Taking photographs in low light conditions can be very exciting and creative. Here are 2 important things to keep in mind: -
1) The time of the day:
Before sunrise (pre-dawn)
After sunset (twilight & total darkness)
2) Camera settings: we will be using Aperture mode on the camera.
Pre-dawn (before Sunrise)
Before sunrise the light reflected from the sky hitting the scene is very soft and diffused, which means the shadows are very weak. Therefore the colour of the sky will be blue on clear days and grey on cloudy days, such lighting conditions can create very atmospheric photographs.
Cameras which do not have the Aperture Priority mode will often allow selecting different scene settings, such as ‘dusk/dawn’, ‘nightlight’ or ‘sunset’ modes (experiment which of these modes works best for your image).
Here is a photograph of Loch Lomond which I took before sunrise. Set the camera on aperture priority mode at f11 or f16 and let the camera choose the shutter speed. The exposure will be long, so use a tripod as this will avoid camera shake.
The below photograph was taken at the same location just as the sun was rising.
To capture the sunset, you need to act quickly as it would normally set in minutes. Use same settings as before, setting the camera on aperture priority mode at f11 or f16.
After Sunset (Twilight and total darkness)
After the sun has set, there is still some light in the sky, giving a warm glow, which slowly fades to pastel colours of pink, blue and purple. This is the twilight and it will give long exposures from 10 seconds on wards. Here are some examples of photographs I took in twilight. As before, set your cameras on aperture mode at f11 or f16 to achieve maximum depth of field.
I photographed these three trees in the mist in the field, this was just after sunset. I used a tripod to keep the camera steady and set it to a long exposure.
During total darkness, there is obviously no natural light available. These are perfect conditions to photograph trailing lights from cars, lit cityscapes, fireworks and light movement. As before, the exposure will be very long and can lead to minutes, it is therefore vital to use a tripod to avoid camera shake. Set the camera at f11 or f16 on aperture mode.
I took this photograph at Wellington Park during the firework fiesta.