How to Improve Your Night and Long Exposure Photography

Who doesn’t love great long exposure night photography? I can speak for myself, I love looking at it and I love making it happen. There’s an unexplainable joy that comes from creative night photography. I have been teaching New Orleans longest running Night Photography course called NOLA @ Night since 2002 and each outing reveals something totally different and exciting. Why do you think I still teach it!? 

want to join our next night photography workshop? Click below!

NOLA @ Night Photography Workshop French Quarter and City Park Fall

This hands-on photography workshop is the only class you will need to learn the ropes shooting the beautiful soft light of a Crescent City summer night! Long time New Orleans photographer and instructor Zack Smith will teach you how to get the most out of your camera wether you are a beginner or are an advanced shooter looking to gain more knowledge.


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Night people…hanging out, looking at each other, waiting for something to happen..”

— Allen Toussaint “Night People”

From the multicolor subtleties that exist in the dying of the light, to the glow of civil twilight I am perplexed and in awe at each sunset. As the city lights fight off the day you can see there’s a new sheriff in town as the hum of the human night sky wins over the glow of twilight.

Tips for Getting the Best Exposure at Night on Your Digital Cameras

Go HERE to learn some initial pointers for shooting at Night in How To Tuesday #8….

1. Location Scouting Beforehand – All of my best night photography is planned. I rarely walk around with all of my gear “hoping” to find a good composition. Over the years I have taken the time to find the best places to shoot at night because there are so many factors that play into a good night photography. Background, light, location of the sunset, location of streetlights and much more. These factors will play into your shots later one when the sun sets, and knowing where they are before can help speed the process of location selections.

+ Pick Your Location/Subject

+ If you want BLUE/dark behind your subject at Twilight, then your back must be to the setting sun. If you want more REDS/yellow, then your subject should be west facing

+ Spot our your street lights and lamp posts. These will NOT be on during the day, but at night they could take over your shot and cause lens flare (SEE HTT#8)

2. Using Speed Lights – I like to think of long exposure photography as making a mini-movie with a still shot. You have thirty seconds to multiple minutes to create, carve, and cast your light and shadows around a single. No matter what you do sometimes, you have compositions with varying degrees of Exposure Values, meaning: there are some areas that receive too much light and some that don’t get enough. You can combat this by using a hand held flash (even battery powered studio strobes!) to illuminate the shadow areas. Try this a few times by setting your camera on it’s self timer to give you time to walk to the shadow area.

3. Bring a Friend and have an Adventure – the best thing about photographing at night is that no two nights are the same. The sun will set differently, the trees and the city will respond in a way you never imagined. This is a good opportunity to bring a fellow photographer with you to be your second shooter, lighting guru, or just to have someone to enjoy the journey. As always, be aware of your surroundings at all times: watch for cars at night and don’t venture off to areas you are not 100% familiar with. When you are constantly behind the camera, your wits aren’t exactly in the right place – bring a friend!

I hope this blog post gets you excited and interested in taking my NOLA @ Night French Quarter and City Park Workshop! Click the link to learn more!

 Photo by Elodie Chaubert NOLA @ Night participant

Photo by Elodie Chaubert NOLA @ Night participant

 Photo by Bryce El - NOLA @ Night participant

Photo by Bryce El – NOLA @ Night participant

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