Urban Night Photography: Perspective and Lighting

The best part about photography at night is that structures and places are usually well lit. Further, the night provides a different perspective that might otherwise be commonplace. The worst about shooting at night, is that they also attract a lot of people but of course it is very minimal compared when it is at daytime.

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By using an extremely long shutter speed over 30 seconds, so you will need to use Bulb mode, any people that happen to walk through your view will not show up in the final picture. Looking at the picture above, I tried to make it a silhouette effect while maintaining to include the busy pedestrians. It might not be the perfect example but it serves it point and should be enough to study and improve on.

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As I have explained on the first part of this post, don’t overlook shots of individual buildings as it shows a different perspective at night time. Flashing signs are everywhere and it might be too distracting for your composition, and can be easily overlooked. A good view can present a great opportunity for photography at any time, and night time is no exception.

There are two kinds of perspective that I’m aware of, I might not be factually correct but I’m trying to explain things the best of my knowledge and experience. Perspective is making an illusion of an object or like the example above, making the other building as if it was bigger or in foreground.

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Perspective is not difficult and doesn’t require any special skills. All you need to have is creativity, a camera, a willing accomplice, the perfect setting and timing, the patience to choreograph your trick and mostly, imagination. The key is, don’t just stand there, move your feet. It may be hard to do perspective photography at urban setting at night because of the minimal lighting at some places, so to achieve a good image that shows perspective is finding a well lit place.

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If you want to make your subject appear differently than what is commonly is, try to move your shots, shoot on ground or eye level, or take some medium shot and see how it impacts your perspective. There’s no exact way to do it, because all you need to have are timing, patience, sometimes you need an accomplice but to start first, try to achieve things on your own. Practice makes perfect right? Never stop on that, do not settle, experiment and do some more.

Sure, you can change your composition by zooming in or out with your lens, but if you want to change your perspective, you are going to need to move. Don’t let your feet, or your tripod, root you to the spot but instead get ready for some bending, turning, walking, and climbing. Start working with perspective in photography, your images will thank you for it.

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Having a good sense of perspective can open you to the depths of photography, and the other thing that you must be always aware of is proper lighting and how you can apply them to your photography. The most essential tool you must have when shooting for low light or night photography is a tripod as they are essential for long exposure techniques. As I have said earlier, use Bulb mode, it is the only mode you can use to make very long exposures. Most cameras won’t exceed 30 seconds.

Use mirror lockup to further reduce the motion blur. A mirror lockup is a feature employed in many DSLR cameras. It allows the operator to reduce vibration induced motion blur during exposure. Use a fast lens for each F stop offers twice the amount of light as the previous one, which will translate into an exposure that lasts half as long, thus reducing motion artifacts or one lower ISO rating which reduces noise.

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Test your lenses and find the most used point of focus infinity. When possible, use a flashlight to illuminate objects to focus on, make a focus, then immediately turn off auto-focus, if you haven’t already. Before you shoot, test, and test, and retest again. Test what you can ahead of time and familiarize yourself with camera functions, find infinity focus, identify acceptable ISO, know at what exposure times you can expect motion artifacts like light trails.

The last time and place you want to be testing your equipment is while you’re trying to make finished exposures in exciting locations. Again, I’m not professional and these sample might not be what you are expecting but I’m always trying to explain to the best of my knowledge and experience. There’s a lot left to be discovered in night photography. Use some of these tips to help guide your explorations.