night time landscape/cityscape photo guide


Silver Level Poster
Anyone got any good tips for using a Nikon S3000 Digital Camera - Black (12MP, 4x wide Optical Zoom) 2.7 inch LCD or any other digital camera similar to this.

What I want to be able to do is take some photos with out the light been too fuzzy or the image been bleary.

Even any tips using the manual camera settings rather than the auto settings also welcome.

There is this wonderful night time shot that I would like to take but it never turns out like what I see.


Author Level
Im sure some of our photography keen members will be able to help out. Im a point and click kind of photographer.


Gold Level Poster
Hi Crawlerbasher,

Low light shots are not the easiest of photographs to take but thier are a couple of things I always do
1. Use a tripod, in low light your shutter speed will slow down and any movement will cause blur
2. use a high iso or at least have a play around and adjust it until you can see what you are photographing a bit more clearly
3. If you have a histogram function on your camera use it, it will help you to see how exposed the shot is, be it over exposed or under exposed, you can then adjust your iso up or down

I am not sure what functions your camera has but I would use manual for any low light shots, If you have the ability to adjust shutter speed you could play around with this as well
Genral rule of thumb on an SLR camera is that in manual mode when adjusting your ISO,Apature or shutter speed, you will have to adjust the other 2 after adjusting one of them to get sharp shots

Hope this has helped a bit



Bright Spark
I'm no expert and i mostly agree with SteveB, except that if you have a tripod, you may as well stick to iso 100 and take a longer exposure (subject depending).

Set apature to F8 and adjust exposure time with each shot. 1 sec, 5, 10..... as you get to a corectly exposed photo, you can fine tune your settings. You'll soon get a feel for it and then new situations you'll already have a good idea what settings are required.

Cityscapes nice car light trails (through hotel window)

Astro (widefield - if you want stars) startrails several 30 second exposures layered together a single exposure making up above
- here f4 & iso 320, to pick up more stars.
- if you want a single frame with pin sharp stars (no startrails) then up the iso even more, try 1600 and lower exposure time < 25 seconds.
- TIP : if you want stars and foreground, try lighting (painting) the foreground with a torch or even car headlights!

- here if you have a telephoto lens, you'll need a fairly short exposure < 100 (100thsec), you'll soon see why if you line the moon up, you can literally watch it travel across your field of view. anything longer will result in blurry out of focus looking images and eventually a big blob of white, if over a few seconds. (see the first image - that's the moon in the top left) up the iso a little to make sure.

hope that's not too confusing

EDIT : Forgot to mention that a remore shutter is a handy tool but you can use the camera self timer (2 or 10 seconds) this will help to steady the camera and result in a better image.
Last edited:


Rising Star
Night-time photography is no different to day-time photography - the settings you use are the ones most suitable for the subject matter.

Darkness is not really a subject in it's own right - it's the way that the lack of strong ambient light changes the way we see the world and the elements of nature and human activity that only come out at night that make it different from snapping away in bright sunlight.

That may sound a bit arty-farty but the point is that - just like daylight or studio photography - the starting point must be an idea of what you want to acheive. If, for example, you want to photograph a cityscape at night, you can use a long exposure and a tripod because the key elements - the buildings - will not be moving. If, on the other hand, you want to snap anything that moves and keep it in focus, you will need to use a high ISO setting and a wide aperture - you may also be unable to use a tripod and a flash may or may not be suitable depending on the subject matter.

As basic rules, the overall exposure of a photo is based on three things - the sensitivity of the film (or digital equivalent), the aperture and the shutter speed. If you use a low ISO "film", you will need to open the aperture wider and/or increase the amount of time that the shutter is open to ge the same amount of light onto the film or sensor. You can turn that whole equation around depending on what you want to acheive. Let's say that you want to "freeze" a moving object in poor light - you know that you have to use a fast shutter (if you don't the moving object will just be a blurry streak on the photo) so you have to find some way to compensate for the fact that less light will get through before the shutter closes. You have two choices - you can open the aperture wider or you can use a film that is more sensitive. The trouble is, both of those options have down-sides - a wide aperture gives a shorter depth of field making focusing far more critical (it's a nice effect if used right - the object in tight focus against a blurred background - buts it hellishly difficult to get right with a moving target in poor light). If you use a higher ISO setting, making the sensormore sensitive to light, the tiny electrical charges bouncing around near the sesnore show up as "noise" - monochrome or coloured speckles that can ruin the picture.

