Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Turn On Your Night Light

Digital photography has opened many doors for trying anything and everything new. It allows a photographer to try new methods, experiment without risk of the unknown, and simply play. Unrivaled in this regard is the shooting of night and low light scenes. No longer do we need to wait until the film is developed to see if the exposure was correct or if an effect worked positively. Simply fire away and adjust on the spot. Additionally, with merge to HDR software getting better all the time, the range of tones that can be captured in a scene is almost limitless.

Technical Considerations: Check your camera manual to see if you have Long Exposure Noise Reduction. If so, turn it ON as it will save you time in front of the computer trying to get rid of noise and grain in the image. While it does add in camera processing time, it’s well worth the wait. Use a tripod to ensure you’ll get a sharp image during the long time the shutter remains open. If you intend to bracket for merge to HDR images, using a tripod will help ensure the images properly overlap and remain in register when imported into the software. Use a cable release to prevent jarring the camera.

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© Russ Burden

Add More Light: A technique that’s fun to try is called Light Painting. It can be done using a flash or with a powerful flashlight. I prefer the flashlight technique as it adds a bit of warmth to the scene due to the color temperature of the light vs flash. With the shutter open for approximately 30 seconds, “paint” the primary subject with the light by “brushing” the beam over it using many even and consistent passes. At the end of the exposure, let the file process in camera and check the effect on the LCD. Adjust the time of the painting and duration of the shutter speed accordingly after looking at the result and the corresponding histogram.

Use Brightly LIt and Colorful Subjects: Find subjects that emit a lot of light and color. Most major cities have an area where this can be found. A mall at night is also a good option. The most magical time at which to start shooting is just before the sky gets black. This twilight time works well in that natural light provides separation between the structure and the sky. Keep shooting when the sky goes black as you’ll still be rewarded with great images.

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© Russ Burden

Create Effects: Night photography is unique unto itself but taking it a step farther can provide you with many fantastic photographs. A standardly used effect is to zoom the lens during the exposure. Experiment with zooming the lens quickly or slowly, zooming from the wide to telephoto setting or visa versa, or leaving the lens at a fixed focal point for part of the exposure and zooming for just a portion. Once you’re done zooming, don’t overlook photographing portions of the structure rather than the entire facade. Try multiple exposures or deliberately moving the camera during the exposure. Let your mind wander to places and techniques you’re never tried. Remember, it’s digital and the results are but a glance away from the LCD.

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© Russ Burden

To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Photographic Nature Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my new book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order yours.


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