Taking High Quality Night Landscapes





Introduction: Taking High Quality Night Landscapes

About: Hi, my name is Ulrich Retief. I am currently a third year medical student at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Although I am very busy with my studies and extracurricular activities, I love ta...

Night landscapes can be some of the most beautiful things you have ever seen, unfortunately it is so easy for them to come out underexposed, blurry, shaky, grainy or just dead right useless.

I just want to start by saying that I am by no means a professional, just a very motivated amateur, and that I have no formal training. There are so many different ways of skinning a cat, and yes my method has some flaws, but you can look at the examples above and decide for yourself if you want to try my method. You can also just use it as a guide to develop your own style, that's what photography is all about, isn't it?

The way i use, is specifically to get a smooth image that isn't grainy at all, with good focus and vivid colours.

At the end i will give you my exact settings for each of the images above.

PS. the photos above are straight out of the camera with no post-editing at all.

Step 1: My Equipment

  1. Canon 700D (most cameras should be fine for this, as long as you can use a manual mode)
  2. Remote (to prevent any shaking of the camera, you can still get good results with a steady hand)
  3. Strong tripod (a flimsy tripod will not necessarily give a stable stand. If you don't have proper tripod, just look for the closest stable surface and make a plan)
  4. Imagination (c'mon, be creative!)

Step 2: Settings

This will explain why i use the settings i use and what each setting actually controls.

Here are the settings i focus on and what they influence:

  • ISO - Graininess
  • Aperture (F-stop) - Depth of the field of focus
  • Shutter speed - Brightness, exposure

(Both ISO and aperture play a HUGE role in the exposure of the photo, but the main aspects i use them for are what i put up there. I just use my shutter speed to compensate for under- or overexposure.)

What settings I use and why:

  • ISO - I try to keep my ISO as low as possible, because the higher you put the ISO, the grainier your photo will be. Depending on the type of photo i would like, I try not to go higher than 1600. The lower your ISO, the longer your your shutter will have to be open. So if you do not like the glare you get from lights on a long exposure, just lift your ISO and shorten your shutter time.)
  • Aperture - I make my aperture very small (so my f-stop has a larger number. The number given on your camera serves as a fraction, so f/5 is a much larger aperture than f/32). The smaller aperture lets in much less light, but it gives you greater depth of field to your focus. you will notice that the buildings is in focus in the foreground as well as the ship further in the background.
  • Shutter speed - I mostly use shutter speed to control the exposure. If the phoyo is to dark, i slow down my shutter speed (increase the time it stays open), if it is too bright i speed up my shutter speed (decrease the time it stays open). A slow shutter speed will also smooth out moving objects, like clouds or the water in the photo at the beach with the block rocks. I you want a sharper image, slow down your shutter speed and compensate with the other two settings.
  • PLAY AROUND! - As I said so many times, look at the result and adjust according to what you want. Play around with these settings and find your style!

Here follows my settings for each example picture:

Step 3: Harbour

  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: f/13
  • Exposure time (Shutter speed): 2 seconds

Step 4: Camp

  • ISO: 200
  • Aperture: f/10
  • Exposure time (Shutter speed): 15 seconds (another great part about long exposure times. There were actually people walking around, but because they did not stand still for long enough, they are not visible in the photo.

Step 5: River House

  • ISO: 400
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Exposure time (Shutter speed): 25 seconds

Step 6: Ocean Rocks

  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: f/16
  • Exposure time (Shutter speed): 20 seconds

Step 7: Enjoy and Strive to Brilliance!

Thank you so much for reading my instructable! I hope you could learn something, please do share your attempts and feel free give advice if you have any! looking forward to hear from all of you!

If you enjoyed this, please do vote and go checkout some of my other instructables!

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This is very cool! Does this method also work for capturing city nightscapes?

1 reply

Should not be a problem. You might want to push up your iso and bring down your exposure time though. If the shutter stays open for long, you get more glare from lights, by reducing the shutter speed, you reduce the glare. Good luck!

I've not got a DSLR yet, but I have a portable that's pretty much on par sensor wise with an older cannon 600D (I think). I didn't realise I could change the ISO for so long so I shot literally everything at 80 and just changed the F stop and the Exposure time. So I took some Night shots like that, most of the exposures were anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute but boy am I happy with the results.

This was taken around 1:30 am, I use a Panasonic DMC-LF1. It's a compact but I love it because I can do stuff like this on it.

Good instructable BTW now I'm done tooting my own horn.


For night shots you can also lock up your mirror prior to taking the shot.

Most digitals will allow this, it usually found in the cameras menu section. And it needs to be done for each shot you take.

This helps to eliminate camera shake if the mirror is locked up before the remote shutter is released.

This is an absolutely great Instructable! Like you, I'm self-taught and would consider myself nearly professional, but one thing that I've never been able to perfect is my night shots. Thanks again!

A very good, no-nonsense instructible. If you find yourself without a shutter remote then use the self-timer. Set it for a couple of seconds which is all it should normally take to stop the camera shaking once you have pressed the shutter release button.

1 reply

Thank you so much! This is really great advice!


I appreciate the 'non-scientific' explanation of what the settings control in your photo's. I am sure this will help people figure out how to make their pictures better, even if they aren't doing night photos. Thanks

Nice, I always wanted to know about night pictures. Now I do! Thanks

Nice work, Ulrich! What lenses do you work with?

1 reply

Thanks! These were all taken with a 18-55 lense.