“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” ― J.K. Rowling
The night can cloak our subjects and transform our streets into places of shadow and mystery. It can feel exciting to be shooting at night and at times a little dangerous. For this reason I always choose to take a friend with me, it makes me braver and feel a bit safer. But shooting at night can be challenging when our cameras struggle with low light, I still shoot on autofocus, however it will usually choose the brightest element to focus on, so will not always work in every condition. (Make sure to turn off your infrared focus assist light, it is a dead giveaway when shooting at street).. So I do these 3 things…crank up my ISO, look for the light source and shoot wide open. During processing, I often convert my images to B&W, at night there are a mixture of light sources, and the mixture of temperatures and colours can often look unnatural.
This image was taken at 2am walking back from the River Seine. I liked the backdrop and just waited until my subjects reached a point where there was some ambient light from the shop window. There was some noise in this image as the ISO was 16000. In these images I have added some noise reduction in Lightroom under the Detail Panel, I rarely add more than 20 on the Luminance Slider or it can become too smooth or painterly. I have also added some Fine Grain in the Effects Panel, keeping the amount size and roughness to around 11 on the sliders. Depending on your tastes of course.
In this image I framed my shot and waited patiently for my subject to arrive. Placement of my subjects here is to allow for good natural contrast. If they were under the street lamps then you would see more detail, placement away from the light allows a more silhouette effect. Night shooting allows us to capture reflections which add impact here and it is also far less crowded than during the day when isolating subjects can be more of a challenge.
In this final image I was drawn to the blonde hair and the black coat, I liked that she lifted her hand to brush her hair to the side just as I took this. This image was shot at f2 creating Bokeh in the street behind her which adds to the ambience of the image, she is well-defined from her backdrop with both focus and tonal value. I have used radial filters in Lightroom in this image to lighten her hair slightly and direct the viewer’s eye to my subject. It is important that the images are processed without lifting the shadows too much or you can turn night into day, and in doing this, add a lot of noise to an image in the process.
So when shooting at night, take a friend, look for your light sources, and crank up your ISO. Remember also, in processing, that noise is bad and grain is good.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ― Oscar Wilde
Do you like to shoot at night and how do you deal with the challenges?