Today's Guest Blogger: Matt Hill on Night Photography

Photograph © Matt Hill

Today's awesome guest blogger is Matt Hill. 

Take it away Matt.

Thanks so much for offering to do a writeup, Rick! I'd like to share some tips on night photography and tell your blog readers about a unique experience.

I often get asked during workshops how I choose a lighting scheme for night photography. Here's a loose guide to my digital lighting process.

1) Always shoot your first exposure for available light with no extra light sources. Use the High ISO Test that I first heard about through Gabe and Lance Keimig to find a suitable exposure fast. Make one exposure at your optimum ISO.

2) Study the result and look for opportunities to tell a story. Since you are dilating time, you have a chance to tell a story with light during those seconds or minutes. What areas need more detail? Is the moonlight bright enough? Want to overpower it and make the main light source come from someplace else? I look for opportunities to make the most important feature of the photograph stand out and start working on illuminating this.

3) NEVER light from behind the camera. The flattest and ugliest light comes from you standing behind your camera. Stand far left or right and get low or high to create shadows with your flashlight or flash.

4) Get creative. Put light sources behind objects. Cast shadows towards your lens. Try pointing a light source into your lens to see how the flare looks (can be awesome when done right).

5) Create a sense of time passing. Things that help promote this include star trails (start at 30 second exposures and can go into hours), light writing, soft water, moving trees/bushes in wind (all are in above photograph) and moving clouds.

In the end, the most successful night photographs make the viewer think about how they are looking at compressed time in a frozen moment. Use light to bring out details that tell your story in a single frame. 

Speaking of which, if you want to join Gabriel Biderman and me as we lead you on a night photography tour of one of the oldest and most inspiring locations in all of NY – Bannerman Castle (image above), read on. This turn of the century castle rests upon the small, lonely island of Pollepel about an hour north of NYC in the middle of the Hudson River. Perhaps you’ve seen it on a train ride north or on a boat tour from Beacon; it has mystified generations of people and now you will have the opportunity to photograph it at night.
This will be a rare overnight excursion limited to 6 photographers, so bring a tent if you think you will sleep, last time we shot until 9am! Thom Johnson, co-founder of the trust and author of the book Bannerman Castle (NY) (Images of America), will be on the island for a historical tour before we set up our tripods and focus on creating some truly outstanding images under the full moon.
Gabriel and Matt will go over the basics of night photography and how to successfully meter, capture star trails, paint with light, and hone your “night vision”. The majestic Castle and Residence will be the main focus but there are many little details on the island that will be yours to capture, including the 'Twins,' rising from the water, that guard the south harbor. This will be a very hands-on, one-night workshop that is sure to add some amazing and unique images to your portfolio.
Night Photography Workshops (including the Sept 1 Bannerman workshop):

My latest post on Bannerman Isalnd:

My photography site:

My teaching partner, Gabriel Biderman's night photography site:

My social handles:
Twitter @matthill

Everything else: