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Focusing at Night – Tips to get Crystal Clear Night Photos

Focusing your camera at night can take a little practice. For many systems, simply Auto-focusing when the sun goes down no longer cuts it. Here are a few tips for focusing your camera for those crystal clear night photos:

  1. Use manual focus. (Usually the switch on the front of your lens).
  2. Switch to live view.
  3. Use your +/- keys to digitally zoom into your image (NOTE: this will not change the zoom of your actual photo).
  4. Focus your photo using your fine focus ring on the front of your lens.

This system works brilliantly for focusing when you can actually see something to focus on. One of our Alumni recently mentioned she was having issues focusing when at an Astrophotography class. Astro photography poses a unique challenge to focusing so here are a few other considerations that will help to make your photos crisp and clear!

  1. You can use a Depth of Field calculator to see how far away you need to focus to keep your photo crisp and clear. For example, with Astrophotography, I would dial in the following settings (for example): Camera: Canon Rebel T6i, Lens: 16-35mm, Focal length: 16mm, f.stop 2.8. At these settings, my table is telling me that if I focus at least 7 meters away from me, my stars will also be in focus. (Check out our Digital III – Landscape & Travel course in Banff to learn more about this). 
  2. With this number in mind, I want to focus on something that I can see that is 7m or more away from me. So in the instance of our Astro class at Forget Me Not Pond in Kananaskis, if you focus on the trees around the lake (the things you CAN see), you can be pretty sure that your stars will be in focus.
  3. As long as your camera is on a tripod, you can move your composition so that you can see the trees, set your focus, and then move your camera a little to capture a different composition.
  4. Having trouble seeing anything at all? Well, these are GREAT conditions for Astrophotography, so good on you! But it’s absolutely terrible for focusing. So get your friend to walk around the other side of the pond with a flashlight. They can illuminate a tree for you while you focus. Don’t forget to focus their camera at the same time. And of course, be careful!
  5. AND Did you know, this is also a great tip for photographing lightning! It’s almost summer storm season, so be sure to get out there and give it a go.

Then there’s only one thing left to do – practice, practice, practice! The more you do this, the better you will get at it. For sure.

Let us know how it goes and don’t forget to check out all of our great course offerings in Calgary, Edmonton, Burlington, Mississauga, Kelowna, Oakville & Ottawa!