With practice, you'll learn how to balance those settings and chose which to use even before you take your first photo of the night. If you want, for example, to get a shot of a nocturnal animal then it's usually much better to get a good - rather than perfect - shot because you may never get a second chance. In that case, you have to go for a fast shutter and a high ISO and if there's noise on the photo, you can sort a lot of it out in Photoshop later. If you are shooting a static object, go for the lowest possible ISO and use a long exposure. One of the best things about digital cameras is that you can immediately check the results and try again - invaluable with static objects and re-doable poses.

One thing; if your camera has a night setting, use it as much as possible. Most cameras these days do a fanstasic job with those preset modes and they are especially useful when you need to take a quick shot without fiddling about.

A couple of tips for "interesting" night-time photos - but whether or not they apply depends on the extent of the manual settings in that camera...

If you have the option, try pre and post nightime flash modes. When you take a flash photo in the dark, the usual result is that anything caught in the flash is brightly lit and the rest of the photois black. With the right modes, you can take a picture that uses along exposure to catch the background and use the flash to catch the closer subject matter. You have the choice of firing the flash at the begining or end of the total exposure time - extremely useful for taking snaps of moving objects like kids and dogs.

If you want to photograph fireworks, you need the longest possible shutter time, a tripod and cunning plan :) Give yourself a bit of time before the display starts. Set the tripod and camera up to point where you know the fireworks will give their best show - set a narrow aperture to get the maximum depth of field. If at all possible, set the shutter to remain wide open until you close it manually - if you can't do that, set the longest possible time - and wear a hat - really - you need a hat. Now click off a shot for - say - 20 seconds and check the result. You want to be able to see the sky as dark but still be able to pick any really bright lights. When the fireworks start, click to open the shutter as the first rocket takes off and when they burst to their brightest, wait a second then carefully place your hat over the front of the camera to stop any more light getting in. When the next lot of fireworks are just about to burst, remove the hat and keep doing that until the shutter closes or you think there's enough bursts in that one shot. It's a kind of poor man's time lapse photography and the results can be awesome.

In terms of composition, don't try to get a daylight-bright shot at night - it's pointless and defeats the object. Make the shadows and light patches part of the picure - dappled light on a portait photo can add a lot of interest.

If at all possible, shoot in RAW rather than compressed. RAW photo's can be adjusted for lighting issues far more than any JPEG. Highlights in particular are pretty well uncorrectable in JPEGs - in RAW you can effectively reduce the exposure after tha photo has been taken.

If your night shots are slightly under exposed, don't adjust the brightness in you editing software. Use the Shadows/Highlights option instead as it can lift details in shadows without adding brightness to correctly exposed areas.

Speaking of software - Photoshop elements is the dog's doodahs for anyone not willing or able to buy the full version. It's really not just a cut-down version - the only things missing are the seriously specialist tools and in many way, Elements has the edge when it comes to photo editting. If you want a good alternative, is free and amazingly complete and powerful while GIMP - also free - is more powerful but less user friendly.

Don't be afraid to add lighting - even your cars headlights can make for cheap floodlights - but try to avoid lighting from the front unless you really want a particular effect. Lighting trees from behind with your headlights on full beam will give a terrific effect and a face lit from the side with a torch shows a lost more shape and character than it would with a hard flash from the front.


Bright Spark
why not post some pictures and we'll try to give some thoughts. I use Flickr, there are loads of groups where you can post your photos for help and advice, or just search/read their 'discussions' for tips. you can also look at other peoples EXIF data to get an idea of what settings they used, which is handy when starting out or learning how to do something different.

When you're out and about it's hard to tell if you've caught a good image from looking at the camera screen. when you're back at the pc, though you can pick out the best photos and if you've played with the settings you can see what worked and what didn't, so don't worry if you end up binning a load of images - you always regret that you didn't try this or that, or take the image from over there, different angle.... that's what keeps me going out and don't forget that if you haven't got your camera with you, you might miss that great photo.