Find the light at night
1 Find the light
When shooting portraits out on the streets after dark, there will be little pockets of light here and there that can be used to light the face. We came across this spotlight after a few minutes of walking around a city centre. Its power and angle were perfect for our needs.
3 Set the max aperture
We open our aperture to its widest setting to allow the most amount of light through. With the 70-200mm lens here we can open up to f/2.8. A wide aperture also creates a shallow plane of focus, which creates tastefully blurred background bokeh.
5 Look to the light
Often, street lighting comes from above, so an upwards tilt of the chin can make the light fall in a more flattering way across the face. You can ask your subject to angle their body towards the light and lift the face towards it.
2 Use high ISOs
We need to keep the shutter speed around 1/100 to 1/200 sec, as any slower and we’re likely to have camera or subject shake. Here we’re in Manual mode with ISO set to Auto, which means it’ll adapt to the scene. In this low-light setting our ISO hovered around 6400.
4 Meter off the face
When a frame is largely dark, as is often the case with night-time portraits, then your camera’s meter can be fooled into overexposing the scene. If it does, consider using spot metering, or dial in exposure compensation to darken down the image.
6 Background bokeh
Car lights, traffic signs and any other small spots of lighting will be transformed into silky smooth, colourful bokeh when out-of-focus. The longer the lens, the more we compress the perspective, so these larger colourful spots appear.