Starsphinx

Any advice on night shooting regards noise?

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So it is winter it is dark more hours than light.  I have pretty much avoided shooting anything at night except pure reportage because I worry about noise.  However, it is that time of year when there are lots of very pretty lights about - both town centres and peoples houses.  I would love to shoot them but do not know where to start (other than a tripod lol)

I have looked through some of Alamys images - there are ones of shopping streets with Christmas lights at night, where there are shoppers who are certainly not blurred, and a good depth of field suggesting that shutter speed was relatively normal, and aperture not completely wide open.  They do not look like flash was used.  How do people get around the high ISO?  Again shoppers will be moving so stacking is kind of out (or is it?).  What sort of ISO is acceptable for Alamy night shots?  Obviously, if I wait until the early hours when there are no people I can do long exposures - but that is not always what I want.

Where is a good place to start with this - Nikon D7200, kit lens 18-105mm no external flash, have tripod

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The brightly lit, detailed, sections will probably be relatively clean, while the darker flat areas will show a lot of noise. Do two raw conversions with different levels of noise reduction and combine in PS. You might be able to do this directly in LR, painting only the area to be targeted with noise reduction, but I don't have the expertise to advise.

 

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I always take brackets of -1, 0 and +1. The +1 is bright and gives the base exposure and then I blend in the others to bring the highlights back. Have a look at Aurora HDR for blending. It does all the ghastly cartoon HDR looks but it really is good at blending to give a natural result. Start at ISO3200, but don't worry too much about noise. I have images at 9000ISO accepted (from the D750 that is).

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4 hours ago, Starsphinx said:

So it is winter it is dark more hours than light.  I have pretty much avoided shooting anything at night except pure reportage because I worry about noise.  However, it is that time of year when there are lots of very pretty lights about - both town centres and peoples houses.  I would love to shoot them but do not know where to start (other than a tripod lol)

I have looked through some of Alamys images - there are ones of shopping streets with Christmas lights at night, where there are shoppers who are certainly not blurred, and a good depth of field suggesting that shutter speed was relatively normal, and aperture not completely wide open.  They do not look like flash was used.  How do people get around the high ISO?  Again shoppers will be moving so stacking is kind of out (or is it?).  What sort of ISO is acceptable for Alamy night shots?  Obviously, if I wait until the early hours when there are no people I can do long exposures - but that is not always what I want.

Where is a good place to start with this - Nikon D7200, kit lens 18-105mm no external flash, have tripod

 

Freezing moving people will require high ISO and you just need to shoot raw, use noise reduction (local or global) in Lightroom and maybe downsize. Don't underexpose as that will increase noise.

 

However, you can use  low ISO and very long exposures (on a tripod of course) which will often remove moving people as they may not register if the exposure is long enough so you don't need to hang around into the middle of the night. You could also use an ND filter to increase the exposure. Long exposures do introduce noise but it will almost certainly be much less than using high ISO and is easily dealt with in LR. This technique can even be used in daylight with an ND grad. It will always depend on the scene but it can be a great way to get rid of people from a scene. The best way to learn is to just have a go and see what happens.

 

You don't have to shoot to sell for every shot - shooting to learn is fine. 

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I love night shots! If at all possible I use a tripod and shoot at ISO 100. When that is not feasible I will up the ISO, 12800 is the highest I would normally go (depends a lot on your camera). I make sure the images are exposed well (ETTR is really helpful here) and then I use noise reduction in LR, for the whole image and if needed more in specific areas. When used correctly the LR noise reduction preserves detail well. 

 

Some reduction in image size also helps, depends on how high the original resolution is. I do often shoot with my lenses wide open but these are high quality lenses that are sharp wide open. When shooting at wide angles and with the subject not too close depth of field is not a problem at f/2.8 or even wider.

 

Do not be afraid to experiment to find the limits of your equipment and learn new PP techniques. 

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I always try to shoot night shots at dusk rather than full on dark, you only get around 15 minutes so careful planning is essential.

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2 hours ago, Nick Hatton said:

I always try to shoot night shots at dusk rather than full on dark, you only get around 15 minutes so careful planning is essential.

 

That depends on your latitude. This time of year it can last half a day in Lapland (Karesuvanto: roughly 10:00-15:00).

The rule of thumb is that it's ok as long as there's color in the sky. Which means it's shorter when it's overcast.

For practical reasons we'll use Civil Twilight as the time to shoot. However I sometimes work well into or even to the end of Nautical Twilight.

