Shooting tips > Capture Dramatic Night Views

Level: Beginner

LESSON 7Capture Dramatic Night Views

Focal length: 135 mm / F-number: 8.0 / Shutter speed: 5 sec / ISO: 400 / White balance: Custom (3600K / M5)

Night views while traveling or of scenic locations are very popular subjects to photograph. In this chapter, you will learn how to capture a night view beautifully, accurately reproducing your impression of the actual scene.
First, set the camera to the P-mode, and try the following tips.

Shooting with a tripod

A tripod is the most effective tool for taking beautiful photographs of night views. When shooting in low-light situations like night views, the shutter speed slows down to increase the amount of light entering the camera, and the ISO sensitivity becomes higher. As a result, the image tends to become unclear because of camera shake, or grainy with the increased noise.

This photograph was shot with the shutter speed set to 3.2 sec. At this shutter speed, the image ends up completely blurred, no matter how hard the photographer tries to remain still.

Shutter speed: 3.2 sec

If you secure the camera on a tripod, you can shoot a clear photograph without blur even at slow shutter speeds. At the same time, set the ISO sensitivity to the lowest possible value. Although this will further slow down the shutter speed, you don’t need to worry about blur because the camera is secured on a tripod. Also, the low ISO sensitivity can reduce noise. The minimum value of the ISO sensitivity varies by model, but values from ISO100 to ISO 400 are recommended.
When you use a tripod, disable the SteadyShot function to avoid malfunctioning. Also, the vibration of the camera resulting from the press of the shutter button may cause blur. Setting the 2-second self-timer is an effective way to prevent such blur.

Focal length: 50 mm / F-number: 10 / Shutter speed: 5 sec / ISO: 200 / White balance: Daylight

Shot with a tripod, the above photograph is not affected by blur. With the long exposure time, the light shining on the water looks beautiful, spreading evenly across the surface.

What should you do if you don’t have a tripod?
If you don't have a tripod, lean against a nearby wall or pole, or place the camera on a handrail or other flat surface to keep the camera steady and reduce blur.
If these approaches are not possible, use faster shutter speeds to reduce camera shake. If blurring occurs at the shutter speed automatically determined by the camera, manually increase the ISO sensitivity. The available maximum value of the ISO sensitivity varies by model. As the ISO sensitivity is increased to ISO6400, 12800, and above, the shutter speed gets higher, and the image is less affected by blur. However, the image may suffer from noise and loss of detail.

Focal length: 24 mm / F-number: 2.8 / Shutter speed: 1/40 sec / ISO: 3200 / White balance: AWB

This photograph was shot with ISO3200. Using a faster shutter speed successfully prevented blur. However, if you examine the enlarged image, you can see that it is a little grainy with noise, compared to the image shot with the lower ISO sensitivity. Also, in terms of the resolution of details and the texture of the water surface, the photograph shot with the tripod looks better than this one.

If noise is noticeable, as in this case, use the "Hand-held Twilight" mode in Scene Selection (shooting mode). In this mode, 6 images are shot continuously by one press of the shutter button, and these images are combined with high precision while processing noise. This process allows you to shoot night views with less noise, compared to a normal single shot.
However, because the "Hand-held Twilight" mode in Scene Selection is an auto shooting mode, you cannot change the color and brightness settings described in the next section.

Adjusting the brightness and color

If you have learned to shoot without blur, adjust the brightness and color based on your image.
The brightness can be adjusted with exposure compensation. Human eyes recognize the night sky as "dark," and the lights of buildings and illuminations as "bright." However, the camera tries to render all scenes with the same brightness standard, whether they are dark or bright. As a result, when shooting night views where dark parts (like the night sky) and bright parts (like building lights) are mixed, the exposure determined by the camera may not properly reproduce the brightness felt by human eyes. This makes it difficult to get the desired results when shooting night views; the night sky may look washed out, or the colors of street illuminations may look clipped.

In addition, the brightness of the photograph is also affected by the settings of the camera itself, such as the Creative Style settings.
First, try shooting without exposure compensation, and adjust the exposure based on the results.

Focal length: 120 mm / F-number: 6.3 / White balance: Fluorescent: Warm White (-1) Saturation: +3 / Exposure compensation: 0 Focal length: 120 mm / F-number: 6.3 / White balance: Fluorescent: Warm White (-1) Saturation: +3 / Exposure compensation: +0.7

Without exposure compensation, this photograph became underexposed because of the strong street lights. The cityscape behind the building blacked out. By setting the exposure to +0.7, the photograph was rendered with appropriate brightness.

Now, let’s move on to color adjustment. You can use white balance to adjust the overall color tone. Auto white balance [AWB], in which the camera automatically determines the color tone, can reproduce the actual colors faithfully. However, when shooting night views of a city, selecting [Fluorescent: Warm White] will add a bluish tone. This may be more suitable for conveying the characteristics of artificial lighting.
Also, strong lights, such as urban buildings and illuminations, tend to become whitish in a photograph, and their colors do not look as vivid as expected. If this happens, adjust the saturation to the + side from the option settings in Creative Style, so that the lights will be more vivid and colorful.

Focal length: 16 mm / F-number: 6.3 / Shutter speed: 13 sec / ISO: 200 / White balance: AWBFocal length: 16 mm / F-number: 6.3 / Shutter speed: 13 sec / ISO: 200 / White balance: Fluorescent: Warm White (-1) Saturation+3

By making adjustments like these, you can shoot photographs of night views that capture the dramatic impression you get at the sight of the actual scene.

Like other scenes, the best color tone for night views varies depending on your preferences and intention. Make full use of the adjustment functions, like exposure compensation, white balance, and Creative Style, and find your favorite shot.

Convenient fixed focal length lenses

With small F-numbers (fast maximum apertures), fixed focal length lenses allow a large amount of light to enter the camera.
As a result, you can shoot night views with less blurring and noise, even in low-light situations. Also, you can shoot portraits or snapshots with backgrounds greatly defocused.

Focal length: 50 mm / F-number: 2.0 / Shutter speed: 1/640 sec / Exposure compensation: -1

SAL50F14

This quintessential fast "normal" lens offers outstanding corner-to-corner resolution, while the combination of F1.4 maximum aperture and circular aperture design makes it possible to elicit silky-smooth defocusing effects to enhance image depth and isolate important visual elements. Because of the large aperture, more light is allowed, facilitating easier hand-held shooting, even in low light situations.

Focal length: 50 mm / F-number: 1.8 / Shutter speed: 1/80 sec / Exposure compensation: -0.7

SEL50F18

This is a mid-range telephoto lens with the 50 mm focal length that is perfect for portraiture. The large aperture and circular aperture design can produce beautifully defocused backgrounds. Moreover, by working together with the built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system, it can shoot crisp and clear images under low-light conditions.