Step 1

Arm yourself with a SLR camera (or any compact camera that allows long exposures). I suggest working with a wide angle lens to get started. Now find a tripod, get excited, and wait till dark.

Step 2

Put your camera in manual mode (be bold, it's easier that you think).

Step 3

Adjust your aperture to the lowest number possible. This will vary depending on your lens, it may be f3.5, f4 or f5.6... just set it to the smallest number you have.

Step 4

Set your shutter speed to 10" (10 seconds). This may vary later, it just gives you a good place to start. 

Step 5

Set your ISO to 1600. Again, this may vary as you move forward.

Step 6

Compose... yourself and the camera! It's time to figure out a basic composition (best you can in the dark). Having a key element and/or layers in the shot is fun.  

Step 7

Auto focus and darkness are not friends, so manual focus is best. You can light up your subject and use auto focus to get an original focus, just ensure you then reset the lens to manual focus before you shoot. 

Step 8

Take a deep breath, press the shutter, and wait with nervous excitement. 


If the photo is too dark, increase your shutter speed to 30″ (30 seconds). Then take another photo. If it's still too dark, then increase your ISO to 3200. That will make the photo grainy, but that may be a necessary compromise.

If the photo is too bright, then drop your ISO to 800. If it's still too dark, then drop your ISO even further or reduce your shutter speed to 8" or 5".

Bonus #1

Experiment with White Balance for some really groovy effects (try tungsten, shade and fluorescent).

Bonus #2

Use a torch, glow sticks or phone and play around with painting the scene with light.


Examples of Night Lighting

Images by Pete Longworth, Christine Cain and Janet Dampney.
Lead banner image by Janet Dampney.




Pete hosts photography workshops around the globe. Click here to see what is coming up.
Click here to check out his latest Night Lighting Workshop in rural Australia.