I intend to make these photo tips a regular feature on this blog. So first, let me give you a little background on my photography experience. I have been a photographer, both professionally and semi-professionally, for over 50 years, yes I am an old dude. I like to think that in all those years I have learned a little something – I am self taught for the most part. I have owned a studio and I have worked out of my home, I have photographed more weddings than I care to remember – I have shot graduations, proms, portraits, and chased kids with Easter bunnies. I have survived the ordeal of trying to photograph a screaming kid who was scared to death of Santa. Back in the day, I was even a rodeo photographer. And, I have also worked with female models doing glamour photography. OK now that I have given you my background, let’s dive into the aforementioned “tips.”

Tip #2 – Night Photography (For inanimate objects – not people)

Back in the days of film cameras, taking pictures at night presented a very tricky situation. In this tip, I will be telling you how I use digital cameras to perform this task. First of all, put your camera on a tripod – it is very important that your camera has a very steady base from which to work. When I first started taking night shots of buildings, I waited until it was totally dark, but that is not the best way. To retain detail in

a-courthouse
Courthouse – Hallettsville, Texas

the surrounding area, go just after sunset while there is still some ambient light and color in the sky. After you have your camera set up and locked down on the tripod, compose your image through the viewfinder. Focus setting: I will normally set the camera to manual focus, or you can use auto focus if it will do so under the lighting conditions, but if you do use this method, be sure and put the lens back to manual focus afterwards to keep it from changing. Exposure setting: Put the camera in the aperture priority mode. You will want to use the smallest aperture setting (this will be the highest number such as F-16 if possible). The higher number F-Stops will insure that the foreground and background remain sharp. Depending on your camera, a shutter speed will be automatically selected to obtain the correct exposure, it will be extremely slow to correspond with the aperture you selected (i.e. F-16) – if your camera won’t reach a slow enough shutter speed for correct exposure, simply start backing down on your F-stop setting (i.e. F-8) until your camera tells you’ve reached the proper exposure. Once the camera tells you the proper exposure has been reached, remember the F-stop setting and the shutter setting. Go to manual exposure and lock those readings in – after that is done, I always extend my shutter speed one setting slower than what the  camera says is perfect (i.e. if the camera says 10 seconds, I set to 15 seconds.) I do this because if you just go by what the camera meter is telling you, only the lights will be properly exposed and you won’t have any detail in the building itself (i.e. brick, wood, etc.) One other thing, keep your lens cap or something else handy to cover the lens in case a car drives by with its lights hitting your lens (this always happens to me). If the cars are going away from you, you will have red light streaks in you image, and I always liked that effect. In the sample photo of the Lavaca County (Texas) Courthouse, I used the procedure that I have outlined above. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section. – MVM Images

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