Digital photography makes it easy and inexpensive to try new techniques. Back in the film days, every press of the shutter cost money. Digital allows a photographer to experiment without risk of the unknown and simply play. Unrivaled in this regard is shooting night and low-light scenes. Make the picture and check the LCD to see if an effect is successful. Simply fire away and adjust on the spot. Additionally, now that HDR software provides excellent and natural looking effects, the range of tones that can be captured in a scene is almost limitless.
Technical Considerations: Check your manual to see if your camera has Long Exposure Noise Reduction. If so, turn it ON. It will save you time in front of the computer to get rid of noise. While it does add in-camera processing time, it’s well worth the wait. Use a tripod to ensure you get a sharp image and to make certain your images remain in register for use with HDR software. Use a cable release to prevent jarring the camera.
Add More Light: A technique that’s fun to try is Light Painting. It can be done using flash or with a powerful flashlight. I prefer a flashlight as it adds warmth to the scene due to the color temperature of the light verses flash. With the shutter open for approximately 30 seconds, “paint” the primary subject with the light by “brushing” the beam using many even and consistent passes. At the end of the exposure, let the file process in camera and check the effect on the LCD. Adjust the time of the painting and duration of the shutter speed accordingly after looking at the result and the corresponding histogram.
Use Brightly Lit and Colorful Subjects: Find subjects that emit a lot of light and color. Most major cities have an area where this can be found. A mall at night is a good option. The most magical time at which to start shooting is just before the sky gets black. This twilight time works well because natural light provides separation between the structure and the sky. Keep shooting when the sky goes black, as you’ll still be rewarded with good images.
Create Effects: Night photography is unique unto itself, but take it a step further to provide fantastic photographs. A standard effect is to zoom the lens during the exposure. Zoom the lens quickly or slowly, zoom from the wide to telephoto setting or visa versa, or leave the lens at a fixed focal point for part of the exposure and zoom for just a portion. Try multiple exposures or deliberately move the camera during the exposure. Let your mind create and use techniques you’ve never tried. Remember, it’s digital, and the results are but a glance away from the LCD.