Four ways to improve night shots
Get these settings right and you’re halfway there
Autofocus systems don’t work as well at night, so you’ll need to switch to manual focus. Even then, with so little light around it can be difficult to see a suitable subject, let alone focus on it. Using Live View and magnifying any areas of visible light in the frame can be easier than using the viewfinder to focus, and setting a high ISO of 6400 or more can also help (see below). To focus on subjects close to the camera, use a torch to illuminate them as you turn the focus ring.
As with focusing, framing your shots through the viewfinder can be almost impossible at night. Setting up when there’s still some daylight will allow you sort out your composition beforehand, but Live View is the way to go when it’s black. Setting a very high ISO can allow you to see more on the screen, but remember to change the ISO back to the one that you need for your shot, or you’ll get an over-exposed and extremely noisy result.
You won’t be able to use your camera’s exposure meter during a night shoot, so setting the exposure requires a mix of educated guesswork and reviewing the image to check its brightness. You’ll need to switch to Manual exposure mode for exposures lasting up to 30 seconds, but for some effects you’ll need to use even longer shutter speeds. In this case, use Bulb exposure mode, also known as B – to access this, scroll beyond 30 seconds in the shutter speed readout. In this mode the shutter will stay open for as long as you hold down the button on your remote release.
White balanc e
The night sky doesn’t match any of Nikon’s ‘normal’ white balance pre-sets, so getting colours correct can be tricky. Try the Incandescent preset if you’re close to a town, or the Daylight preset if you’re in a darker area. Shooting in RAW rather than JPEG will allow you to fine-tune the white balance at the processing stage.