Night Portrait Photography

How to Shoot Night Portrait Photography

In Portrait Photography by Stefano CaioniLeave a Comment

Do you find night portrait photography to be incredibly challenging?

Low light photography is a challenge to photographers of all kinds. High noise, blurry shots, and inadequate lighting form the major issues that have plagued photographers for decades.

night portrait photography

This article will talk about some tips you can follow to take your night portrait photography to the next level!

Related: The Best Lens For Portraits

What Gear to Use for Night Portrait Photography

night portrait photography

Night Portrait Photography Camera

The most important feature of your camera must be good low light performance. Although sensor size and auto focus capabilities do matter, low light performance is key.

The camera must have lower noise levels even at higher ISO settings. A sensitive sensor is important to capture as many details as possible in low light conditions.

night portrait photography

A higher megapixel count does make a difference, and can pick out more details. Post-processing becomes easier in such cases. Of course, the downfall is that higher MP means bigger file sizes, which in turn means you need larger SD cards.

Night Portrait Photography Lenses

The lens is the other crucial element in night time photography. Ideally, you must look for lenses with an f/stop that is 2.8 or lower. The lens also requires a wide aperture in order to have enough exposure. In low light conditions, exposure is critical, to allow for the maximum amount of light into the camera.

Related: The Best Lens For Portraits

night portrait photography

Additionally, the wide aperture allows for a shallower depth of field. Nighttime lighting can allow for some beautiful bokeh effects, which are easier to capture with wider apertures.

As you would expect, the more expensive ART, prime and luxury glass lenses offer superior quality. Prime lenses are the fastest and most reliable and are ideal for night time shots.

Fixed lenses are better, since they offer sharper images. Of course, the downside of having to psychically move to get closer to subjects is something you must consider.

Related: The Best Lens For Portraits

Other Equipment

As you would expect, carry a few strobes or flashlights to light up your subject in absolutely dark conditions. You’ll have to find light sources that are battery powered. Having a tripod with you is also great, and can help you capture sharp photos.

Camera Settings for Night Portrait Photography

girl portrait

Set to Av Mode

Shooting in aperture priority or Av mode is a must. You must also use the widest aperture possible on your camera. Narrow apertures increase the exposure time and consequently the shutter speed. This increases the chance of blurry shots. If you are using narrower apertures in low light, make sure to use a tripod.

Increase ISO

If you aren’t using a tripod, increase the ISO until you don’t get blurry shots. The rule of thumb with handheld photography is that the shutter speed must be the reciprocal of the focal length. Just ensure that you set the ISO manually, and don’t use auto ISO.

How to Light Your Subject (don’t overexpose)

Lighting the subject is tricky with night time portraits. You can either use then natural light that is available, or you can use artificial lights. both have their pros and cons.

low light photo

Using available light is what you must expect in the worst case. Always take some lighting gear along with you just in case. You must ensure that your lights are all battery operated since you cannot expect to have outlets during outdoor portraits.

One of the biggest mistakes that photographers do is overexposing their photos by using too much light. This makes the shots look washed out and uninteresting. The great part of night portraits is the element of mystery. You must capitalize on it. If you use a flashlight or a strobe to get the focus right, remember to remove it before taking your shot. This avoids the problem of overexposed photos.

Background Tips for Night Portrait Photography

night portrait photography

Taking the Shot

You must first decide how much of the shot you want in focus. Using wide apertures will cause the background to go out of focus. You need to have a low ISO, such as between 400 and 800. Also, you can use low power flash at a 1/16 or 1/32 setting. Test the shot out. If your subject is too illuminated, turn it down, and if they’re not easily seen, turn it up. Lower the shutter speed to see a little more of the background. When you’re happy with the dark background and how it looks, you are ready to take photos.

Background Ideas

Your background can be a street, a bridge, or even an interesting looking building. Try to look for a place with a lot of lights. Decorative and neon lights are great for night portraits and give a unique touch to your photograph. This allows you to use a shallow depth of field for some incredible out of focus portraits.

Eliminate Digital Noise While Post-Processing

Even with the best equipment and techniques, you will find that some noise will invariably make its way into your nighttime portrait shots. Post-processing can really help out in this regard.

A lot of noise may actually add to your photo and make it look good. A reasonable amount, however, is something you must eliminate.

Making your photo monochrome can give it a wonderful film-like grain element. The prominent noise highlights the scene and gives the photo character.

Here are the steps to eliminate noise in two popular photo editing tools.

Adobe Lightroom

Step 1: Import the photo into Lightroom.|
Step 2: Click on ‘Develop’ on the upper right corner to bring up the Develop module.
Step 3: On the panel to the right, look for one named Details. Inside, you can find several sliders to reduce the noise. Adjust them until you are happy with the result. Use the Clarity and Sharpness sliders in particular to improve the quality of your image.
Step 4: Export the photo

night portrait photography

Adobe Photoshop

Step 1: Open the image using Photoshop.
Step 2: Go to the upper right side of the screen and select Filter. Then choose Noise and Reduce Noise. you can turn this is into a Photoshop Action to bring this up quickly.
Step 3: Use the various sliders to obtain the desired effect
Step 4: When you are happy with the result, save the image.

Summing Up

Now that you have a fairly good understanding of night time portrait photography, give these tips and methods a try! The only way you can get better with night time portraits is to just go out there, and keep trying until you’ve figured out what works best for you!

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