10 Tips for stunning night time street photography
People Photography Portrait Photography Street Photography
February 6, 2019

Night photography is one of the toughest genres of photography. It can again be categorized into portrait images, landscape images and even street photography. Night time street photography challenges not only the photography but also his/her camera gear. The darkness of the night is beautiful, enthralling and thrilling. Setting up a story telling image against such a backdrop will res storytelling wonders. Let us take a look at the following set of tips which will help you make stunning night time street photographs…


Image courtesy: Bored Panda


  1. Camera gear: The choice of camera gear is extremely crucial in night photography. Low light photography demands superior camera sensors. Full frame DSLR cameras will produce the best results for sure but then it is always easy to say “spend more, get more”. If you are having a basic DSLR camera, there is no need to worry. Choose a prime lens. These are relatively cheaper lenses with wide open apertures. The wide-open apertures allow you to shoot with fast shutter speeds and hence provide more flexibility. A tripod is mandatory to provide stability. Mount the camera on the tripod and then you are good to operate at very slow shutter speeds too. A remote shutter release cable is also going to be useful.

  2. Exposure triangle parameters: The most important pillar of photography is the combination of the exposure triangle parameters. When you are shooting at night, make sure that the aperture remains at the widest. In case you are shooting with a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, keep the aperture at f/1.8. With the ISO set at 100, check the shutter speed you are getting. If the shutter speed is around 1/30th of a second or slower and you need to freeze some action, boost the ISO by 3 stops up to 800. This will give you a corresponding shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. That is good enough to freeze some action. The ISO handling capability of your camera should also be in your mind. You need to figure out what the maximum usable ISO of your camera is. Try not to breach that value or you will end up with useless grainy images. However, you can get creative and use the grains to depict an old film look too.                                                                                                                             

  3. Look out for street lights: It is always advisable not to use an external flash. If you need lights, look out for the street lights. They provide the exact feel of a street at night. Play around with whatever angle of lighting the lights have to offer to shoot creative images                                                   

  4. Storytelling images: This is perhaps the most important thing that should be on your mind. Storytelling images are always much more appreciated than the normal ones. Look out for people and the moments. People express a lot when the streets are less crowded. Try to capture those expressions and tell a story using them.

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  5. Long exposure street photography: This is a type of long exposure photography. Keep a very slow shutter speed to actually capture the motion blur of your subject. For example, the motion blur of traffic lights is wonderful to watch. Narrow down the aperture to say, f/16 or f/22 and with the minimum ISO, slow down the shutter speed as much as possible. In case you are still not getting slow enough shutter speeds, use a neutral density filter. A remote shutter cable will be required. The workaround to a remote shutter cable is the self-timer of the camera.                                                                                                                                                   
  6. The background: The background is quite important in all genres of photography and this is no exception. In case of a night portrait, make sure that there are no distractions in the background. There should not be one bright light beside the face of the subject. This takes away all the attention from the face. In case there are quite a few lights in the background, try to make a bokeh effect out of that. Night portraits with the perfect colorful bokeh behind, look fabulous.                                                                                                5b3a3927227d6be8157994114d315fdf_view.jpg
  7. The silhouette: Streets at night are nice places to shoot silhouettes. Try to use the bright street lights as your rim lights for the silhouettes. A perfect silhouette can be easy to shoot when you meter for the brightest portion in the frame and the rest of the frame gets severely underexposed. The cutout of the figure remains. You can also go ahead and try out the partial and contrasting silhouettes too.

  8. Low key photographs: Try to shoot low key photographs. Low key photographs drag all the attention to the subject’s face and look beautiful. Try to locate the scenes where there is just a single bright source of light. Meter for the brightest spot on the face of the subject and surely the rest of the image will get underexposed or blackened. These blacks actually make sure that the image stands out by funneling all the attention to the subject. Rather than trying to get simple low key portraits, try to get low key action portraits. Such portraits have a great low key feel as well as a story to support it even more.                                                            

  9. Environment: Rainy nights can lend a great feel to the images. It might be difficult to shoot in rain but these days you have all sorts of rain covers available. These protect the camera from the moisture. Strong windy nights can also provide the perfect foil for lovely portraits.

  10. Eliminate noise: Digital noise is something you need to very wary of. Use the lowest possible ISO values to get the maximum sharpness. If the lighting condition is too extreme, it is better to use an external flash than to have highly grainy images.

Night street photography is the perfect platform to test your photography skills. Once you are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your camera body you are almost half way there. Follow the above tips and I believe you are surely ready to go out there and shoot!

People Photography Portrait Photography Street Photography
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