Product Reviews

Thanks Jennifer. We are looking forward to working with you. We will be in touch

Your account has been created

Tips: How to shoot super night photos

Consumer Reports News: March 22, 2011 10:54 AM

Find Ratings

This past weekend, many websites ran stories about how brilliant the moon was on Saturday night. The reason: The full moon was closer to the earth than it had been in more than 18 years, which is why people were calling it a "supermoon."

Inspired by the news, I tried capturing some nighttime photos and video and had mixed results. Here are some hands-on tips (or, in some cases, mistakes to learn from) on how to take nighttime shots, even if the moon is just a "regular" moon.

Bring an advanced camera and the right accessories. Taking photos at night means you'll be shooting in dim light. This probably means switching your camera into manual mode, which you can do with almost any advanced camera, including an SLR or SLR-like. I used the Nikon D7000, which has many manual settings and a larger sensor than a point-and-shoot for better results in low light.

Supermoon 2.jpg

You'll also need a tripod, because you'll be using extremely slow shutter speeds. For my photos, I set my camera at 10- to 30-second shutter speeds. You simply can't hand-hold a camera very still for that long. But on Saturday, I forgot to bring my tripod. So I rigged one by turning a garbage can upside-down and placing the SLR on top.

Here's another tip: Before I started shooting, I set the camera on self-timer mode: This let the camera fire itself, preventing any shake that could introduce blur.

ISOs, metering and other camera settings. I also increased the ISO setting on some exposures, in some cases to as high as ISO 6400. But when I went too high, the visual noise became too great. Noise was particularly noticeable in some video clips, because I had set the D7000 to the very highest ISO setting (High 02).

In truth, I wasn't sure which aperture would produce the sharpest photos, so I experimented. I figured a low f/stop (f/3.5) on the 18-105mm lens might allow more light in, but a high f/stop (f/16) might produce sharper shots for all subjects, since the depth of field would be greater. So I varied the f/stop.

One thing I was sure of: I set the f/stop at f/16 when I shot the moon by itself, since I was following the Sunny f/16 rule and wanted to capture some of the moon's details. I might have achieved better results if I had switched the camera's metering from matrix to spot, since I focused only on one point in the sky.

Besides JPEG, I also shot RAW images, since I figured I could better control some of the details in the shadows when editing them in my computer. But I was unable to open the RAW files in Photoshop, because I didn't have the latest Camera Raw Plug-in. So, I settled for image-editing the JPEGs.

Other things to remember. When you shoot night photos, choose a location where there aren't a lot of street lights or buildings around. I was in a large yard in a very rural area, which let me move around to get a better shot. You could also try a local soccer or football field.

Be sure to dress warmly when you're going out to shoot at night. Saturday was a warm day, so I had only a light jacket on. But at night, it dropped as low as 35 degrees. And because I was out there for more than a couple of hours, I became very uncomfortable.

If you're interested in night-time shooting, take a look on the Web for helpful techniques to get you started, such as the New York Institute of Photography's website, Cambridge in Colour's site, and Popular Photography's site.--Terry Sullivan

Find Ratings

Digital Cameras Ratings

View and compare all Digital Cameras ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Electronics News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more