Street photography largely depends on available lights – you can’t add light sources and you’ll struggle to find quality light where you want to shoot in the street in the night. During day time, such issues are not there, because there’s light everywhere and you can continue to shoot in the street wherever you get right composition.
Does it mean, street photographers should go home, relax, grab a beer and focus only on editing photos? IMHO, No!
There’s a lot you can do to pursue your night time street photography. If there’s a life in the street during night, it’s worth documenting it. So, how would you take this challenge? Let me help you with that.
Identify the source of light
Find a source of light – a street light, light coming out from a store, light of a vehicle and, many more such light sources are available. Spot it and compose your image. In fact, night photography can look dramatic if you play well with light and darkness.
Get a gear to handle low light photography
A point-and-shoot camera, a smartphone or a starting level DSLRs won’t be able to get you good results in low light photographs. Images would look noisy. Well, you can handle the noise in editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop, which we’ll discuss soon, but why not try to get quality picture in-camera. An editing software also won’t help you with too much noise in the photo. If possible, get a full-frame, intermediate level gear. If you don’t have one, sweat not! Don’t make photography passion slave of the gear acquisition. If you find a story, frame it with whatever photo capturing tool you’ve in your hand.
Camera setting for low light photography
If you’ve reduced shutter speed to the extent that going below that speed will get you motion blur; you’ve also adjusted you aperture to get right depth of field – only setting you’re left with is cranking-up the ISO. If there’s a need to go up on ISO go upto 16000 or so, do that. A quality DSLR would handle the low light and deliver you less grainy picture. Like I said, if you’ve got the story worth sharing, don’t mind a grainy picture.
Where would you go for night time street photography?
There are few locations which will get to good amount of light and a quality photo. For example, a public event, festival, wedding etc. These places are well lit to help you get good pictures. Apart from events, you can go to places where street lights are prominent, or the light are prominent out from the store.
Low light photos need specific editing
Apart from your regular editing of a photo (like, exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows), you need to handle noise and color casted by light on the subject. Lightroom does great job to handle the noise. Street lights are of various tone and colors. Handle specific color to correct the skin tone, if there’s a person in the picture. When there’s a trade-off between sharpness and noise, I favor to remove noise at the cost of dropping sharpness. Because sharper images will have prominent noise – so trade-off between crisp and grainy photo. Well, it would need a full blog to help with the editing – I’m just trying to make you aware what exactly you would need to correct in post-processing for night time photos.
While the post is largely covering headlines of how exactly you can pursue documenting street life during night, you can research further on each of these items to stay ready before you hit the street. Let me know your thoughts and stay connected to exchange out photography notes.