How to Shoot Sunsets and City Lights
Hi, how do I shoot at nighttime for city lights and sunset?
If you have a SLR, you can slow down the shutter speed to help capture more light. Also, a wider aperture can be used. If you are using a more modern, point-and-shoot, just fire the flash. The camera may say you have enough light if the light is behind the subject (as in a sunset), even though the camera really doesn't have enough light. Just override the camera and make the flash fire.
John A. Lind
I'm presuming you have an SLR and can override all of its auto-exposure and exposure program modes for total manual control. Night "street shooting" is best done by estimating the brightness level and manually setting an exposure. Specific exposure settings are determined by your film speed and how bright the setting is in which you're making the photographs.
Get a copy of Kodak's Pocket Photoguide. They're less than $15 at nearly any large camera store. The current version is a small book with white covers with "Kodak" in large metallic blue lettering on the front cover. About 4x5 inches in size, it's thin enough to fit into a shirt pocket and is made of very heavy and durable paper stock. This guide is packed with useful information. I have one that's about 25 years old (different color covers) and it's still in excellent condition after a quarter-century of use.
Near the back of this book is a section on "Existing Light" photography and a wheel for determining the exposure you need. The descriptions for estimating lighting levels are very detailed and I've found them reasonably accurate. Some of the descriptions include sunsets after sundown, city skylines at night, etc.
I've used ISO 400 film and fast f/2 and average f/2.8 lenses for night street shooting with shutter speeds of about 1/30th to 1/125th depending on lens, and how brightly the area is lit. The book as worked extremely well at estimating the exposure required. For sunsets and other subjects just before and after sunset, I've routinely used ISO 64 film as the sky is still relatively bright. Depending on how fast your lens(es) are you may have to push the film speeds up toward ISO 200 to ISO 800 depending on what you're shooting, especially average urban street scenes after dark that illuminated totally by street lights and luminous signs.
I've uploaded several photographs of various types made of city night scenes so you can see how well this method works.
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