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3+ Camera Functions that Could Change Your Night Cityscapes

Think you have run out of ideas for photographing the city at night? Rediscover your camera and the urban sights that you thought you knew with these tips! (Reported by: Teppei Kohno, Digital Camera Magazine)

Nightscape photo, shot with EOS M6

EOS M6/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Manual exposure (f/3.5, 1/8 sec)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Auto (B1, M1)/ Picture Style: Landscape

A handheld shot taken at ISO 6400. Setting the ‘Noise Reduction Level’ to ‘High’ when shooting at a high ISO speed helps in controlling the amount of specks and artefacts that appear in the photo, producing a cleaner photo which is much more pleasing to the eye.


1. White balance and aspect ratio

Evenings and night scenes are usually more vibrant in colour than daytime scenes. In the evening, the entire image is usually bathed in a warm, yellowish glow, whereas at night, there are more greens and blues depending on the lights in the scene. If you have the chance to do so, you should definitely try taking street snapshots during these timings to capture the beautiful lights that come along with them. 

White balance and white balance correction: Easy ways to change colours in-camera

One of the easiest ways to add your own flair to a shot is to adjust the colours-and you can do it on the spot in-camera with the ‘White Balance’ and ‘White Balance Correction’ settings.

The example below was shot in the evening, with the white balance set to ‘Shade’ to emphasise the yellow tones. The ‘A’ (amber) and ‘G’ (green) settings were also increased slightly to enhance the dreamy effect.

Sunset, shot with EOS M6

EOS M6/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 22mm (35mm equivalent)/ Program Auto (f/7.1, 1/320 sec, EV -1/3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Shade (A1, G2)/ Picture Style: Landscape

Changing the white balance settings adds a warm tint to the photo. The 16:9 aspect ratio draws more attention to the scene on the ground (in this case, the city) by cropping out the top and bottom parts of the photo.

Aspect ratio: How about 16:9 for a panoramic feel?

Aspect ratio, which refers to the proportion of the length of the photo to its width, is another factor to take into consideration when photographing panoramic cityscapes in the evening or night time. For the above shot, 16:9 worked well as it offers sweeping view of the vast scene below.

How to change white balance and aspect ratio

1. Press the ‘SET’ button, select ‘AWB’ from the menu, and choose your desired option from the icons at the bottom.

EOS M6: Menu screen

2. After making your selections, press the ‘INFO’ button. This opens up a more detailed settings menu, letting you tweak the A (Amber), B (Blue), G (Green), and M (Magenta) values.

EOS M6: Menu screen

3. To change the aspect ratio, press the ‘SET’ button and select the last icon on the right side of the screen.

EOS M6: Menu screen

4. Selecting ’16:9’ will change the display aspect ratio.

EOS M6: Menu screen


2. The ‘Handheld Night Scene’ SCN mode

Shooting handheld allows the freedom to explore different angles, something not quite as easy when your camera is screwed onto a tripod. But this can be especially challenging at night, where, depending on the lighting conditions and your gear (such as how fast your lenses are and the built-in image stabilisation, if any), you might find yourself caught between two options:

(a) Using a high ISO speed and risking visible image noise
(b) Using a slower shutter speed, which increases the chances of camera shake.

Traditionally, to ensure both sharpness and clarity, many professional photographers would go with b), using a tripod to prevent camera shake. However, if you still prefer shooting handheld and don’t mind leaving the exposure settings to the camera, you have another option:

(c) The ‘Handheld Night Scene’ SCN mode.

This mode, which can be found on most Canon cameras, takes four exposures in quick succession and merges them into one photo, thus reducing the visible camera shake and noise. It’s an easy way to achieve cleaner, sharper handheld images at night!

Night photo, shot with EOS M6

EOS M6/ EF-M18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM/ FL: 18mm (29mm equivalent)/ Handheld Night Scene (f5.6, 1/60 sec)/ ISO 12800/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Standard

How to use Handheld Night Scene mode

1. Turn the mode dial to ‘SCN’, and then press the ‘SET’ button.


2. Select ‘Handheld Night Scene’ from the menu that appears.

EOS M6: Menu screen

Things to note

- For best results, keep the camera secure and stable during the exposures. To ensure a stable shooting posture, keep both arms tight so that they don’t move when you take the photo.
- The final image might be cropped in the process of merging.
- The SCN mode is a fully automatic mode. You can adjust the overall image brightness, but not the exposure settings.

How about trying out some night portraiture in the meantime? See:
Shoot Beautiful Night Portraits with No Tripod, No Flash
5 Portrait Photography Techniques to Take You from Day to Night


3. A super high ISO speed + Picture Style ‘Monochrome

The graininess from high ISO speed noise is not always bad. It can be used to create a gritty look, which works well when combined with the ‘Monochrome’ Picture Style, like in the image below.

Nightscape photo, shot with EOS M6

EOS M6/ EF-M11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 11mm (18mm equivalent)/ Program Auto (f/7.1, 1/2000 sec)/ ISO 25600/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Monochrome

Here, I bumped up the ISO speed to 25,600. Image noise also results in discolouration when shooting in colour, which can be distracting. Shooting in the ‘Monochrome’ Picture Style resolved this and resulted in a distinct avant-garde style. You can adjust the contrast for greater impact.

How to set the Picture Style

1.  Press ‘SET’ to choose Picture Styles from the menu, then select ‘Monochrome’ from the display below.

EOS M6: Menu screen

2. With that selected, press the ‘INFO’ button to tweak the contrast to your liking. You are now ready to start shooting!

EOS M6: Menu screen

Click here for 3 Steps to Creating Custom Photos With Picture Style


Know this: How about the ‘Monochrome (Grainy B/W)’ Creative Filter?

Technically, you would get the same results with the ‘Monochrome (Grainy B/W)’ Creative Filter. However, as exposure is fully automatic in Creative Filters, the shutter speed may become slower especially in dim places. Beware of camera shake!

If you have an intermediate or advanced camera model like the EOS RP or EOS 90D, you might also want to try out the functions here:
3 Useful Camera Functions for Shooting Nightscapes


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Teppei Kohno

Teppei Kohno

Born in Tokyo in 1976, Kohno graduated with a Social Work degree from the Department of Sociology of Meiji Gakuin University, and apprenticed with photographer Masato Terauchi. He contributed to the first issue of photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and became an independent photographer after that, in 2003. The author of many books, Kohno not only shoots all sorts of commercial photographs, but also writes prolifically for camera and other magazines.


Digital Camera Magazine

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