How to capture ‘star effects’ of light sources in dark?

Understand the basics below to capture brilliant start effects at night without any shakes and noise!

Did you look at the star effects the lights have produced in the above picture? Want to learn how to capture these even at complete darkness? Well here are few more examples to help you understand better.

The above image was shot in the following camera settings:

F Stop: f/6.3
Aperture: 1.6
Focal length: 50 mm
Exposure time: 3 sec
ISO: ISO 640

The star effects are more prominent and brighter than the previous image, note the settings below.

F Stop: f/9
Aperture: 1.6
Focal length: 50 mm
Exposure time: 2 sec
ISO: ISO 1600

F Stop: f/16
Aperture: 1.6
Focal length: 50 mm
Exposure time: 2.5 sec
ISO: ISO 1800

F Stop: f/10
Aperture: 1.6
Focal length: 50 mm
Exposure time: 3 sec
ISO: ISO 1000

Now, what is an F stop?

(Focal-STOP) The f-stop is the “aperture” opening of a camera lens, which allows light to come in. It also determines how much area is in focus in front of and behind the subject (depth of field). In other words, the number your camera shows you when you change the size of the lens aperture.

You can think of an aperture of f/4 as the fraction 1/4 (one-fourth). An aperture of f/2 is equivalent to 1/2 (one-half). An aperture of f/64 is 1/64(one-sixty-fourth). And so on.

Hopefully, you know how fractions work. 1/2 cup of water is much more than 1/8 cup of water.

Hence an aperture of f/2 is much larger than an aperture of f/24.

What is aperture?

You must have heard of this word when browsing through several topics in photography and why not, this is one of the most important terms in photography.

Aperture is basically a hole in your camera’s lens that lets light pass through. It decides how bright your photograph will be. Simple-smaller aperture lets lesser light in and larger aperture lets in more light.

Aperture also plays an important role in capturing bokeh effect. Lesser the f-number, shallower the depth of field(blurred background) and more the f-stop, larger the depth of field(everything in the frame with equal focus).

An aperture of f/2 would be larger than an aperture of f/16. Physically, at f/2, aperture blades are open much wider letting more light in.

Do you know what is Focal Length?

The focal length of a lens is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus. Are you confused?

Telephoto lenses used for wildlife photography have larger focal lengths, 400-600 mm, 100-400 mm(can be used in the range from 100 mm to 400 mm) and so on. The larger the focal lengths, the more isolated and nearer the subject becomes.

This image was captured in 300 mm.

The smaller the focal lengths, the wider the area becomes available for you to photograph.

This image was captured in 18 mm.

Exposure time/shutter speed: shutter speed or exposure time is the length of time when the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light, also when a camera’s shutter is open when taking a photograph.

While taking images at night or when the surroundings are dark, longer exposure times like 2 or 3 secs are recommended. While shooting fast motion like of birds flying or diving into water, shorter/fast exposure times like 1/500 or 1/1000 are recommended.

ISO: ISO stands for “International Organization for Standardization”. ISO is simply a camera setting that will brighten or darken a photo. As you increase your ISO number, your photos will grow progressively brighter. 

Be careful enough while playing around with ISO as larger ISO values may bring lot of grains to your photographs. Setting your ISO to auto is a wiser option however you never know when your DSLR might just miscalculate a surrounding and produce noisy images. Hence ISO should be tested manually before assigning a final number for the perfect shot.

Try to adjust lighting by clicking a number of test shots by adjusting your aperture/F-stop and shutter speeds and when things still don’t work, manually assign the ISO numbers to your DSLR.

Usage of a tripod while capturing images in dark surroundings is always recommended to cut off the possible chances of blurs caused by body-shakes.

Hope the above tutorial turns out helpful to you all and please share your learning/suggestions/opinions in comments below.

Click here to view more bird photography shot at Bangalore, India.

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