Night Photography Precautions

by Jim Zuckerman

Berlin Dome framed by pillars
Berlin Dome framed by pillars
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
Whenever you shoot at night or in low light conditions, a tripod is essential. Obviously.

If you try to solve the problem of diminished light by raising the ISO, you'll be disappointed in the unattractive increase in digital noise. In the past when we all shot film, too much grain could be considered artistic. However, in the digital world too much noise just doesn't work.

I also use the mirror-lockup feature as well as the self-timer on the camera. By locking up the mirror, vibration is eliminated. Vibration can be introduced because the mirror flips out of the way to allow the light to hit the sensor and record an image. By using the self-timer, you eliminate the possibility of jarring the camera as you push the shutter. A cable release does the same thing as the self-timer, and if you have one of those, then by all means use it.

You should also not extend the center column of the tripod to making viewing easier (if you happen to be tall). This can introduce instability in the tripod, especially in cheaper models. Even if you have to bend down to look through the viewfinder, that's preferable to getting blurred pictures because your tripod wasn't as stable as it should be.

The accompanying photo of the Berlin Dome (the cathedral seen through the pillars) was taken from the porch of an adjacent museum. A red neon sign lit up the columns, and I thought the contrast was pretty dramatic.

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