My dear reader, I believe this article has surpassed my record in terms of how many examples I have for you. More than plenty. I should actually count them… there are about 90 images! Enjoy them and, most of all, learn from them!

Night photography in the city is not as difficult as it might seem. In fact, there are a few myths I want to destroy right here, right now.
But first, you need to know one thing will be forever true: you DO need a tripod for night photography. Even if the exposure time is not as long as you thought, it’s still longer than the by day and it does cause camera shake.

Destruction of Myth Nr.#1:

City by Night kind of photography DOES NOT require a long exposure time!
The truth about night photography in the city is this: the longer the exposure, the more overexposed the light areas will be, and there is nothing good to gain in the dark areas. You just don’t need an exposure time longer than the one you use for fireworks.

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Destruction of Myth Nr.#1:

City by Night kind of photography DOES NOT require a high ISO value!
Most beginners use high ISO for night photography because it reduces the exposure time so they think they can avoid camera shake. But then they get extremely grainy images, where the grain almost gets mistaken by a light.
Here is an example for you: left side picture is with high ISO and right side picture is with lower ISO:

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The secret here is to combine the rules of night photography: (1) use a tripod, (2) use a delayed shoot (to avoid moving the tripod while triggering the camera), plus (3) the correct exposure time and (4) aperture settings.
The first two things are easy. What you might wonder is how to get the third and forth done. This brings us to the second part of the article.

Now, how about some tips?

Tip #1:

Don’t wait until it is too dark to take your cityscape night shot.
Seriously, the best night photography is done after sunset but before full night. You need a little bit of dusk light in order to have some details in the dark areas, and, to force your camera to take the picture with less exposure time. Plus, you will get the advantage of having more colors in your shots, including a beautiful sky.

wallpaper-752658 wallpaper-783353 St. Louis at Sunset wallpaper-1019635 wallpaper-1051245  wallpaper-1078758wallpaper-246174 wallpaper-471091

Tip #2:

The correct aperture for night cityscape photography.
The thing is the following: the smaller the aperture, the more time your camera will need in order to get your picture done. I want you to forget for a moment about the exposure time, and if possible, set your camera in aperture priority mode. Test it out on a few shots until you get this effect: the small aperture will produce star-like lights. The smaller the aperture, the more rays will these star lights have. Now that you have this set up, and you have am acceptable low level ISO, you can move forward to the exposure time. If you are in aperture priority mode, there is nothing more for you to do, but if you are in manual mode, read the next tip.

Example wrong aperture:


Example good aperture:

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Tip #3:

The correct exposure time for night cityscape photography.
To get the right exposure time when you are on ground level, think about this: you do not need the passing by people to look like ghosts. Yes, they would appear in motion in your picture, but not as an almost transparent figure. Make a few test shots keeping this in mind, and then come back to your desired composition and see if you need to adjust – a little extra more exposure – before getting it perfect. Anyway, this tip only works if the city is not too dark – meaning it’s not very long after sunset and there are plenty lights in the city.



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Perfectly Exposed:
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Tip #4:

Play with the white balance function.
Most images of the city by night, if the white balance is ignored, will have mostly yellow lights. However, if you change the white balance to any other temperature or setting (it’s completely up to you), you get interesting coloring in the entire composition. There isn’t much to say about this. It’s an experimental thing. But don’t forget about it. Don’t pack your gear to leave before trying this. See for yourself what others have managed:
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Tip #5:

Good night photography in the city is, in about 80% of the times, from a high point of view.
This means you need o plan your photography session ahead by finding a spot somewhere high above the city, maybe even a little further away from the city itself.
If you doubt my point, compare below shots. Compare the left pictures done at ground level with the right side pictures done from a high spot in the city.




Examples from the distance:


Tip #6:

Create a HDR image of the city by night.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to get the perfect exposure. This happens because some areas are too dark and some are too bright: there is a much too powerful contrast in your composition. But, there’s a solution for that too: create a HDR picture. In fact, I love this tip because it produces THE BEST cityscape night photography.

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Tip #7:

Focus on a subject to create a composition.
It’s nice to get a panoramic view of the city, but you don’t want it to be plain, right? All you have to do in order to create a composition that catches the eye is to figure out a point of view (extra tip: point of view mustn’t be necessarily with the horizon line at the eye level -> point the camera down or even up) from which you can focus on a certain element. By element I mean the following: a tower – a tall building, a bridge, an intersection, an u-turn, etc. And don’t forget to try a fish-eye perspective – it is well suitable for this kind of photography.