 

At first sight it's shortest at the latitude where the sun is at that given moment. So at this very moment it should be the shortest at the Tropic of Capricorn: about 20 minutes at most. On the equinox on the Equator it's closer to 10 minutes. However it's not much longer on any other date. (It's about the girth of the earth.)

 

With really long shutter speeds and or some crazy high iso you sometimes can get away with shooting well into the night: but that's astro photography territory.

 

There are excellent apps for determining the theoretical length of your shooting time for any place on earth.

My favorite is Photographer’s Ephemeris. Free on the desktop, but a paid app for your phone.

If you search this forum, you'll find more, including free ones.

 

wim

 

edit: (some of mine)

Edited by wiskerke

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I have pretty much the same setup as you (only I have a Nikon D7000 instead of a D7200.. but the same lens).

On a tripod, it's ISO 100 and just wait as long as the exposure needs to be unless for some reason I specifically need a faster shutter speed.

I tend to shoot at ISO 800-1000 if hand held but will go with a large aperture normally.

 

For me, though, the results come from post-processing as others have eluded to.. use Lightroom/Photoshop to get rid of noise from the dark areas/edges/unimportant parts of the image (I like the brush tool in Lightroom with noise reduction pushed right up). I will also tend to downsize images more to reduce the effect of the noise.

 

I also get the impression that Alamy QC apply a bit of common sense.. they know that a night shot is likely to be pushing the capabilities of a modest SLR in terms of noise and I get the sense that they give a little allowance for this (this is just based on photos that I have submitted and not having failed QC).

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2 hours ago, Matt Ashmore said:

I have pretty much the same setup as you (only I have a Nikon D7000 instead of a D7200.. but the same lens).

On a tripod, it's ISO 100 and just wait as long as the exposure needs to be unless for some reason I specifically need a faster shutter speed.

I tend to shoot at ISO 800-1000 if hand held but will go with a large aperture normally.

 

For me, though, the results come from post-processing as others have eluded to.. use Lightroom/Photoshop to get rid of noise from the dark areas/edges/unimportant parts of the image (I like the brush tool in Lightroom with noise reduction pushed right up). I will also tend to downsize images more to reduce the effect of the noise.

 

I also get the impression that Alamy QC apply a bit of common sense.. they know that a night shot is likely to be pushing the capabilities of a modest SLR in terms of noise and I get the sense that they give a little allowance for this (this is just based on photos that I have submitted and not having failed QC).

Thank you.

I guess its back to Lightroom and photoshop lesson videos for me.

Still my dratted tripod broke so I do now have time lol.

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R39FJ3.jpg@Nick Hatton

 

Nick Hatton makes a very valid point about shots of buildings and other objects at night. Don't shoot them at NIGHT. Twilight gives more detail in the object and less contrast overall.

 

For night sky shots, use the 500 rule. Divide the shortest focal length of the lens (if it's a zoom) or just the focal length (if it's a prime) by 500. This gives you the maximum shutter speed to use. Set this in manual, and the aperture to wide open (at the most, one stop down). Then change the ISO until the exposure is correct (or close enough to adjust in LR or PS.) 

 

For star trails (see above), do the same, but take multiple images. I use an intervalometer to shoot as many consecutive images as possible. I recommend shooting for at least 2 hours, if not longer. This one took 675 images. They are then "stacked" to form the light trails. I use a software called Star Stax. 

 

 

Edited by Steve Valentia

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4 minutes ago, Steve Valentia said:

R39FJ3.jpg@Nick Hatton

 

Nick Hatton makes a https://discussion.alamy.com/profile/4005-nick-hatton/very valid point about shots of buildings and other objects at night. Don't shoot them at NIGHT. Twilight gives more detail in the object and less contrast overall.

 

For night sky shots, use the 500 rule. Divide the shortest focal length of the lens (if it's a zoom) or just the focal length (if it's a prime) by 500. This gives you the maximum shutter speed to use. Set this in manual, and the aperture to wide open (at the most, one stop down). Then change the ISO until the exposure is correct (or close enough to adjust in LR or PS.) 

 

For star trails (see above), do the same, but take multiple images. I use an intervalometer to shoot as many consecutive images as possible. I recommend shooting for at least 2 hours, if not longer. This one took 675 images. They are then "stacked" to form the light trails. I use a software called Star Stax. 

