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Night Photography Tips: Capture the Stars, Shoot the Moon

by Drew Evans
featured, photo & video

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The photography world is filled with artists and creatives that focus on specific areas of work. With the plethora of genres to choose from, it might be a daunting task to choose which you feel most comfortable with.

Now, you have another option.

Night photography is quickly gaining popularity amongst all types of photographers, and Matt Hill is leading that campaign. If you love to browse night images or you are just getting into night photography, odds are you have come across Matt’s work. His night photography, along with his cut paper artwork, has put him at the forefront of a trending new market for creatives. Matt stopped by CreativeLive to offer some of his most important tips on night photography.

Find Your Why: Matt very aptly makes the distinction between ‘making’ and ‘taking’ photographs. It is important for you to differentiate between the two, and figure out what drives you to ‘make’ art as opposed to just ‘taking’ a picture. That way, when you find your why, your work will be more fun and desirable.

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Start From the Bottom: With so many different ways to take night photographs, Matt suggests starting with the minimum amount of gear. Whether you shoot digital or film photography, starting with a small amount will force you to find your niche and find what subjects you love. For starters, both digital and film work well for night photography. If you are using digital, it is important to have a DSLR with RAW capability and electronic cable release. Your exposure times should be between 1-8 minutes, allowing you to capture great images. If you dive into film, Matt recommends medium or large format, 35 mm cameras. Exposure times will generally be between 20-60 minutes, which works great for long star trails or flatter water.

Another key item to have is a good tripod with a good tripod head. Since you are working with exposures, it is better to get a quality tripod and tripod head so that you can ensure the quality of your longer exposures. Once you start with the minimum, you can build up your gear with a focus in mind, helping you to improve your craft and be more and more creative.

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And Speaking of Creative…: BE CREATIVE! Use LED flashlights and gels to creative different light sources on your subject. Using flashlights to paint your subject can help it stand out during a longer exposure, and using gels can add color and creativity to an otherwise drab scene. Light can be used to your creative advantage. Pointing light towards your camera during the exposure and adding movement can create light trails and interesting designs. Matt even used an iPad app that flashes different colors to light up his subject, creating what almost looked like an aurora.

Know Your Camera: Learning how to get an ambient exposure is a big step to nailing night photography. White Balance, ISO, Image Quality, and Focus are all key components to perfecting your images. Matt uses tungsten White Balance, along with the lowest native ISO and RAW image quality. But learning what works best with your images and what settings you like to use can push your work to another level.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Practice?: Though it might not sound like much of a tip at all, Matt says the best way to learn about night photography is to practice and make mistakes. Right off the bat, you won’t know how much light is necessary to capture certain subjects, or how much ambient light to add. Using different ISOs and White Balances can also lead to different outcomes. Taking multiple shots of the same subject is a good way to practice, as you will be able to see exactly what changes you make. If you are willing to make a mistake, it could lead to a great final piece.

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Drew Evans

Drew is a Seattle-based freelance writer. He spends too much time playing music, binging on Netflix, and watching his beloved Philadelphia sports teams.