Street Photography at night: Challenges and ways to overcome

Namrata Kumari

Story By: Writer, Blogger

"There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded. "

- Mark Twain


  • What is street photography?


What is street photography?


Street photography is a wonderful way to capture moments – people going about their everyday life. It documents regular life on the streets – be it bustling bazaars or tree-lined avenues, crowded marketplaces, or vacant thoroughfares.


Typically, street photography is candid and spontaneous. It often captures a private moment of a person in the street, bringing to life the emotion and character. You need to seize that ‘decisive moment’ to shoot your picture. While street photography is most often about people and lives, urban landscapes are yet another aspect of street photography that offers plenty of creative freedom.


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  • Night street photography


Night street photography


With night street photography, ensure that you have the light element; urban lights, moonlight, or store lights. You can build your night photograph compositions around the play of lights. The quiet of the night can be captured with your lens. The bustle of night street food markets and party hubs offer great opportunities.


  • Challenges faced by Night Street Photographers


Challenges faced by Night Street Photographers


You need to work with typical night street lights; street vendor’s stall or street lamps. Work your position to make the best use of available light. Night street photography with flash is tricky. Perhaps you can use off-camera flash. Else the flash breaks the spontaneous moments and creates an unnatural glare. Safety of self and equipment is challenging when going out alone for night street photography. Dark alleys can put you at risk for theft as your concentration will be on capturing the images.


  • Lack of Focus


Lack of Focus


Street photography is always best done on handheld cameras as you can spontaneously capture as you walk along. But if you are looking to capture busy locations with plenty of people moving about, you may end up with a lack of focus. You can then opt for a tripod and work with slower shutter speeds. Capture plenty of pictures.


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  • ISO Noise in picture


ISO Noise in picture


High ISO is required when photographing in low light. But the ensuing digital noise is the fallout. With a noise reduction program, you can remove or reduce the ISO noise. Some software options to reduce image noise are Adobe Lightroom, Topaz DeNoise Al, Noise Ninja, and Adobe Camera RAW.


Another way to tackle the noise is to reduce the ISO. This can be done in areas where there is better lighting. With increased ISO, you may end up with grainy photographs but they have an appeal too.


  • Shakes causing the image to blur


Shakes causing the image to blur


Do not opt for a telephoto lens for street photography. Being inconspicuous in the crowd is vital to street photography so that you can blend with the surroundings and capture candid moments. Instead, a compact camera is a better choice. To reduce the chances of blur during street photography, opt for a wider aperture, and increase the ISO.


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  • Essential tips for night street photography and ways to overcome the above challenges


Essential tips for night street photography


Dress appropriately for the weather and location. Night street photography tips include wearing comfortable shoes and low-key clothing that doesn’t want to draw unwanted attention. Bokeh technique of night photography leaves a blurring effect – either of the foreground or background. With a larger aperture, you can accentuate the subject to create a powerful picture. You can work with rain-soaked streets or neon-lit avenues.


  • Settings for night street photography


Settings for night street photography


Choose a camera body that works well at high ISO so that your pictures are not left with digital noise. Adjust the aperture to suit the available light. If there is sufficient light, you can opt for an aperture of f2.8. To freeze a street action, the shutter speed must be fast enough to avoid camera shake.


Using a prime lens works best for street photography. With focal length in the range of 24mm – 50mm, you can capture intimate pictures. Move the camera to the AV (aperture-priority) mode so that you can select the ISO manually.


In this way, the exposure is decided by the camera and you can focus on the subject. Typically, an ISO of about 3200 works well though you can push the limits at around 6400 too. You can opt for a deliberate blurry effect by using ½ or 1/8 second.


  • Conclusion


Dark streets work well for silhouettes and outlines. The interplay between light and shadow and darkness is what makes it so exciting and challenging for night street photographers. Be it capturing the throbbing pulse of the daytime activity or the quiet intensity of empty streets, night photography is a genre that offers exciting creative night street photography settings.


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Namrata Kumari

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