After Dark - tyneholm
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After Dark

After Dark

Assignment S05

Some of your best street photography can be done during the hours of darkness and you should aim to complete at least one night shooting assignment. Set yourself a theme and shoot a series of nine images based on a specific area or type of person (taxi drivers, club doormen, or late night revellers for example), or something else, such as neon lights, shop windows, reflections, car lights, bars, restaurants – there’s plenty of material to explore.

Because you’ll be shooting in the dark you will need a very high ISO setting, so there will inevitably be more noise or grain, and your aperture will be pretty wide, so don’t expect much in the way of depth-of-field. It can be a good idea to avoid flash, as this can lead to confrontation. You want to be as discrete as possible.

Technique

  • Find a good light source, such as the pool of light below a street lamp or the light coming out of a window and then wait for suitable subjects.
  • Focus manually or use zone focusing (or snap focus). In most situations AF isn’t quite good enough and can be too slow.
  • Be prepared to shoot at a high ISO setting; don’t be afraid to go to ISO 3200 or even ISO 6400.
  • Use a wide aperture setting to create stunning effects by throwing background lights out of focus.

Field Notes

  • Wear dark clothes and stay in the shadows so you are as invisible as possible. If people see what you are up to their behaviour will change, potentially spoiling the shot you had lined up.
  • Always be mindful of your personal safety and the security of your gear. Travel light only taking with you what you will need; a small compact camera with one lens will be fine – you don’t need a bag full of bodies and lenses.
  • Night shots should be dark, so if you’re relying on your camera’s lightmeter be prepared to use exposure compensation to darken things down.
  • Try shooting in the rain: colourful lights on wet roads and pavements can be striking.
  • Another way to approach this subject is to shoot the same scene (a busy corner or crossroads is great for this) at regular intervals over a 24-hour period, showing how different the world can be as the light changes.
  • Look through the windows of pubs and bars and if you see an interesting scene, walk in and grab a quick shot.