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Nikon D3200 Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess

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Night and Low-light Photography

Photographing at night can be both fun and exciting. There is no reason to stop shooting just because it gets darker; that just means it’s time to start looking for different subjects. There is a great deal of light still visible after the sun sets, especially in cities where there seems to be a light in every window.

The same city scene taken during the day looks entirely different after the sun has set. The glow of neon, the streaks of headlights, and the wash of street lamps all add to the scene. The challenge with photographing at night or in low light is getting the correct exposure. Because there isn’t a lot of light, you have to use a wide aperture, a high ISO, or leave the shutter open for long periods of time. When you leave the shutter open and keep the camera steady, any movement of the lights in the scene is recorded not as a spot of light, but as a light trail. For example the lights on the Ferris wheel in Figure 8.16 are rendered as solid trails because the Ferris wheel was moving while the shutter was open. You can see the lights that were not moving are rendered as spots.

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8.16 Setting the camera to ISO 100 and f/22 allowed me to use a 5-second shutter speed and record the motion of the Ferris wheel as it turned. Exposure: ISO 100, f/22, 5 seconds.

Inspiration

One of the best times to photograph in low light is right after the sun ...

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