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How to take amazing night and low light photos

Night and low light photography can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed how easily stunning shots turn out! Here are some examples of night photography that were taken by the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, MN.  Get out there with your SLR or even your point-and-shoot camera, play around, and get shooting!

  • Using a tripod or placing your camera on a stable surface is a must for taking pictures in low light (turn off the image stabilizer when using a tripod or surface). The shutter of the camera needs to stay open for a long period of time to absorb the necessary amount of light for images to appear.  Hand holding the camera, even with the steadiest of hands, will leave your shots blurry.  The camera barely needs to move and the image will not turn out.
How to take night and low light photos

If using a digital SLR:

  • Use the AV or A (aperature) mode
  • Keep your ISO at 100
  • Set your aperature somewhere between 11 and 22 (whatever makes your shutter speed open long enough)
  • You want to make sure that your shutter stays open long enough to read the necessary amount of light. Make sure it is staying open for at least 15 seconds. The darker the area that you’re shooting, the longer the shutter will need to stay open.

If using a point and shoot camera:

  • Depending on your camera’s model the name of the ‘scene’ or ‘mode’ you’ll need to use may vary for low light photos.  Examples of some settings might be called Candlelight, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Low Light, etc.


-In this photo I used a lazer pointer to ‘write’ the word INSPIRE on a wall of graffiti. The shutter was open for so long that I was able to capture the bright light against the wall as I wrote.

How to take low light photos and 'light paint'

This is a very busy bridge, full of runners and bicyclists.  I had to wait until the sun was down just enough to leave the shutter speed open long enough for people to ‘disappear’ out of the image.  I had the shutter open for 15 seconds, so people that were moving weren’t able to be captured.


Having something in the foreground of a photograph can help give a sense of distance and creates a ‘frame’ for your picture.

Taking advantage of water and the reflection of light is a great way to use evening lighting.


Using these steps to take low light pictures will allow you to catch photos of the moon and stars (light pollution from the city lights doesn’t allow for the stars to appear, so try taking some shots out in the country).