Skip to Content

Night street photography

Night street photography

Doing street photography at night can be rewarding regarding the compelling images you can take nighttime. You can come back home with many exciting street photographs, but photographing at night isn’t that easy, especially when it comes to night street photography. While doing street photography, you try to capture candid pictures of strangers without interfering with them.

In low-light conditions, your subject is not posing and may be moving fast, making taking night images even more difficult.

During the night, the city sparkles and comes alive. However, the light conditions are entirely different from daylight, and capturing images is tricky because of the low light condition you may find out there.
Neither the golden hour nor the blue hour can compete with the fantastic mood you can capture doing street photography during nighttime.

What change at night is not about composition (the rule of thirds works perfectly also during nighttime); it is about the different kinds of people you find in the street and the different light you will find out there at night.

People dress differently to go out at night. Another difference between daylight street photography and night street photography is that there are fewer people to photograph at night, which means less opportunity. The main difference between daylight and night street photography is that the light is entirely different, as you will find only artificial light sources at night.

Because of this severe lack of light, the images you can capture while doing night street photography are unique for the interesting mood they can have.

Try to be also a night street photographer

For many photographers doing night street photography is like kryptonite. After reading this article, I hope you will find night street photography easier and you can enjoy it thoroughly.

If you can take night street photos, you will have more opportunities to practice your passion for street photography every time you want, night and day, depending on your free time, without being scared by low-light conditions.

Capturing street photos during the night can make you completely rethink how you do street photography, changing how you compose your images and use your camera.
There are a lot of new skills you can improve through night street photography.

The light making night street photography

A photographer can’t take photos without light. Photography means literally “writing with light.” Night street photography is the same, requiring light to capture compelling street photographs.
So when darkness falls upon the city, you should stick where the light is to find the best opportunities. Look for street lights, shops, neon lights, and so on. You can attach yourself to the light as you find an attractive spot for your street photos and wait for an exciting subject to walk close to the light source.

In fact, the most important rule you will probably hear about when it comes to night street photography is to follow the light. In fact, during the night, the light will be the main determining factor about where you can or can not take photographs. You can use light in different ways.

You can shoot into the light, for example, taking photos inside the buildings producing the light.

There are two other ways: spotlight or backlight for your subject. These are the two most common ways to use the light while doing night street photography, capturing people that walk through an illuminating light. Changing the angle you are shooting from and using the light as a backlight for the people walking in front of it, you are creating a more abstract image because the person will look like a silhouette rather than a well-lit and detailed person.

Finally, you will find that light during the night may act in bizarre ways, and you can really take advantage of reflections to take compelling images.

Gear to make night street photography

Many photographers think you need particular gear to do street photography at night. Maybe a full-frame camera or a camera with high-Iso performances, or a lens that can open up really wide.
These qualities are not needed to capture compelling street photos, and they can just help to improve your experience of shooting street photography at night.

For example, I usually take street photos at night with the X100V, which is not a camera with the best low light performance (for example, there is no ibis: the in-body image stabilization). And it is also a crop-sensor camera with a fixed lens that opens up at maximum f/2. Yet, despite these characteristics, it is an excellent camera for street photography at night.

As for daylight street photography, I advise making it as simple as possible when it comes to night street photography. Only one camera and one lens will be perfect, as you don’t want to be out there in the middle of the night changing lenses to your camera.

Which lens for night street photography?

As there is less light, any lens with an aperture of f/2.8 is a good starting point. The lens is the first limiting factor when shooting night street photos. With a fast lens with an aperture of f/1.2, you will take pictures easily, but limitations are good for improving your skills when it comes to creativity. So don’t worry too much about the gear and try to make the best with what you have. The slower the lens, the higher the Iso, and the slower the shutter speed to help your sensor with low light.

Which is the slowest shutter speed you can handle?

You can try an excellent exercise to know the slower shutter speed value you can handle before you start shaking the camera and see the images coming out blurred. So grab your camera and start taking photos of something, just changing the shutter speed value. You can begin from 1/125th of a second and continue slowing down on and on.
There is not any good number. The slower shutter speed each person can handle is different from one photographer to another. And the camera can also have the ibis, allowing the photographer to hold steadier than he/her could without stabilization.
Once you discover the slower shutter speed you can handle, you can remember this number to prevent your images from getting blurry.

The Iso

When you use a crop-sensor camera to take street photos, you should know that the sensor doesn’t allow the same light as a full-frame camera, and if you are shooting at high Iso, to have some noise in the photographs is absolutely normal. Also, it would help if you tried to use a shutter speed value and an aperture value that makes sense in nightlight conditions.

How to contain the Iso value

When I do street photography, using the Fujifilm X100V, for example, I try to use the maximum aperture value of f/2 every time it is possible and set the shutter speed between 1/30th of a second and 1/100th of a second.
If you go too low with the shutter speed, you will probably have some unintentional motion blur, so try to be aware of this aspect.

The noise in a night street photograph

Finally, please don’t be too worried about the noise in a street photograph captured at night: it is normal, and you can consider it typical of the mood of a night street photo.

The cinematic mood and the noise

As you will see your images captured during night street photography sessions, you will notice that many of these images have a cinematic mood characteristic of most night street photos. And this kind of result is difficult to achieve during daylight street photography sessions. Also, the characteristic noise of night street photos helps to give that so appreciative cinematic look to your street photographs.

Try to edit in black and white

Another exciting thing to try is to edit your night street images in black and white. If the high Iso produces a lot of noise in the picture, I think that by editing your night street photos in black and white, you will achieve a more natural look.

Slow down the process of taking photographs

Doing street photography during the night, try to slow down the process of capturing images. There are fewer people around, and the entire city around you also starts to slow down, so there is less action to photograph. It will be essential to be a good observer, aware of every possible compelling image you may be able to find just by seeing with attention and curiosity what is going on around you. Figure out what is worth being photographed isn’t that obvious during the night.

Even the fast autofocus on which you rely during the day is not so essential during the night as all your process of taking photographs is slowing down. In addition, you will find interesting those slightly out-of-focus images that are typical of night street photography.

The fishing technique

The fishing technique is probably the most rewarding technique to take street photographs you can use to produce compelling night street photos. Fishing means that when you find a location with an exciting background, people, and glorious light, you choose to use this scene, wait for a compelling subject to enter the scene, then capture your street photo. This technique requires time, dedication, and patience. You can find more pieces of information about it in this article.

Respect people and be careful

During the night, people are more conscious of their surroundings, so respect people while taking photos, frame your composition as you like, and use fishing to wait for your subject to walk into your frame. This way, you will be less intrusive than using the other techniques used by street photographers.

Remember to be careful and go out with a friend because being alone in the street at night will make you more vulnerable.