Long Exposure Night Photography

When I first started out in photography, I was just happy snapping my home city of London like your average tourist. However,  a sunset photo of the London Eye proved to be the turning point in my photography outlook. From that point onwards, I knew what kind of photography was for me: long exposure night photography. What strikes me most about night photography is how different and beautiful a city can look during dark hours. This is why I originally chose this particular niche over regular daylight shoots.

Nightscape Photography

As illustrated in the accompanying images, this type of photography takes bags of patience. It can also require some very late nights depending on the time of the year and sunsets.

Long exposure night photography of the O2 Arena from across the Thames River

O2 Arena

This photograph was taken in January at 12.51 am! The moon was almost full and the sky was clear. Upon arriving on location, I was surprised to find the lights of the arena still on at such a late hour. (Only for them to be extinguished just 9 minutes after this photograph was taken). This was a perfect night for photography. There was no wind and it was long after the disco riverboats had retired. As a result, the surface of the Thames was like a glass mirror.

A nightscape of the Millennium Bridge with Saint Paul's Cathedral in the background

Millennium Bridge

On the night that I photographed the Millennium Bridge, the sky was filled with some amazing clouds. The remains of a rainstorm earlier in the evening. This particular shot was taken at 7 minutes to midnight. As there were still people walking across the bridge, I had to bide my time. Waiting for a pedestrian-induced vibration-free opportunity in order to get the shot I wanted.

Night Photography of Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

It was a warm summer’s evening in August when I took a trip up to Battersea. I had photographed the power station numerous times. But this occasion was to be different as it was the venue for the Red Bull X-Fighters freestyle motocross final. It was still daylight as I arrived. So I picked my spot, just up from the railway bridge, and waited for the night to fall. Boy, was it worth it! Powerful spotlights illuminated the night sky, simulating an explosion from the very centre of the power station itself.

Night City Photography

The success of night city photography requires a similar set of circumstances to that of a daytime landscape shoot. Location is key, as is getting the correct angle. Favourable weather and cloud conditions can all contribute to getting that perfect shot. I will often scout new locations during the day in order to get the lay of the land during daylight. I will also re-shoot the same locations throughout the year. This is in order to capture the transformation of mood and atmosphere with the change in seasons.

Long exposure night photography of the O2 Arena with Canary Wharf in the background

Tips for Night Photography

My method of long exposure night photography differs from that of other photographers. Many of their images, in my own opinion, are too dark! Maybe this is because they want to convey the fact that it was taken at night. I personally prefer to slightly overexpose the unimportant building lights. This is in order to capture as much detail as possible in the rest of the image. Having the shutter open for long periods of time obviously creates more noise in the image.

But by shooting dark, you will only increase the amount of noise in the image when correcting the exposure in post-production. With that said, I don’t overexpose or blow out any important parts of a subject unless I am absolutely sure it can be recovered. Here is an example of where I’ve clipped but fully recovered the top lights of the London Shard.

The Shard - A comparison between an original and corrected image

To summarise, night photography is something that not everybody is willing to try due to its more challenging nature. But don’t let this deter you. Give it a go! You may discover, as I did, that it is just the challenge you were looking for.

A self-taught enthusiast photographer from London, I credit my passion for photography to my late father. As a film photographer with a home darkroom, he was always trying to persuade me to buy a camera from an early age. After a short music career, I wanted a new challenge and I eventually gave in to my father's persuasions, purchasing a Nikon 995 swivel camera.

You may also like

Work-Life Balance as a Landscape Photographer

Landscape Photography Planning for the Opportunist

Leave a Reply
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!