Choosing the Right Camera
If you are willing to buy a new camera or upgrade your poor smartphone camera to a dedicated model, you might as well get a camera that excels in night photography. A camera with a good flash may sound like the best solution but it isn’t suitable for all photography situations. Using the flash at night can create an unnatural scenery or may cause uneven lighting. Instead, you should opt for cameras that have larger sensors (43.3 mm is sufficient) which are capable of taking in more light. Cameras with lenses that can open to f/2.0 or f/1.8 allow more light into the image sensor to further boost low light performance. If it is too difficult for you to check out the specs for different cameras that fall within your budget, you might as well look for online reviews and check out some low light sample photos. Also know that mirror-less and Digital SLR cameras in general are very superior to compact digital cameras in terms of low light photography.
Working with What You Have
Acquiring night and low light photography skills may be easier than you think. Your current camera might be able to take better low light images if you apply the right settings. The natural thing to do is to try shooting the low light scenery with the auto setting because this setting will attempt to figure out the most optimal settings for the scene. If the picture doesn’t look so good, you have to switch to manual mode and start experimenting away.
The first setting that you should tinker with is the ISO setting because even the most basic point-and-shoot cameras allow you to manually set the ISO. Basically, a higher ISO setting will result to brighter photos but the price you pay comes in the form of extra noise especially at the highest ISO levels so you need to find the right balance. Going for the highest image quality setting is also recommended and you should pick the RAW format if available. If you are able to set the aperture priority, you should make sure it is set to the lowest possible f-stop.
A tripod will also help greatly in low light and night photography because keeping the camera as still as possible will eliminate blurring. It will also help you work with the exposure setting which can do wonders for night photography if the camera is very still. Basically, you have to figure out how long the sensor will gather light. Use your camera’s light meter as a guide.