Night Photography Tips [Weekly Duel]

This week’s theme is night photography.

New to the weekly Improve Photography Duel?  Check out this page, where we explain how it works.  A new camera duel will be released each Monday, and we’re asking YOU to vote on the photos below.

Night Photography Duel

Jim Here:  I’m gonna confess: I’m not too excited with the photo I took this week. Late Saturday night, after taking care of my sick kids all day, I sneaked out of the house for a quick night photography shoot for this week’s duel.

Usually, my photography is very calculated and planned. I research locations online, look at other photos for inspiration, and then I head out with an exact image in my mind of what I want to capture.  This week, however, I had no time for that. I walked out into my backyard at 11PM and saw there were only one or two spotty clouds in the sky and that the moon was not too bright, so I decided to shoot the stars.

I read a Bible verse this week that speaks of God as the “Father of Lights.” I couldn’t help but think of that verse while I was out shooting these photos and looking up at the stars.

If you look at the lower-left corner of the sky, you can see a tiny sliver of the waxing crescent moon. I was fortunate enough to catch one little group of spotty clouds in the sky, which I think helps add interest to the sky.  The trees in the foreground were a total silhouette, so I pulled out my Galaxy S 3 cell phone and shined just a little light on them during the exposure.

Jim’s Metadata:

  • Shutter speed: 20 seconds (At 30 seconds, I could already see the stars were becoming oblong from the Earth’s rotation)
  • Aperture: f/2.8  (This reduces sharpness in the foreground, but helps gather light in the stars.  I really should have shot a separate photo focused on the trees and then masked the two together, but I didn’t have the time.)
  • ISO 3200
  • Camera: Camera: Nikon D800
  • Lens: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8
  • Lighting on the foreground: Samsung Galaxy S 3
  • Beverage of choice: I’m quite partial to guava juice


Idaho night photo of stars and blossoming trees in Marsing, Idaho

Jim’s star photo

Dustin Here: I love night photography! It has always been amazing to me to see what kind of color and lights show up that are visible to your eye. The challenge, though, is finding a subject worthy enough to photograph because you are committed once you setup the tripod, compose your shot in the dark, hope it is focused on something, and then you click the shutter. Self-timer, shutter speed, and noise reduction makes just a single photo a commitment of time. Like I said, with the right subject it all becomes worth it!

Dustin’s Process: Knowing that I would be doing a slow shutter speed – I thought that some nice water features would be cool in a downtown setting. You get that silky smooth water, but with all the city lights reflecting on the ground and in the water. As I setup the shot – I wanted something that had a low angle. A lot of people walk by this water fountain but I don’t think many have looked at it from the low angle I was, which I hope makes it more interesting than a tourist snapshot.

Tip: If you want to create those “Star” effects with the lights – all you need is a high f/stop number and you will start to see them twinkle in your photos.

Dustin’s Metadata:

Shutter speed: 20″, Aperture: f/14, ISO 200

Camera: Canon 6D, Lens: Canon 24-105mm lens


City Water

City Water


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