The Nikon d3200 is a great camera all around. It has a high resolution 24.2 megapixel DX CMOS sensor, and sports full HD video recording capability. It’s an all-around great camera for beginner photographers.
It also has an impressive feature set for nighttime photography. The d3200 can take some really breathtaking long exposures and other night time shots with ease. The key is understanding the subtleties of night photography, and how the d3200 approaches them.
Educating yourself about your camera is typically the first step. There are a few tips and tricks that we’ve collected here for you to get you started on the right track to getting phenomenal night photos with your Nikon d3200.
A lot of the subtleties of night photography depend on things like having the right tripod and lens for your d3200. Other tips are more practical, and involve becoming acquainted with the different settings on your camera. Remember that practice makes perfect.
Taking photos at night definitely opens up a wide range of options for you as a photographer. The low light conditions and possibility for high-contrast shots with a wide range of subjects is very exciting. There are a lot of different types of night shooting that it can be very fun to play around with.
Sometimes even the most subtle of settings can have a huge effect on your photos. With a little bit of time and effort, you’ll be taking beautiful night photos in no time!
Take Advantage Of Free Online Courses
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Get The Right Lens
First things first, you will need the correct lens to get decent nighttime photos out of the 3200. Buying the wrong lens can give you sub-optimal options, especially in a niche like night photography, where things like low light and focal range can make shooting difficult.
Finding an affordable low-light solution is key. Make sure you get one with a mount that will actually fit on your camera. Even if you end up with a different kind of mount on your lens, it’s typically possible to get an adapter. That being said, it’s easier and cheaper to just get a lens that fits the d3200.
Having a wide-angle lens is another important thing. Many lenses also have ultra-wide-angle capabilities which can come in useful for really epic long exposure shots. Always do independent research before buying a lens, especially in a subtle niche like night photography.
Get The Right Tripod
Another point that seems kind of obvious, but can get lost on some newer photographers. Having the right tripod for the job is essential. It’s not like you’re going to be doing long exposure shots with your hands, so knowing the right kind of tripod for your shot is key.
In general, when you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to go with something effective and affordable. Going for a tripod that is too fancy will just break the bank, and it’s likely that you won;t be able to appreciate some of the more advanced features.
For this reason, starting with something affordable, but versatile and effective, is the best way to practice and get acquainted with how tripod shooting affects your photography. Having proper stabilization really opens up your options with night photography, because a lot of things like time-lapse and star trail photography require a tripod.
Go For Remote Control
Most cameras these days can be paired with a remote control for snapping photos and changing certain settings. Using a remote control can avoid that last bit of camera shake caused by you actually taking the photo manually. These remotes are typically quite cheap and effective, so it’s a good idea to pick one up to help improve your night photography.
It really sucks to set up the perfect shot with your tripod, and after hours of lining everything up and getting all the settings right, the picture comes out blurry because you had to actually press the button with your hands. Using a remote allows you to make small adjustments and snap the picture without ever touching the camera, leading to fewer ruined shots.
You can typically pick one of these up for a very affordable price. Of course, you will have to do your own research to see what the best remotes are. Going for a cheaper option and getting something less effective is never a good idea.
Get The Right Filter
Depending on what kind of night photos you will be taking, you could be using long exposures. If this is the way you are going to go, then it’s a good idea to grab a high quality ND filter. These filters will limit the amount of light that actually reaches the sensor on your camera, letting you play around with a few different exposures.
If you don’t know which ND filter to go with, then just remember a few basic guidelines. First off, you will want to make sure that the thread size on the filter matches the thread size on your camera lens. This sounds obvious, but it’s necessary to make it clear so that readers avoid wasting their money.
Manufacturers like Gobe or Hoya make plenty of cost-effective filters for a wide range of cameras. Looking through customer reviews and taking note of what people say about night photography is one of the best ways to know if a particular filter is right for you.
Play Around With Steel Wool
Night photography let’s you play around with a lot of low-light high-contrast subjects. Many people think that night photography is all about setting up long exposures on starry night skies, but this is not the case! There are lots of cool subject ideas for night photography that will really let you test the capabilities of your d3200.
One of these is using burning steel wool. Steel wool burns very hot, and as it burns, pieces of it can fly off of the body. This is especially true if your subject is spinning the steel wool on some sort of tether. Using a long exposure, your camera can track these brightly burning bits of debris, and create some really cool photos.
