Night time photography After Dark in London with photographer Toby Smith

If you’ve ever wondered how it would be to photograph at night around London, then this is the place to start.

I recently signed up for After Dark photography course in east London organised by Shoot Experience with photographer Toby Smith and his colleague Richard to get some tips and improve my night-time photo skills.

The following post gives an overview of the workshop I attended which took place over three and a half hours one evening in east London. The next workshop is scheduled for Thursday 12 October, see end of post.

The first hour was given over to going through the checklist of equipment to bring, including comfortable shoes, battery and power, cable release, tripod, spirit-level, A-Z, torch etc.

On this occasion, of the 10-strong group all had Canon or Nikon digital cameras, bar one person using a Canon G11 film camera – so no real surprises there. We introduced ourselves with a little about why we wanted to do the workshop. Replies were largely similar, amateur/hobbyist photographers with an interest in night photography and wanting to learn more about the technical side of photography and their camera.

The group was led through some of the functions on the camera that we may not have been familiar with such as mirror lock, securing tripods to cameras and checking out cable releases. One participant had even made his own DIY shutter release, see photos. We also discussed f stops, ISO , noise in images and lenses – fixed focal length lenses versus zoom lenses.

Smith also touched upon the subject of histograms, see photos, and encouraged us to make use of them to make correct exposures – all the while testing us by drawing a couple of histograms and asking us what the image would look like. The importance of cleaning the lens to get rid of grease or anything that could create flare was emphasised and it was advised that we remove any UV or polariser filters.

Smith admitted that he has learnt about night photography “the hard way” adding that “armed with the right tools and technical knowledge, digital SLRs can do so much”.

The subject of light pollution was touched upon and the reality of standing for hours “trying to nail” a shot in challenging weather conditions where heat is lost through the soles of your feet and the wind is a constant challenge.

A handout covering extra tips and giving suggestions for approaching night photography were distributed and we set off for the first of a series of tasks – the first of which involved photographing something in the courtyard of the building where we had met. This task was to practise getting a well exposed sharp image.

Later, we walked through the city of London, through empty streets and the Gherkin building while Smith took us through various techniques. The workshop finished at 11pm on the South bank beside the River Thames. As it was getting late, I had to leave early.

To learn more about the course visit the After Dark Photography Workshop page at Shoot Experience.

Tuesday 12 OCTOBER 2010
Time: 7:30pm – 11pm
Venue: Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, E1 6AB
Tel: 0845 260 2460 (Shoot Experience)

In the classroom

Exposure and histograms

A DIY cable release

Night shooting

Special effects


3 responses to “Night time photography After Dark in London with photographer Toby Smith

  1. Love the cable release! Classic.

  2. Hey i was wondering if you could give me any tips on producing pictures like this. Im intrested in the ‘noise in images’ pictures and i want to produce something like this for my University project. What settings would be good to use for shots like these?

    • Hi there Nicola, Funny you should ask, I just found some of my notes from the course. Hope this is of some help, let me know if you need more
      Camera Settings
      Lowest ISO possible,
      Noise from high ISO is exaggerated on long exposures so ensure you choose the lowest ISO poss to make your camera sensitive to the scene. You may wish to increase ISO slightly to enable a smaller aperture. You may have to compromise noise vs sharpness.

      RAW Mode is v useful for noise reduction, lens aberration and exposure compensation but above all, colour temp. If you spend ten mins creating a image, it’s worth spending five mins processing it.

      2 sec or 10 sec timer – isolates camera movement from shutter depression, ‘poor person’s cable release’, use mirror-up mode, mirror lock up.
      From Shoot Experience & Tobias Smith notes.

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