Many newbie  photographers lack confidence when taking pictures at night. It seems like a daunting task to figure out how to set the camera to get a razor sharp photo. Actually, night photography is easy once you get the hang of it. An easy thing to do when starting out taking night pictures is to go find a fountain that is lit at night. It is fun to practice photographing a fountain because if you shoot longer exposures, you will notice the water looks smoother. If you do shorter exposures, the water will look more defined. So what do you need to get started?

Here is a list of gear that will help you get a clear, sharp image:

1. You need a sturdy tripod.

One of my friends who is a photography teacher told me that “the heavier the tripod, the better.” I agree with him.  If you get serious about photography, you will want a tripod that is a bit heavier so you tripod stays still, even if the wind is blowing. When doing night photography you exposures will be longer. You don’t want your camera to shake at all when you take a picture…because if it does,  the image will be blurry. I started out with a cheap tripod, and it wasn’t very heavy. I knew weight was important, so I made sure and bought a tripod that had a hook under it. Then I could hook my camera bag at the bottom of the tripod to make it heavier. That can work for you if you are not ready to spend a lot of money for a higher quality tripod, such as a  Manfrotto tripod with a ball head.

2. Most photographers will recommend you get a remote release.

If you plan on doing a lot of night photography, this is a good idea. If you are just occasionally shoot night photos (such as a fountain or a street scene), I probably wouldn’t bother buying one. I will tell you in a minute how to get around purchasing a remote release.

First of all, I want to tell you everything I know about remote releases.  I didn’t know the following information until I started getting a little experience with using them:

  • You can lose it just like a remote control to a TV. I had plenty of times where I was digging around, hunting for the remote release. So, in my camera bag I decided to have a special pocket for it, because I was tired of spending time always hunting for it. I had a Canon, cordless remote release at the time. That little remote was also very difficult to try to open to change the battery. I wouldn’t recommend buying a Canon release unless you go to the camera store and find a Canon release that is easy to open.
  •  If you leave the battery in it, the battery will drain (just like a watch battery) and you may have to drive to the store to buy a new battery before your next photo shoot. I found that to be a bit of a hassle. So, make sure and take the battery out of your release when you get done using it. I usually just slip my battery into a little envelope and keep it in the same pocket with the release.
  •  Just a side note, if you decide you really love night photography and start to photograph star trails, you will want to buy a remote release that has a timer on it. I recently purchased shutter release that has a cable. You plug it in, set it and you are ready to shoot. If you decide to buy one, make sure you read the specifications and order a release that works with your specific camera model. I use the “Aputure timer remote control shutter cable” that I purchased for around $40 on Amazon.


You can avoid the hassle of a remote release if you just use the self timer on your camera. If you have a Canon camera, you can set the self timer to two seconds. The self-timer is easy to set, and you can avoid the hassle of dealing with keeping track of an extra piece of gear. I use my self timer probably 95% of the time if I am photographing a city street scene or a fountain at night.

3. You need a DSLR so you can set your camera mode on manual. 

For night shots, I typically keep my ISO setting to 100. The lower your ISO, the more likely you are to have less noise or digital grain in your images. For shooting a fountain at night, I often set my camera to F/8 and set the shutter speed to one second. If you set your shutter speed longer, the water will look even more smooth. The beauty of owning a digital camera is you can shoot lots of pictures if you are unsure exactly how to set your camera, and it really doesn’t cost you anything. Feel free to experiment. If your picture looks too dark, add another second to your setting and see if the picture looks perfect.

Here are examples of the fountain at the Heartland of America Park in Omaha, Nebraska. 

The metadata is included under the photo.

heartland-of-america-fountain-andrea-kelley (1)

ISO 100, F8, TV 1.3


ISO 100, F8, TV 1 second

Andrea Kelley
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Andrea Kelley

Andrea is the founder of and
Her goal is to help people improve their photography and marketing skills. To learn more about her, connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Andrea Kelley
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