Night photography

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by western_isles, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. I was in the process of selling my Mamiya 7 kit and lens. However, as a result of scanning a load of 6x7/6x6 slides decided against the sale. So, back to real film.
    What aperture/speed settings would anyone suggest for night images of illuminated building/fountains etc. I have a preference for small apertures at about f11-f16. I would normally use a hand held meter during daylight hours maybe using a gray card.
    Moving to digital is great fun but it made me lazy and forgetful!
  2. A good starting point is which estimates floodlit buildings and fountains to have an EV of about 4. That equates to an exposure of 8 seconds at f/11 or 15 seconds at f/16, both using ISO 100 film. Those exposure times will also have to be extended to compensate for reciprocity failure of the film. Faster film will of course allow you to use shorter exposure times.
  3. Frank, my non-technical response is that film is cheap, while good photographs are priceless. Bracket your exposures and then you can choose the best results to print or scan after development.
  4. "....back to real film" - As opposed to what? Virtual or pretend film?
    Frank, using a bigger aperture and faster film is the way to go. This'll reduce the shutter time and the effect of reciprocity law failure, as well as any colour shift that comes with it. But why not use your exposure meter rather than guessing? Unless it's a half-blind selenium cell type, it should be sensitive enough to get a reading. All you need to do is use incident mode and walk over to the nearest building to read from the floodlights. Or forget the grey card and use a sheet of white copier paper. This effectively makes your meter two-and-a-half stops more sensitive. Open the aperture or slow the shutter speed reading you get from the white paper by 2.5 stops and the job's a good 'un.
  5. Thanks to everyone for their responses which I will try and use on Monday night, weather permitting. I will also look at the website suggested for some further information.
    "real film" is photographic film which consists of a sheet of plastic (polyester, PET, nitrocellulose or cellulose acetate) coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide salts.
    "virtual film" could be digital images created by a computer with a photographic lens attached to it and does not require the intervention of alchemists to produce the desired results.
    Pretend film is when the photographer shoots a roll/cassette of film and upon opening the camera finds that he/she never put film in the camera in the first place. Like most film photographers I have experience of pretend film!
  6. Frank,
    For future use, go on ebay and buy a copy of the old Kodak Master Photoguide(s). It's a handy little pocket sized spiral book loaded with useful data including filter factors, hints for various situations, precise analog calculators for daylight exposure (if your meter fails or gets left behind), fill flash, flash exposure, light balancing for color, depth of field, and very importantly.......matching difficult lighting situations with film speeds including all kinds of night situations.
    I think the silver covers were the most recent. I have several of these with one in each camera kit for each format that I shoot and even one in my digital kit since I do much of my shooting on manual.
  7. If you want to improve your accuracy in a big hurry, make logs of your meter readings and exposures. It could be something like: "EV 0 in this spot, 3 in this spot, 5 in this spot; exposures at EV 1.5, 3, 4.5." Then when you go look back on your negs and logs, it will start becoming clear what is working.
  8. I guess this one will help:
  9. Doesn't anyone remember the simple dial calculators by Harris and others? Here is a link to one:
    or, maybe, you like the free one at
  10. Fuji Provia 100 slide film has no reciprocity failure out to two minutes. Same with Acros B&W film.
    What you want to do won't take that long, unless you shoot at very small lens openings.
    Kodak Portra 400 gives me good results to a minute without exposure correction. The negative is underexposed maybe a stop, but the film's excellent latitude covers it. Colors correct fine, though night time color is rather subjective, anyway. Kodak says the Portras are good down to one second, and recommends making tests beyond that.
  11. Colin, thanks for the correction!
    Merry Christmas!
  12. Lots of excellent suggestions for me to work on. Thank you to all contributors.
    May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
  13. When in doubt I make one exposure at F8 for 8 seconds using 100ASA film as a failsafe, funny enough those tend to turn out fairly well under most circumstances.
  14. Having lots of experience with this my suggestion is that you stick to basics until this becomes second nature to you.
    This means using one film, one stop (f11 is ideal for MF/f8 for 35mm), and learn to estimate EVs. You will then become
    proficient at guessing your exposures and can adjust up or down as you please and with much less bracketing.
    Reciprocity failure is a real problem, especially with long exposures typically required of medium format cameras. You
    will develop a feel for what is needed with a bit of experience. I can tell you that it is immensely satisfying to walk onto a
    scene and intuitively know what exposure is needed.


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