How To Shoot Street Photography At Night
Personally, I think that street photography is at its best during the night. At night, cities come to life with lots of bright colours and interesting people.
To begin with, nighttime street photography may seem very daunting and difficult compared to the likes of daytime photography, but after a while, you’ll probably find that you return home with relatively more banger photos than what you’d get during the day.
Unlike during the daytime, lighting stays somewhat consistent at night, so it’s much easier to get the hang of. Although many people prefer clear or cloudy skies, I think that rain makes night street photography so much more magical, and enjoyable to photograph. Rain can create so many interesting layers/textures for your photos, such as creating puddles that you can use to get reflections or adding more atmosphere to your shots.
Camera and Lens
To do street photography at night, you’ll need a decent camera and lens. Although you may be able to get away with using your phone in some situations. My go-to camera is the Nikon Z6 with either a 35mm or 85mm F1.8 lens. The Z6 is a mirrorless camera which means that it doesn’t have mirrors inside of it. Mirrorless cameras have recently started rising in popularity as they have equal if not better imaging qualities than DSLRs and are also more compact.
If you’re looking for a good quality and reasonably priced DSLR, then I’d recommend either getting a Nikon D3500 or a Nikon D5600. Both of these are relatively inexpensive and they are both great for beginners. If you do get a fairly cheap camera like one of the two that I mentioned, then I’d also recommend ditching the kit lens and getting a fast aperture lens for it, such as the Nikon 50mm F1.8 AFS DX or the Nikon 35mm F1.8 AFS DX. At night, a fast aperture lens, such as one that has F1.8 is essential because it allows as much light to get into the sensor as possible. Getting as much light into the sensor as you can is especially important when you don’t have a high-end camera because you won’t be able to raise the ISO too high without the photo being covered in grain.
When shooting at night, the only lens filter that I would recommend using would be a UV filter because it gives your legs a bit of scratch protection without really changing the outcome of the photo. If you try and use a different type of filter such as an ND (neutral density) filter or a polarising filter at night, it’ll just result in not as much light getting to your sensor creating a darker image that is harder to edit.
Whenever I go into town to do night street photography, I’ll almost always bring my MeFoto tripod. To be completely honest, I actually almost never use it, but I always like to know that I have it on me in case I find an interesting spot to take a long exposure photo. From the times that I have used my MeFoto tripod, I can tell you that the build quality feels amazing, and they are great for long walks as they can compact down and are light enough to carry.
Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras use SD cards to store photos. If your camera uses an SD card, I’d recommend buying a 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro, as this model of SD card allows you to take lots of photos per second (assuming your camera can handle multiple photos a second). The SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cards are also very durable, and can be subject to extreme temperatures, as well as being waterproof, X-ray proof and shockproof. If your camera doesn’t use SD cards, then it probably uses either XQD cards or CF Express cards. The difference between different models of XQD cards and CF Express cards are usually very minimal, so just get the one with the right amount of storage for you.
When it comes to talking about different camera settings, I’m usually biased towards really wide apertures because they allow you to get that really big bokeh and crisp depth of field that you’ve probably seen all over Instagram. There are two main camera modes that photographers use whilst doing night street photography, manual mode or aperture priority.
When shooting night photography, the lower the F-number the better because more light gets into the sensor. You need to be cautious when taking photos of large subjects with a low F-number because oftentimes if the subject is too big, it won’t all be in focus.
Shutter speed is somewhat self-explanatory, the longer the camera’s shutter is open, the more light is going to be let into the sensor. I would recommend for most of your shots, to bump up your shutter speed as high as you can without the image being dark and without putting your ISO too high. It can be hard to recommend an ideal ISO because different cameras can handle it so differently. A good rule of thumb with ISO is to keep it as low as possible without sacrificing a fast shutter speed. I suggest a high shutter speed because it ensures that your shots won’t have too much motion blur. A slow shutter speed is ideal for panning shots and long exposures as it allows the shutter to be open for longer, thus creating effects such as motion blur and light trails.
Here’s a list of the settings I usually use
(Keep in mind that these can change drastically depending on the shot I want to get or the place that I’m taking the photo)
Shutter Speed, usually ranging from 1/100s to 1/400s
ISO, usually ranging from 1000 to 6400
Tips And Tricks
Practical Tips And Tricks
Have you ever turned up for a shoot and then realised you forgot your battery or forgot to charge it? If you’ve never forgotten your battery or memory card at home, I’d assume you’d still probably be able to imagine how much it must suck. An easy way to avoid leaving your battery or memory card at home is by taking a photo before you leave. By doing this, you can ensure that your camera is ready to go. Another tip is to leave a spare SD card and a charged battery in your camera bag in case you do leave them behind or your battery is dead. If you’re looking for a product that can help extend your batteries life, then you should invest in a battery grip. Not only does it usually double the batteries life but the design of the grip improves shooting in the vertical orientation and some even come with secondary control buttons.
Tips And Tricks For Better Photos
One of the best ways to take more interesting photos is by experimenting with different angles. When taking photos, try to get low to the ground or high up. When you take an eye-level photo, it usually doesn’t grab your attention. Eye-level photos aren’t very eye-catching because they are what you see all the time, hence why photos with interesting angles are almost always more eye-catching.
Composing a good photo isn’t an easy thing, but shooting through something can make it a lot easier. Taking a photo through something could be as easy as finding a fence to shoot through or shooting through the leaves of a nearby tree. Photos that are taken through things help add to the composition of a shot. This is because they often draw your eyes to the main subject.
If you’re wanting these tips explained in a bit more detail, or you want some extra tips, I would highly recommend you watch this YouTube video by Peter Mckinnon.
Things That You Need To Be Aware Of
Something to keep in mind when you’re doing street photography is that cities aren’t the safest places at night. What I recommend doing to keep safe at night is avoiding dark places, staying where there are plenty of people, and bringing a friend along with you.
When you think of cameras and heavy rain, you’d be right in thinking they don’t mix well. Most cameras do have some sort of weather sealing, and they can probably take a bit of a beating. You don’t want to push that idea too far though. To stay on the safe side, try to minimise the amount of water that gets on your camera when you’re shooting in the rain. If it’s raining really heavily, I would recommend using a rain cover to protect your camera or even something as inexpensive as a plastic bag does the trick.
Post Production Process
In my opinion, editing is what makes or breaks the photo. It can easily take months if not years to develop your editing style into something that you’re happy with. Most photographers use Adobe software such as Lightroom and/or Photoshop. I use Lightroom to edit the majority of my photos, as it has easy to use controls.
Here is a very simplified step by step guide of my post-production process:
Step by Step
Transfer your photos from your memory card onto a named folder on your computer.
Delete the photos off your memory card as they are now stored on your computer.
Import your photos into Lightroom.
Once your photos have finished importing, adjust the settings of the photo until you’re happy with how the photo looks.
Export your edited photos into another named folder on your computer.
Josh is an experienced photographer who mainly shoots street photography, but sometimes shoots other genres such as wildlife and car photography. After a few years of dabbling in photography, Josh started getting into it more seriously two years ago.
Check out more of his work here!