Secrets for Night Street Photography

There’s something about street photography that’s exciting. It’s the appeal of capturing that right moment. When you combine that with the mystery of night time photography, it’s no wonder night street photography is so popular.

But this is also one of the more types of photography to get right. The reason for that is the lack of light, making photography more difficult.

This article provides you with 15 photography at night tips. So read on if you want to get some great city street night photos.

What Equipment Do You Need for Night Street Photography

The majority of street photography at night will be handheld. You’re going to need a fast lens and a camera body that performs well at high ISO.

Your kit lens won’t get the best result for night street photography. So what should you choose then?

Camera Body

The best camera body for city street night photography is one that performs best at a high ISO. It won’t leave your pictures full of digital noise.

There are merits to each camera brand and the lenses that go with them. This part is about personal preference. But here’s a guide on choosing the best camera for street photography.

Other camera body types are catching up fast. But for the best results, I recommend using a full-frame DSLR. The more recent the model, the better.

Camera Lens

The camera lens you use needs to be a fast lens. A fast lens is one that lets light quickly into the camera with a large aperture and large lens diameter. One of the best lenses here is the photographer’s favourite: the nifty fifty.

Another reason the full-frame camera body works best here is that crop factor also applies to aperture. It means f/2.8 on a crop sensor of two will be f5.6. It’s not ideal when you want a fast lens.

So what lens will work well? There are many lenses, but here we’ll look at three.

  • 35mm – The lower the focal length, the slower the shutter speed can be for handheld images. This is a great lens when you are higher shutter speed. The largest aperture for this lens is typically f1.4.
  • 50mm – The preferred choice of many night street photographers. There are several aperture choices with this lens, with the largest being the most expensive. You can choose between f1.8, f1.4 and f1.2.
  • 85mm – A great lens for portrait work but functions well in other genres too. It’s a fast lens. But you will still need to bump up the ISO. This is because of the longer focal length and the faster shutter speed that will require.

What Camera Settings to Choose

Now that we’ve looked at the equipment, it’s time to think about the camera settings you’ll be using. At this point, you should have a camera body capable of performing at high ISO, and a fast lens on your camera. Now it’s all about getting that shutter speed high enough.

  • Aperture – Your aperture is going to be large, but depending on the available light, you might be able to adjust this. Using the largest aperture possible will give you a very shallow depth of field. The sharp focus will be more difficult. If there is enough brightness, try an aperture of f2.8.
  • Shutter speed – The aim is to freeze the action in most cases, and have a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. The focal length of your lens is proportional to the slowest shutter speed you can hold it at. So a 50mm lens could be held at 1/50th, whereas an 85mm lens will need 1/100th. Sometimes you might choose to slow the shutter speed down to allow for some motion blur.
  • ISO – There are those who like the grainy feel noise gives their night street photography. It’s best to avoid noise and add the grainy effect in post-processing if you want it. Calibrate your aperture to a setting where the noise is manageable. You can remove it using a program like noise ninja. It will, of course, depend on your camera body but using an ISO of 3200 is usually enough.