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Portrait Photography

Night Portrait Photography Tips

September 13, 2023 by

It’s a cool night, and you’re walking through the city with your camera in hand. Suddenly, you spot the perfect subject – a person sitting on a bench, their face lit by the soft glow of a nearby streetlight.

You want to capture this moment, but you’re not sure how to make it work in low light. That’s where night portrait photography comes in. In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks to help you take stunning portraits at night.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photographer, these tips will help you create stunning images in any light.

From using flash to getting the perfect exposure, we’ll cover everything you need to know to create beautiful night portraits.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

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Alyn Wallace
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Table of Contents

What is a Night Portrait?

A night portrait is a type of portrait that is taken in low light conditions, typically after the sun has gone down.

Night portraits also fall under the niche of portrait photography.

Night portraits can be tricky to get right, but when done well, they can be truly stunning. One of the key challenges of night photography is finding enough light to illuminate the subject.

This can be done by using a flash, turning on lights, or increasing the ISO setting on your camera.

Another challenge is dealing with long exposures, which can cause blurriness if the subject moves.

To counteract this, you can use a tripod to keep the camera steady or use a faster shutter speed.

Night portraits often have a mysterious and ethereal quality, and when done well, they can be truly beautiful works of art.

night portrait

Can You Do a Photoshoot at Night?

Many photographers shy away from shooting at night, thinking that the low light will make it impossible to get good photos.

However, with the proper equipment and technique, night photography can be extremely rewarding. One of the biggest challenges of night photography is dealing with long exposures.

Since the shutter will be open for a longer period of time, any movement will result in blurriness.

To avoid this, use a tripod to keep the camera completely still. Additionally, pay attention to your ISO and aperture settings. A higher ISO will make it easier to capture images in low light, but it can also introduce noise into the photo.

Dialing down the aperture can help to reduce this noise. With a little practice, you can produce stunning night photos that are full of contrast and detail.

12 Night Portrait Photography Tips

Let’s dive into 12 night portrait photography tips.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to take beautiful night portraits that are full of light and detail.

1. Use a Tripod

One of the most important pieces of equipment for night portrait photography is a tripod.

tripod for texture photography

Since you’ll be working with long exposures, it’s essential to keep the camera completely still.

Otherwise, your photos will be blurry and unusable. A tripod will also allow you to use a lower ISO setting, which will reduce noise in your images.

There is nothing worse than going home with a portrait that you think is great, only to open it up in post-production and see that the face is blurry!

This happens a lot when taking a portrait at night, so be aware of this!

2. Use Manual Focus

When shooting in low light, your camera’s autofocus system may struggle to find a focus point. As a result, it’s often best to switch to manual focus.

This way, you can take your time to focus on the specific area that you want in sharp focus.

In many cases, the eyes are the most important part of the portrait, so make sure they’re in sharp focus.

3. AV Mode

If you’re new to night portrait photography, it’s best to start out in Aperture Priority mode.

This will allow you to control the depth of field, while the camera takes care of the rest.

night portrait example
night portrait

Once you get a feel for how the camera performs in low light, you can experiment with other modes, such as Shutter Priority or Manual.

AV mode is great for night portraits because it gives you control over the depth of field.

You can use a shallow depth of field to blur out the background and focus on the subject, or you can use a deeper depth of field to keep everything in sharp focus.

4. Shoot in RAW

When shooting night portraits, it’s best to shoot in RAW format. This will give you the most flexibility when editing the photo later on.

RAW files contain all of the data captured by the sensor, so you’ll be able to make changes without losing quality.

Additionally, shooting in RAW will allow you to recover shadows and highlights that may be lost in the JPEG format.

This is especially important when shooting in low light, as the camera’s sensor can often be overloaded.

5. Consider an Off-Camera Flash

If you’re struggling to get enough light on your subject, consider using an off-camera flash.

This can be a great way to add some fill light without washing out the scene.

night portrait off camera flash
using off camera flash

Just be sure not to use too much power, or you’ll end up with a photo that looks like it was taken in a studio.

6. Utilize Ambient Light

One of the best ways to add light to a night portrait is to utilize ambient light.

This can be anything from streetlights to the light emanating from a nearby building. By using these sources of light, you can create a well-lit scene without resorting to flash photography.

Of course, you’ll need to experiment with different shutter speeds to find the right balance between ambient light and exposure.

If the shutter speed is too slow, the photo will be too dark. If it’s too fast, the photo will be overexposed.

7. Find a Balance Between Aperture and ISO

As with any type of photography, finding the right balance between aperture and ISO is essential.