 

 

To be honest star trails is some way in the future - my main interest in night shooting right now is the Christmas decorations - we have some houses local that have incredible full on displays, and a town local to me does brilliant street decorations.

I will look up some LR and PS tutorials though - I got some shots this morning that I would like to play around with and see if I can get some decent noise reduction without getting stupidly soft or plastic looking

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6 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

To be honest star trails is some way in the future - my main interest in night shooting right now is the Christmas decorations - we have some houses local that have incredible full on displays, and a town local to me does brilliant street decorations.

I will look up some LR and PS tutorials though - I got some shots this morning that I would like to play around with and see if I can get some decent noise reduction without getting stupidly soft or plastic looking

 

I used to do a lot of this stuff for local newspapers, of houses that were lit up like Christmas trees! I always made a point of liaising with the owners to go BEFORE it got very dark. Use a sturdy tripod. Keep the ISO low and don't have anything moving in the image. You can then keep the aperture quite small (especially useful if objects extend into the garden a long way from the house) and a subsequently slow shutter speed, without worrying about camera shake. Use the camera's timer or a release to trigger the shutter.

Edited by Steve Valentia
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2 hours ago, Starsphinx said:

To be honest star trails is some way in the future - my main interest in night shooting right now is the Christmas decorations - we have some houses local that have incredible full on displays, and a town local to me does brilliant street decorations.

I will look up some LR and PS tutorials though - I got some shots this morning that I would like to play around with and see if I can get some decent noise reduction without getting stupidly soft or plastic looking

I think your best option would be a tripod. I have shot Christmas decorations hand-held but only with a fast lens and a camera that is great at high ISO. A remote release will also make life easy else use the timer. 

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4 minutes ago, Rudix said:

I think your best option would be a tripod. I have shot Christmas decorations hand-held but only with a fast lens and a camera that is great at high ISO. A remote release will also make life easy else use the timer. 

My tripod gave up the ghost yesterday - the leg fell off and bi-pods don't seem to work very well lol.  I have an app on my phone which will act as a remote release - tested it today early morning on a railway track with a train (camera positioned on the bridge due to tripod failure) and am actually quite impressed with the results - may be uploaded here shortly.

I have ordered another tripod - although its fingers crossed I am on a very very limited budget and have had to use eBay - the write up was brilliant I will be happy if the damn thing is stable. 

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1 minute ago, Starsphinx said:

My tripod gave up the ghost yesterday - the leg fell off and bi-pods don't seem to work very well lol.  I have an app on my phone which will act as a remote release - tested it today early morning on a railway track with a train (camera positioned on the bridge due to tripod failure) and am actually quite impressed with the results - may be uploaded here shortly.

I have ordered another tripod - although its fingers crossed I am on a very very limited budget and have had to use eBay - the write up was brilliant I will be happy if the damn thing is stable. 

You could always turn what is left of your tripod into 2 mono-pods! I do sometimes use a monopod when shooting sport with a big heavy lens. But a tripod will be better for what you want to do. I have over time bought a few tripods, always looking for a sturdier one for larger lenses till it was so sturdy and heavy it was a pain to use, now I have a light carbon version that I use most of the time keeping the heavy monster for astro work.

 

Hope you get it soon to capture some magic lights!

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10 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

My tripod gave up the ghost yesterday - the leg fell off and bi-pods don't seem to work very well lol.  I have an app on my phone which will act as a remote release - tested it today early morning on a railway track with a train (camera positioned on the bridge due to tripod failure) and am actually quite impressed with the results - may be uploaded here shortly.

I have ordered another tripod - although its fingers crossed I am on a very very limited budget and have had to use eBay - the write up was brilliant I will be happy if the damn thing is stable. 

 

Christmas is coming! Seriously, you can't do night (or twilight) shoots without a tripod. A monopod isn't of any real use for long(er) exposures, as you'll definitely "wobble" after 1/15th of a second. Forget high ISO's. Low is the way to go. Low and long. On a tripod! There's too much competition in photography not to make your shots 110% perfect.

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2 minutes ago, Steve Valentia said:

 

Christmas is coming! Seriously, you can't do night (or twilight) shoots without a tripod. A monopod isn't of any real use for long(er) exposures, as you'll definitely "wobble" after 1/15th of a second. Forget high ISO's. Low is the way to go. Low and long. On a tripod! There's too much competition in photography not to make your shots 110% perfect.

