How to Shoot Portraits at Night - B&C Camera

Photography at night always adds an edgy touch. Taking portrait photos at night is no different. You can amp up someone's headshot by doing a night photoshoot with some of the neatest and most natural backdrops. The only downside to this is the thought that taking photos at night is tricky. And yes, it can be, but it doesn't have to be. Taking photographs at night may seem daunting, but as long as you can follow directions, you won't have a problem! Use the tips below to step up your portrait game.



• Stay away from automatic mode

When using automatic mode at night, a few things could happen.

  1. The flash will reduce the shutter speed that will cause some detail from the background to get lost. You'll end up having a bright subject which just a plain black background - not that interesting.
  2. Turning the flash off will result in a blurred photo. A blurred image is not pleasing to look at.


• Night Mode

Looking at your mode dial, you should spot the night scene mode. If your camera doesn't come with a mode dial, you might need to try and access it through the camera's menu. When using the night mode, you will get a long exposure with a flash. Using this option is great for beginners. And although it's a good idea to try it at first, if you're able to shoot manually, that is the way to go.


• Stay Steady

Use a tripod to keep your camera steady. Any movement, even the slightest, can create a blurred photo. Even your subject will need to work with you and stay still.


• Manual Mode

The best option is shooting strictly in manual mode. Doing this will allow you to have more control over the shutter speed and aperture. You will set your aperture and shutter speed to capture the best possible shot. You can use an external flash to help bring some light to your subject when doing this. Purchase a light stand to help prop your light up while focusing on your subject.


• Getting the Perfect Shot

Think about how you want to focus on your subject and the background to look. When using a wider aperture like f/2.8, your background will blur and be out of focus. Your subject will still be clear with a shorter shutter speed. Next, you'll need to set your ISO and aperture. Aim for an ISO from 400 to. 800. Your shutter speed should be below 1/200s.


Play around with your flash to see which light setting you should be using. Try moving your external flash to different locations as well. Something as simple as moving where the light hits can dramatically change your portrait photo.


Next, play around with your shutter speed. The best tool is the exposure simulation, and this tool will help you get a preview of how you should be adjusting your settings. Lowering the shutter speed will allow more of the background to show through.

Pro-Tip: Invest in a prime lens for night portraits. We wrote an entire blog dedicated to that, you can read it here: Best Lens for Portraits


• Have Fun with the Background of Your Photos

Look for unique scenery to make your photo pop. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Streetlights
  2. Neat buildings
  3. Bridges
  4. Bustling streets with traffic and headlights
  5. Christmas lights/String lights
  6. A starry sky


Using a wider aperture will show these lights off.


• Using Another Light Source

If you plan on using a different light source than your flash, you'll need to follow a few steps. Make sure you use a higher ISO. Settle with your background, set your exposure, and bring on the light! Think about investing in some flash modifiers. These will enhance your flash. You can opt for umbrellas, softboxes, gels, grids, and more.

Pro-tip: Try using an LED video panel, and this tool will help emit a natural light to your photos.


• Keep the Edge

Keep in mind, night portraits will usually give an edgy look. Style your subject to match that aesthetic. Get creative with your subjects' clothes and makeup. If you are going for something more professional, you can still create a chic look through night portraits.


Night photography can seem overwhelming and intimidating. Don't be scared to try something new. Use the tips and tricks above to help you with this adventure. Once you nail that perfect photograph, it will all be so worth it. Night portraits can deliver unique headshots. 

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