One of the most difficult shooting situations for any photographer is the night time. This is a very challenging condition where camera settings, available lighting, extra lighting, shadows etc. would be making it very difficult for you to get a perfect click. However, if you are careful and use the peculiarities of the night to your advantage, you would be able to get a near perfect portrait with ease.
Here are some of the ways in which you will become a master of night time portraiture.
Plan in advance
Always make sure that you are planning your composition in advance. This will help you save a lot of time and frustration for you. Therefore, visit the place early on and check whether you have good conditions to work with or not. If not, then you should be making sure that you make arrangements in advance. Otherwise, you will be stuck in changing camera settings all the time. Arrive in advance. In fact, reach as early as possible and make sure that you spend a good amount of time in setting up the frame. Try to balance the natural light available to you with the floodlights and fill lights.
Shoot in RAW
Always make sure that you are shooting your pictures in the RAW format. In this way, you will be able to save as much information as possible. The best thing about shooting in RAW at night is that you will be getting ample flexibility to edit the picture and make it suit your needs as well.
Keep a tripod handy
Always make it a point to carry your tripod along with you. For night time portraits, you will likely be using slower shutter speeds. Therefore, keeping the camera steady becomes a basic necessity. Carrying a tripod, therefore, is a no brainer here. Try not to go for a handheld camera in any situation. Though you can always get Image Stabilization and Noise Reduction lenses for your camera, it is always better for you to go for the tripod as it helps you in getting naturally stable pictures.
Setting the camera
Now that the camera has been placed on the tripod, it is time to do the settings. You should be shooting ideally at a shutter speed of 1/10-1/30. The slow shutter speed will help you in capturing the best possible portrait. The ISO should always be set between 200 and 400. It will further help you in making sure that the images get ample exposure. Using flash is up to you. You should be making sure that the flash must not be very intense. Otherwise, there are hard shadows in the image. Instead of a single high intensity flash, use several low intensity flashes in order to capture the perfect shot. You should always be experimenting with the angles of the flash in order to get a good image. It would also be helpful in making an ordinary picture look fairly artistic in its appeal.
The shutter speed is crucial
The biggest mistake that most of the photographers make with their night time portraits is the shutter speed. Do not go for a shutter speed that revolves merely around one second. You should be clicking several pictures at different shutter speeds. Try one at 10 seconds, another at 15 and the last one at 20 seconds. It shall help you in getting the perfect shot so that your picture gets ample exposure. In case the shutter speed lingers around 15 seconds, you will be able to use the ISO of 100 which is a technical guarantee of a good quality night time portraiture. However, you should not stop here. Go to the shutter speed of 20 seconds and even 30 seconds. Bering in as much exposure as possible and you will get the perfect portrait in no time. In case you are capturing candid portraits in the night, you will have lesser control over the movements of the subject. In this case, you will have to depend upon a faster shutter speed.
Choose the right mode
Usually, you will use the Program Auto or P mode in order to shoot a portrait. However, you should be using the Night Portrait Mode for night portrait photography. The P mode usually makes the shutter speed go very fast because of which you will be getting very blurry results. The latter will give you slower shutter speed because of which the background will become very bright and the results will be better. You should use a tripod and try to keep the subject as still as possible. Never use this mode when it comes to candid portraits of moving subjects.
Avoid lens shadows
A problem that might occur while you are shooting is the lens shadow. Sometimes, a lens hood could easily be casting a shadow when you are using telephoto lens or zoom lens. This could be obstructing the light of the flash. Remove the lens hood and use a hot shoe flash as well. You should also make sure that you maintain a litter more distance from the subject so that you are able to avoid any shadows.
In the below photo the photographer Lindsay left the hood on when she had the lens at 28mm. Luckily she got a nice effect. But you should really need to be careful about this.
Red eye issue
This is also one of the most common problems that you will have to come through while shooting at night, especially when you are using flash. Whine the flash is directed straight to the subject, then you will be finding red eyes because of the reflection of the blood vessels in the eyes. In order to avoid this, make sure that you make the subject look away slightly exactly before the shutter is released.
These were some of the best ways in which you would be able to shoot some great portraits in the night. Remember, night time portraits work the best when they are taken at dusk. It helps you get more control on your pictures as well. So make sure that you are taking great portraits during the night and using light and darkness to your advantage instead of making it a handicap.