5 steps to set up a nightshoot

Nightshooting is quite popular lately, but it is not easy to set up a shoot!
So here are 5 steps to set up your shoot.

Step 1: Find a subject

Sounds pretty simple huh? Not so much. Remember the last time you were close to a plane at night? Might have been a long time ago and there’s a reason for that. There aren’t many occasions for nightshooting. Lets have a look at a couple of occasions that might occur. The most simple one is to know a pilot who is willing to take out his plane during nighttime. You just open the hangar, push the plane out and have a go at it. But you probably don’t know that many pilots and not everyone wants to be out late pushing out airplanes…

Another possibility are the organized nightshoots. Several museums, airshows, or airfields organize nightshoot events. This is probably your best shot at doing a nightshoot. The advantages are that you don’t have to worry about anything. You just have to get out your camera and start shooting. The disadvantages are that you can’t change anything. The lights can be to bright or not bright enough; the planes might not be positioned very well; etc. Another disadvantage is that you might be there with a lot of photographers which might make it difficult to make your perfect shot.

Step 2: Find a location

If you’re at an organized nightshoot you can skip this step, as well as the next one. If you’re setting up your own nightshoot you might want to find a good location. Some possible locations are a runway, in front of hangar or in front of trees. Try to avoid a dark or a cluttered background.

This is an example of a cluttered background. The fence and flagpole take the attention away of the plane.
This is an example of a cluttered background. The fence and flagpole take the attention away of the plane.

step 3: Find a good light source

Again, this step is only for those who put up their own nightshoot. Finding a good light source is crucial! You can use giant spots which are to bright or try to use one flash. None of that really works. What I have experienced is that 2 light sources are ideal. Each lighting up one side of the plane. Of course sometimes you don’t have any real light sources. In that case you can use your car lights. They come in quite handy as you can select their stand. You can aim them to the ground or higher up. Another extra light source are the lights of the plane. If the pilot is around you can ask him to turn on the those.

Step 4: Put your camera on a tripod

Sounds pretty straightforward but I’ve seen people try to shoot handheld. This might work if you turn the iso up, but keep it simple and put your camera on a tripod.

Step 5: Choose the right settings 

Here’s the real tricky part about nightshoots. I will talk about my own experiences here and how I do this.

When you use a tripod you might want to set a timer. This way you prevent blurry pictures from the vibrations from pushing the button. As you’re shooting in darkness you might want to go for a long exposure, hence the tripod. The longer your exposure the brighter your picture will be so you can set your iso quite low. Your aperture can be set low so more light falls into the camera. Take a look at these pictures to see the settings I used. They are all made at iso 100 and shutterspeeds from a couple of seconds. The apertures range from F7.1 to F14. Your aperture is up to you. If you’re working with a tripod you can use a shutterspeed of minutes so if you wish to use F22 that’s your choice.

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