Gear for night photography—
Having right gear for night photography is extremely important. The gear you use can make or break your night photography. Things like camera and lens are obvious, but which ones are best for long exposure night photography?
Here is the list of all necessary gear you need to make your next night photography session great:
1. The ‘Right’ Camera
“The best camera is the one you have with you”, does not go well with night photography. You need a camera that gives you the control and freedom you need. Not all cameras are meant for night photography. But if yours have some necessary features, it should do fine.
Features like bulb mode (for long exposure photography) and shooting in RAW are essential.
Full Frame DSLRs
Full frame DSLRs generally work better than other cameras for night photography. They come with larger sensors. This helps in capturing pictures of better quality and the noise is also reduced appreciably.
2. Wide-angle lens
A lens is an important factor in night photography. A good one can capture breath-taking photos and a bad one can ruin an otherwise great scene. When it comes to choosing gear for night photography, wide-angle lens is the most preferred type.
Wide-angle lenses have larger field of view, meaning that it captures the most of what is in front of camera. Field of view actually depends upon focal length of your lens.
Shorter lens (shorter focal length) frames larger area. Longer lenses with longer focal lengths are not suitable for star photography. They make your camera sensitive to earth’s rotation, especially in longer exposure.
Focal length of 35 mm or lesser is best suited for night photography (astrophotography in particular).
With almost no light available at night, you need slower shutter speeds to gather light enough for proper exposure. Camera shakes are inevitable with hand-held shooting. With long exposure of 20-30 seconds, no clear photo can be taken without a tripod.
Now the question arises: What type of tripod will do fine?
It depends upon your way of traveling.
If you’re supposed to walk a lot with your gear for night photography sessions, light-weight tripods are better. These tripods are smaller and generally cheaper than bigger ones. However, these tripods are not meant for big, heavy cameras.
In case you don’t need to carry the gear much or have a car to go places, I suggest you to invest in a bigger tripod. Although they are a bit expensive, but work fine for light as well as heavy cameras.
4. Something Heavy
Many tripods come with a hook under the center column. You can hang some weight to increase tripod stability. Your backpack or camera bag will be fine for this purpose.
Adding extra weights is important for smaller tripods with heavy cameras. Perfectly still camera will help you capture sharper images.
5. Shutter Release
Shutter Release helps you trigger a capture without touching (and shaking) the camera. Absolute stillness is necessary to get perfectly sharp images in long exposure night photography. Some models have advanced features than just shutter control.
Some shutter release devices allow you to control exposure length, intervals (for time-lapse or star trail images) and also change camera delay (to values different from the default ones).
6. Spare Batteries
No photographer can be more helpless than when he runs out of batteries on site.
In long exposure, camera sensors are active much longer. This drains camera battery more quickly than usual. Also, the more photos you click (needless of long-exposure), faster you will run out of batteries.
It’s advised to keep at least 2 extra sets of charged batteries whenever you’re out shooting.
Of course, you’ll need them to see in dark. But that’s not the only purpose.
In low light conditions, you can use a flashlight to light-up something in your frame, a tree perhaps.
Sometimes, head lamps are preferred over hand-held flashlights. The reason is simple— you’d want your hands free to use the camera.
8. Lens Hood
Lens hood or lens shade are used to block unwanted lights from entering through the lens.
Your camera sensors get exceptionally sensitive to light sources in the dark. A lens hood blocks unnecessary light from bright light sources outside of your field of view and prevents lens flare also.
A lens flare is when bright light scatters in a lens, leading to an undesired flare effect in photographs.
Filter are NOT advised for use in night photography. Adding filters makes it harder for camera to gather light. You’ll have to further increase exposure length to get proper exposure in photographs. With even longer exposure, chances of getting motion blur or a little star trail effect in your images are higher.
However, filters can be pretty useful if you wish for specific effects in your photographs.
Used only and only when no light source is in frame. The stars must be the only source of light in your frame.
Cross-screen filters or star filters can create a “cross” effect in your photos. The stars appear like large crosses of light, with the star at its (bright) center.
Fog filters make the stars appear bigger and brighter in your images. Bigger stars help observing constellations in photographs.
However, fog filters might make your photos seem fake or over-edited, if not used properly.
Apart from night sky photography, fog filters create a mysterious kind of effect in night street photograph. The effect looks mesmerizing and create breath-taking photographs.
10. Other things you might need
Few things you might find useful besides the camera gear for night photography—
- Extra Clothes: It’s wise to keep some extra clothes (like jackets) with you. It gets really cold at night especially at high places.
- Mobile phone: Always carry a smartphone on site. Many photographers avoid mobile phones saying that shooting is the time when they need to stay away from distractions. I respect that thought, but your safety is more important. A mobile phone can be lifesaver if God forbid something wrong happens.
- Mobile Apps: Applications like Sky Map (Android) provide information about stars and constellations and some other features helpful to night photographers.
Wrapping it up
Here is the checklist of gear for night photography—
- Camera, of course
- Wide-angle lens
- Shutter Release
- Spare Batteries
- Mobile Phone
- Lens hood