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Nightscapes – Controlling Light for Fine Shots

The time of day before the velvet night sets in and after the sunset is a great time for photographers. Capture the amazing scenery of light at amusement parks or illumination of the city with your camera. This article will tell you how a professional photographer would use the EOS 100D, a DSLR camera with great low-light capability and tonal expression. Learn the techniques for fine shots of nightscapes. (Reported by: Yurika Kadoi)

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EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM/ FL: 22mm/ Manual exposure (5 sec., f/11)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Attractions at an amusement park are captured at a slow shutter speed. I adjusted the speed and selected a long exposure time to create multiple trails of light in the image.

Technique 1: Expressing Light Trails with a Slow Shutter Speed

Predict movements to capture light trails

With a tripod, you can set a long exposure time to create amazing effects that are not visible to our eyes. One such example is light trails captured with a slow shutter speed. The headlights of cars and other moving lights leave trails, while those of buildings stay still, creating an interesting world which only night photography can offer. An important point is to decide when to release the shutter. You should compose the shot beforehand by considering how the sources of the light trails would move, and the shutter must be released at the moment they reach the predetermined point. The shutter speed needs to be fine-tuned according to the movement of the subject, so you are recommended to try several speeds before deciding on the one to use.

Check the location

It is important to get an idea of the shooting location while it is still bright. This way, you will be able to perform the shoot at ease.

[Handheld Night Scene] freezes the motion

When the [Handheld Night Scene] mode is selected, a high ISO speed and a fast shutter speed is automatically set, which freezes the movement of the subject without creating light trails.

No trails when movement is slow

If your subject is moving slowly or not moving at all, no light trails are produced even at a slow shutter speed.

Preventing Camera Shake with Tripod and Remote Switch

Challenge manual exposure

After familiarizing yourself with the operation of the EOS 100D, you are encouraged to take up the challenge of photographing nightscapes. Many people seem to think that capturing night shots is not an easy task. In fact, it is not as difficult as you may think once you have grasped the key points. Before shooting, have a tripod and remote switch ready so that you can steady your camera and release the shutter gently without causing camera shake. The EOS 100D offers the [Handheld Night Scene] mode, which does not require a tripod. However, in order to capture scenes beautifully with little noise, you are advised to have a tripod and a remote switch ready. Another point is to check the shooting location before it gets dark. The recommended settings for the camera are the Aperture-priority AE mode and manual exposure. Users tend to avoid using manual exposure as they find it difficult to handle. However, this exposure mode is ideal for nightscapes as there is little fluctuation in the surrounding brightness at night. If you are using a tripod, use ISO 100 or 200 and an aperture setting of f/8 as the basis, and adjust the exposure level by tweaking the shutter speed.

EOS 100D Recommended Settings for Nightscape!

  • Tripod + Remote Switch
  • Aperture-priority AE or Manual Exposure
  • Low ISO Speed
  • Live View Function

Technique 2: Emphasizing Night Views with the [16:9] Aspect Ratio

EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (6 sec., f/8)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

For this distant view of Yokohama, I selected the aspect ratio of [16:9] to crop away a part of the dark heavy sky on top, thereby stressing the night view and the couple.

Cropping the dark sky

After sunset, the sky becomes very dark. Avoid having the dark sky occupy a large part of the composition, as doing so can cause the colourful atmosphere of the night view to be compromised. An effective method in this case is to change the aspect ratio. For a horizontally-oriented image, selecting [16:9] crops away a part of the indistinct sky at the top and the dark ground at the bottom. The top and bottom parts are masked on the Live View image, allowing you to check the composition before taking a shot.

Heavy sky with [3:2]

With the couple in front included in the composition, large empty spaces are created at the top and bottom. The dark sky leaves a heavy impression.

Convenient Live View function

The Live View function is especially useful when capturing images with a tripod. With the EOS 100D, you can simply tap a point on the LCD monitor screen to determine where to set the focus. The grid display can also be used to ensure your image is level.

Technique 3: [Daylight] white balance adds a warm touch

EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II/ FL: 65mm/ Manual exposure (1.6 sec., f/11)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight

I selected [Daylight] to add a warm tone that brings out the vibrant decorations of Yokohama's Chinatown.

Try different white balance settings

The impression of a night photo can be controlled by adjusting the colour tone. To reproduce the actual colours faithfully, select the [Auto] white balance option. However, if your intention is to express the atmosphere of the place, try using a different white balance setting. Choosing [Daylight] enhances the orange tone and adds warmth to the image, while [Tungsten light] is recommended if you want to emphasize the cool ambience of blue and white tones.

Gaiety lacking with the [Auto] setting

[Auto] reproduces colours very faithfully, but is unable to convey the liveliness of a bustling street.

Use [Mirror lockup] when you are not using the Live view function

Even when you are using a tripod, the mirror's vibrations may cause camera shake. Set the [Mirror lockup] feature to [Enable] when you are photographing a nightscape through the viewfinder. With this feature enabled, you need to press the shutter button twice to capture an image.

Perspective compression effect

I used a telephoto lens to compress the perspective so that the light sources would appear more concentrated.

Yurika Kadoi

Born in Toyama and graduated from the Faculty of Engineering, Kanazawa University, Kadoi had worked for an electrical equipment manufacturer before becoming a photo studio assistant. She later became a freelance photographer, and is now engaged in a wide range of works from portraits to still photos for movies.

Digital Camera Magazine

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.

Published by Impress Corporation