Shooting film at night can be incredibly intimidating, and to be honest, I didn’t even think it was possible to do without a tripod.
But with these five tips you can find success capturing lights and action at night on film.
1. Shoot at Your Lowest Settings
When I go out to shoot at night, regardless of the film I have loaded, I shoot manually at the lowest settings I can use with my camera and lens.
I bump my f-stop to its lowest setting and my shutter speed to the lowest level I’m comfortable at for hand holding (usually 1/60, but I’ve even gone to 1/30!).
I do not meter and simply shoot at this level the entire time.
When shooting directly into lights, such as bright lights of Las Vegas, it can throw your internal camera meter off, thinking there’s enough light. Don’t be fooled! There usually is not enough light, so stick to the lowest settings you can use.
Shooting multiple exposures is a great way to give a frame more light. You’re exposing the frame twice (or more!), helping to give the film as much light as possible, which is key for night photography.
One of my favorite ways to do a night time double is to capture the first exposure of the image in focus and then capture the second exposure of the frame completely out of focus.
The effect is a dream-like look, that brings the lights to life.
5. Push in Development
Anytime I shoot at night, I have my lab push my film either one or two stops in development.
This will not correct any underexposure issues, as, at the end of the day, film needs light, but it will help with contrast to make the lights pop and give more vibrancy.
Hopefully, these tips can help give you the confidence to go out and capture some nightlife either where you live or when traveling.
Getting night shots of some of your favorite local neon signs or the lights of a big city you’re visiting can be a great way to change up how you’re documenting.
In the end, it’s all about trying something new and seeing how you can expand your shooting skills.
And don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the results you’re wanting on the first try. Trust me, I’ve had many “failed” shots as I’ve tried my hand at night shooting, but really it’s never a true failure because each time I’ve learned from it and have taken that knowledge into my next attempt.
So go out and shoot! But even more, have fun with it!