Of course, you will want to make sure you stay safe while trying this technique. The last thing we want is for a bunch of night photographers to try this idea for the first time and end up starting a bunch of fires. Always wear proper protective equipment, and choose a location that is far away from any flammable objects.
Play Around With Different Aperture Sizes
With night photography, you could be focusing on a subject that is right in front of you, or a skyline hundreds of miles away. It all depends on what you feel like doing in the moment, and the different subjects available to you wherever you’ve decided to shoot.
Finding the right aperture size for your current subject is essential. In general, wider apertures will cause more intense depth-of-field, which can be great for things like shooting campers around a campfire. Other shots, like long exposures, benefit more from a more narrow aperture, which allows the photo to show more detail.
The key here is to play around with the settings to find what you like to use. There is no “best” overall aperture setting for night shooting, but becoming acquainted with how different aperture sizes affect your photos is essential.
Try Not To Shoot When Its Windy
Since night photography depends largely on factors like how stable your camera is, and how crazy the weather is that night, it is good to control as many variables as possible. When you shoot in less-than-optimal weather conditions, it can have a devastating effect on any photos, no matter how skilfully they are taken.
In fact, if its windy outside, you run the risk of your tripod tipping, and your nice expensive camera getting whacked on the ground. Nobody wants a hefty repair bill, so shooting on calmer nights is generally recommended.
The only exception to this is if you’re trying to shoot something like lightning strikes. Obviously if this is your thing, the it won’t always be an option to wait for calmer conditions. Just make sure you know the risks, and always pay attention to what’s happening around you and your camera.
Tweak Your Cameras ISO Settings
Changing the ISO setting on your d3200 can help make your night photos even better. Depending on how much light pollution is in your area, finding the right ISO setting can be quite essential to taking the perfect nighttime photo. Many people find success in the range of 800-3200.
While this can be effective depending on how acquainted you are with how your camera shoots, our recommendation is to start with ISO 3200 and make adjustments from that starting point. This is all dependent on the local conditions in your area.
If you start at lower ranges, it can be harder to get the right light as you zoom in and decide how to shoot your subject. Starting at 3200 and adjusting from there ensures that you can easily find the setting you want.
Figure Out Where And When To Shoot
Another seemingly obvious tip that is lost on many photographers. Since night photography often deals with low-light situations in fields and such places where you can see the sky, picking the right location is essential. There’s no sense night shooting in a forest with a full canopy blocking all the stars.
Another important thing is timing. The time of day will generally be night, but “nighttime” is actually an umbrella term fro a few different times of day. Are we talking about twilight? Dawn? Midnight? All of these things can have drastic effects on the lighting that you end up dealing with in your night photography.
Even the time of year that you go out to shoot can have a huge effect on things like cloud cover, star visibility,and even the placement and movement of stars in the sky. Educating yourself a bit on meteorology and how time affects the night sky is a good starting point for this one.
Do Some Additional Reading
Nobody likes to read through manuals and textbooks in order to get the information they need. Unfortunately, photography is a very subtle and complex hobby with a lot of little bits of information. It’s simply impossible to know everything there is to know without doing some heavy reading.
In fact, many people don’t know that Nikon actually has a bad reputation for leaving crucial information out of their manuals for their cameras. If you’ve read through the manual for your d3200 (like you should have), then you might think that you know all there is to know. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Luckily, there are a number of independent photographer’s guides available from different authors who have tested and figured out a wide range of cameras. Check around on Amazon for a good option to help educate yourself on the subtleties of the d3200.
Get Out And Play With Your Camera
Although you can read tips and tricks until your eyes fall out, the only thing that will really teach you what works best is practice. Go out and actually try experimenting with different types of shots. Night photography is a versatile and enjoyable photography niche with a lot of potential for experimentation and cool effects.
Learning how to properly apply the different settings available on your d3200 is the first step to learning what works best for your unique style of photography. No internet article will ever be able to tell you exactly how to take your pictures.
Make sure to play around with a lot of different settings, and pay attention to the results. There’s a possibility you will come across something nobody has tried before. That’s the beauty of night photography, how subtle and versatile it is as a niche. The only way to know is to try.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to fire away in the comments section!