shot was taken using an aperture of f/16. Take note that the narrower the aperture, the slower the shutter speed. Hence, to minimize camera shake, use a stable tripod. You will also need a remote control to avoid camera shake that occurs when releasing the shutter by hand.

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 12mm (18mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

Taken looking over a railing that appears in the right edge of the photo. I set my camera on a tripod that had a height of more than 2m. Even when I was standing on a stepladder, the camera was positioned higher than myself. Therefore, I tilted the vari-angle LCD screen downward so that I could look up at the screen while taking the shot. Generally, remote controller would be used to release the shutter.


Tip: If the aperture is not narrow enough, the camera will not be able to capture beautiful starbursts

EOS M5/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 12mm (18mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 6 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto





When I used an aperture of f/4, there were hardly any starbursts in the photo. Hence, the narrower you set the aperture, the longer the streaks of the starbursts. You should also note that at the same ISO speed, the shutter will become slower the narrower you set the aperture.


Shooting procedure

1. Set the camera onto a tripod.
2. Attach a hood to prevent unwanted light from entering the lens.
3. Rotate the mode dial to "Aperture-priority AE".


4. Rotate the Main dial to set the aperture to f/16.


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A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
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Yoshiki Fujiwara

Yoshiki Fujiwara

Formerly a professional snowboarder, Fujiwara took the opportunity to embark on a second career as a photographer after retiring due to an injury. He has since won a number of international photography awards for his nature photography and cultural portraits. In 2019, he became the first Japanese person to win an award in the 'People' category of the 2019 National Geographic Travel Photo Contest. Besides providing photos for National Geographic, Fujiawa also contributes to camera magazines in Japan and abroad, and engages in a wide range of activities including books, talk shows, and company calendars.
Instagram: @yoshiki_fujiwara