You might have noticed that I did not gave any exact numbers (for ISO, aperture and exposure time) in this article. It’s not because I can’t, but because there aren’t any clear rules that I can point and say: use that value! The lights of the city and the darkness of the night will always determine you to change the settings. I recommend that you experiment a lot. Set your camera on the tripod and take plenty of shots of the same scene using different values. There’s no pain in that. Night photography does require a little patience.

Out of the many things you can do as a photographer, you can choose to become a wedding photographer and have the advantage of only working a few months per year. The rest of months, you can do whatever you like or simply go with stock photography as a side-business.

So, if you are serious about this photography career, then I have found the right teaching material for you. Nick Stubbs is a professional wedding photographer since around 1980. But apart from that, he has a passion for teaching and love to see others succeed in this business and over the years.  For this purpose, he created Wedding Photography Blueprint.

I’m gona have to quote him: “It is great to watch my students go from absolute novice to running their own busy, successful photography business in just a couple of short years.”

Customers who already bought the series of 8 DVD’s of Wedding Photography Blueprint, have testified of having a build a successful business, with 12-15 weddings in the first year since taking the advises from Nick.

So here’s what Wedding Photography Blueprint is about:

DVD 1 – Classroom Sessions – Introduction, Equipment and Planning – 2 Hours
DVD 2 – Classroom Sessions – Shooting the Day, Image Review and Settings – 1h 35m
DVD 3 – Classroom Sessions – The Finer Details, Video, Lighting and Software – 1hr 50m
DVD 4 – Location Sessions – Stately Home, Bride Getting Ready – 1h 55m
DVD 5 – Location Sessions – Church, Hotel, Gardens, Beach and Grunge Location – 1h 54m
DVD 6 – Location Sessions – Reception Venue/Ballroom – 1h 55m
DVD 7 – Bonus DVD – Classroom for Business Training – 1hr 52m
DVD 8 – Bonus DVD – Interviews and eBooks

Below is a small sample I received from Nick so I can share with you and give an insight of what to expect.


Wedding Photography Blueprint also comes with a number of eBooks as a bonus. These will help you to get established as a professional photographer. Here are the titles of these eBooks:

  • The recently updated Wedding Photography Blueprint eBook
  • “How to Sell Stock Photos” – Learn to Create a Residual Income Selling Your Images
  • “The Business of Photography” – More Helpful Business Tips
  • “Introduction to Property Photography” – Add Another String to Your Business Bow
  • “Let Them Eat Cake” – A Short But Important eBook About Your Health and Well-Being

Click Here to buy this complete package if you want to be a professional wedding photographer!


photo critique

by Eric Cheung

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DSC_3181:Eric’s explanation: I focused on the timer, there’s a spectator standing on the left, the refee stood at the middle of the photo.
I just have to wait for a runner to pass the road sign and simply took the shot. I am very happy to see the runner was applauded by the spectator, that made the photo looks more lively.
My question is :  Anything I have missed?
DSC-3118: Eric’s explanation: In this photo, I tried to express a pliceman was monitoring the steam of runners. With a straight line on the left, and the policeman is standing still, this composition represented a sense of steady. On the other hand, the steam of runners was out of focus, that creates a soft flow.
My comments:

I like the composition of all these photos, the emotions and the motion captured, all except for one thing: image DSC_3113, the blurry runner. This runner does not balance the picture, but rather captures all the attention – and it is an unwanted attention because he is not in focus. The steady-motion balance is present by the simple fact that you have the police officer in the down-left part and the running crowd in the upper-right part.

Also, thinking about DSC_3113 & DSC-3118 together, I believe the idea of the police officer faceing the incoming crowd (3113) is better than facing the passing crowd (3118), given the angle of the person who looks at the photos and not the race itself. When we are on the field, we tend to see in 4D (4 Dimensions) and an 180 degrees eye-view, but in the pictures we take, we only got a 2D and a limited frame – this is why it’s so hard to determine the right angles all the time.

Eric’s explanation: In this photo, is it a mistake to put another runner on the right hand side? trying to keep the balance of the photo.
My comments:
I don’t think you missed anything in here.  It’s a good shot! You can, maybe, improve it by removing (in photoshop or some software) the orange cone in the down-left corner.