Shooting Night Photography in Black and White
When it comes to shooting black and white, there are many aspects of photography that might change and which you need to be careful of. This might become an even bigger problem for night photography, as there are so many things to be mindful of in order to produce a good shot. Here are a few tips to help you along:
Seeing in black and white
Our eyes see differently at night, being able to see less color with a heightened sensitivity to blue light. However, this is not how the camera sees in B&W and this may cause confusions. It is important to remember that a beautiful blue light will not show up in B&W, and to train your eyes to only seek out different tones, shapes and the contrast being formed in the scene.
For successful photos without flash in low light, you have to learn how to do long exposures. You would usually need a shutter speed as slow as 20-30 seconds, and even slower in certain cases. Most cameras today have the slowest speed of 30 s, but come with a Bulb mode where you can keep the shutter open for as long as desired.
Reducing camera shake
With such low shutter speeds, there is bound to be a lot of camera shake if you take handheld photos, so a tripod is a must to get clear and sharp photos. Also, for bulb mode, you might want to get a cable release so you don’t have to stand holding the shutter button and risk camera shake.
Framing the shot
Focusing can be a hassle in low light, and it is also difficult to see the composition through the viewfinder, so you may want to bring a flashlight with you to frame your shot. As always, look for a scene with the most interesting contrast, shadows, and tones and don’t be distracted by color. Architectural shots, street scenes, and cityscapes come out best in B&W at night.
It is difficult to decide your exposure settings with night photography, especially in Bulb mode when the meter is not very handy. It is advised to keep a low ISO (200 or 400 at most) and the fastest possible shutter speed to keep noise to the minimum, so try to keep the widest aperture and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. If you get under or overexposed photos in the beginning, try to use the histogram to check and adjust the exposure, as the LCD can be deceiving at night. The histogram should be center-weighted or evenly distributed for the perfect exposure.
As we have discussed in an earlier post, always shoot in RAW and then convert to B&W during post-production in order to preserve quality and tonal range. The rest will be a matter of trial and error and lots of practice, but these few tips will get you started on your way to amazing B&W night photography.