Don't worry I will not be attempting them until my new one arrives - but that could be the first week of January as, you know, Christmas buggers deliveries lol

Edited by Starsphinx

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29 minutes ago, Starsphinx said:

Don't worry I will not be attempting them until my new one arrives - but that could be the first week of January as, you know, Christmas buggers deliveries lol

 

In the meantime, put your feet up and be inspired by my link in the "let's talk about pix" thread.

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On 12/20/2018 at 11:19, Starsphinx said:

My tripod gave up the ghost yesterday - the leg fell off and bi-pods don't seem to work very well lol.  I have an app on my phone which will act as a remote release - tested it today early morning on a railway track with a train (camera positioned on the bridge due to tripod failure) and am actually quite impressed with the results - may be uploaded here shortly

I really reccomend tripods made by Three Legged Thing (3leggedthing.com) if you are dissatisfied with your new one (Removable centerpost, strong legs, removable leg for monopod, 5-star reviews, etc). A tripod should always be the best you can afford or you will wind up not wanting to use it because of the hassle, etc...

 

But what about in-camera noise reduction? I use a EOS 77D and have set the NR to strong, it gives acceptable results up to ISO 3200, decent to 12800, but begins to lose detail. Is this a process is should do in the computer? I have both Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as Gimp. Is there dedicated NR software that yields really good results?

Edited by Matthew Johnson
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I think I probably get freaky about noise - and noise reduction.  My tolerance has had to get better shooting sports under floodlights (or at one ground what seems like candlepower lights - one end of the pitch manages to remain in shadow) but I dislike it - and obviously dream of full-frame cameras and huge lenses.  When the new tripod arrives I will take it out and try some long exposures to see what I am getting.  Have missed the Christmas lights this year (I refuse to go and get excited now Christmas has been lol) but there is always next year and in the meantime, I can get practice.

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4 hours ago, Matthew Johnson said:

 

 

But what about in-camera noise reduction? I use a EOS 77D and have set the NR to strong, it gives acceptable results up to ISO 3200, decent to 12800, but begins to lose detail. Is this a process is should do in the computer? I have both Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as Gimp. Is there dedicated NR software that yields really good results?

 

Yes you should definitely do your processing on a computer. In-camera NR only works on JPEGs so you should shoot raw for all sorts of reasons. Lightroom is more than adequate for NR for most purposes - but experimentation is always essential as there are a number of inter-related factors that affect image quality. I have not used an EOS77D (Nikon guy here) but I would think that ISO 12800 is way too high for most purposes. Always view at 100% (1:1). Also perception of noise is very dependent on the device used to view. Glossy monitors, particularly small high def ones (e.g. Mac Retina laptops), tend to mask noise in my experience. 

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14 hours ago, Matthew Johnson said:

 

 

But what about in-camera noise reduction? I use a EOS 77D and have set the NR to strong, it gives acceptable results up to ISO 3200, decent to 12800, but begins to lose detail. Is this a process is should do in the computer? I have both Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as Gimp. Is there dedicated NR software that yields really good results?

The forum helped me down this road a while ago. RAWs just retain more detail. Naturally you should take our word for it ;) but a quick test on a lens chart will show it, particularly at high ISOs.

I routinely go up to 3200  with downsizing (Sony A58) and could probably get away with 6400- I wouldn't even think about it in jpeg nw. Although nowadays I'd only shoot jpeg for quick FB posts, and that with a RAW duplicate to process and substitute when I have time.

RAW is simply incomparable. Skies don't blow out or go turquoise. Shadows don't turn into plastic mush. You can recover highlights in LR like crazy. You'll be glad you switched every day.

Edited by spacecadet

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I have shot only in RAW since I discovered it about 3 months after I got my first DSLR - I want to be able to play with images.  To me even before picking up a camera photography was always a 2 stage 2 art process - the bit with the camera and the bit afterwards - which used to be developing and is now processing.  As I understand it with skilled processing a lot of what is done with PS now could be done before, it just took an awful lot longer and was simply not time value.

I think about the only time anyone sees my stuff as direct jpeg now is the local news service I sometimes do emergency scenes for because I have to send shots straight away via my phone and they become jpeg when transferring from camera to phone - and of course then I do still have the RAW on the camera anyway.

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11 hours ago, MDM said:

 

 In-camera NR only works on JPEGs so you should shoot raw for all sorts of reasons.

 

Not necessarily correct - certainly my old D3 can apply NR to the RAW file on both high ISO exposures and long exposures - I don't know about more recent models

 

Alex

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