If you’re using a higher ISO, you’ll be able to use a smaller aperture. This will allow more light into the camera, which is great for low-light situations.

However, it’s important to remember that a higher ISO will also result in more noise in your image.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to keep the ISO as low as possible. This will ensure that your photos are of the highest quality.

However, there may be times when you need to sacrifice quality for quantity. In these cases, feel free to raise the ISO. Just be sure to keep an eye on the noise levels in your image.

8. Good Camera with High ISO Settings

One of the best ways to improve your night portrait photography is to invest in a good camera with high ISO settings.

This will allow you to shoot at higher ISOs without sacrificing quality. Additionally, a good camera will have a better autofocus system, which is essential for low-light photography.

There are a few different cameras on the market that are well-suited for night portrait photography.

The Sony a7S II is a great option, as it has a full-frame sensor and an ISO range of 100-102400. The Canon 5D Mark IV is another excellent choice, as it has a 30.4-megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 100-32000.

9. Choose the Correct Lens

When shooting night portraits, it’s important to choose the correct lens.

A wide-angle lens is a good choice for most situations, as it will allow you to capture a large amount of the scene.

However, if you’re shooting a close-up portrait, you may want to consider using a telephoto lens.

This will allow you to get a closer view of your subject without distorting their features.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the aperture of the lens you’re using. A lens with a large aperture (low f-stop number) is ideal for low-light photography, as it will allow more light into the camera.

aperture photography chart
aperture chart

However, these lenses can be quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, look for a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or lower.

Finally, keep in mind that zoom lenses will often have a slower maximum aperture than prime lenses. This means that they won’t perform as well in low-light situations.

If possible, choose a prime lens with a large aperture. This will ensure that you’re able to get the best possible results.

10. Choosing a Background

When shooting night portraits, it’s important to choose a background that compliments the scene.

A busy street with bright lights is a great choice for an action-packed photo.

night portrait background

However, if you’re looking for a more subdued image, consider choosing a darker background. This will help to make your subject pop and ensure that they’re the focus of the photo.

Additionally, pay attention to the colors in your scene. You may want to choose a background that contrasts with your subject’s clothing.

For example, if your subject is wearing a white shirt, consider choosing a dark background. This will help to make them stand out and create an eye-catching image.

11. Frame Your Subject

Once you’ve chosen a background, it’s time to frame your subject. When shooting night portraits, it’s important to leave some negative space in the image.

This will help to ensure that your subject is the focus of the photo and prevent the background from becoming too busy.

Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to the composition of your image. Consider using the rule of thirds to help you create a balanced and eye-catching photo.

This involves placing your subject off to one side of the frame, rather than in the center.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative with your framing. If you have a unique idea for a shot, go for it!

12. Eliminate Noise in Post-Production

Noise is a common problem when shooting in low-light conditions. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to reduce noise in your images.

noise in photography

One of the simplest methods is to shoot in RAW format. This will give you the most flexibility when it comes to editing your photos and will allow you to reduce noise without sacrificing quality.

Another option is to use noise reduction software. This can be done in post-production, and there are a number of different programs available.

Some of the most popular options include Adobe Lightroom and camera-specific software like Canon’s Digital Photo Professional.

Finally, you may want to consider using a noise-reduction filter. These filters can be attached to your lens and will help to reduce the amount of noise in your photos.

To further explore night portrait photography tips, we recommend this video by FJH Photography:

How do you take portrait photos at night?

There are a few different things to keep in mind when taking portraits at night. First, it’s important to choose the right lens. A wide-aperture lens will allow you to shoot in low-light conditions without sacrificing quality. Second, pay attention to the background of your scene. A dark background will help to make your subject pop and ensure that they’re the focus of the photo. Finally, frame your subject carefully and leave some negative space in the image. This will help to create a balanced and eye-catching photo.

What is night portrait mode on a camera?

Night portrait mode is a setting on your camera that’s specifically designed for taking pictures at night. This mode will typically use a slower shutter speed and a wider aperture to let in more light. Additionally, it may raise the ISO or use flash to help illuminate the scene. Using night portrait mode will help you to get the best possible results when taking pictures in low-light conditions.

What camera setting should I use for night photography?

The settings you will want to pay attention to include aperture, ISO, and shutter speed which all affect the exposure of the image. A low aperture lets in more light and is good for night photography. A high ISO also lets in more light, but it can also add noise to the image. A slow shutter speed will let in the most light but can also lead to blur if the subject is moving.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, night portrait photography can be a great way to get creative and capture unique images.

I hope you learned some new tips! This guide is also a part of our Portrait Photography Resources Hub, so be sure to check that out for more portrait tips.