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Travel Photography Tip: Night Portrait Mode

Travel Photography Tip – Night Portrait Mode

by Martin Wigginton
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You’ve planned a great trip with the family. You have some great photos of the daytime scenery and everyone enjoying themselves at the beach or exploring the surroundings. At night though, you seem to slip into another world. A world where everyone is a cardboard cutout against a dark nondescript background. You wish you could get a shot of the restaurant or the street scene with everyone in it, but time and time again you get nothing but brightly lit faces floating in dark space.

Should you buy a new camera because it obviously can’t take pictures in low light situations? Well, before you run out and make the investment there are some things you can try.

Firstly, read this article “Your Camera Wants to Know More” about your camera, and how to get more out of it.

Next, take a look at the scene modes available on your camera. If you see an icon that looks like a person with a star over their head it means your camera has a Night Portrait mode.

night portrait modeNight Portrait mode is a setting that allows the camera to use a slower shutter speed when taking the photo. This results in more ambient light being allow into the camera, which is what provides the detail of the surroundings.


Look at these 2 shots:

night portrait mode
You can see that the second shot on the right provides a more balanced exposure that gives a better idea of the surroundings. The contrast between the subject and the background is also more balanced.

One consideration when using Night Portrait mode is that the shutter speed might be quite slow depending on the level of ambient light in the room/area. If necessary use a tripod or lean against a wall, doorway, or lamp-post.

If your camera doesn’t have Night Portrait mode look for a flash setting called Slow Sync. This mode slows down the shutter speed the same way Night Portrait does. They are, for all intents, the same thing.

One last thing to remember about Night Portrait Mode

This technique is to be used with a subject in the foreground that you want/need to use the flash to light up. If you are taking a shot without a main subject in the foreground you can use Landscape or Night Snapshot mode (mountains with a star in the corner icon). These modes actually disable the flash, since you don’t need it for lighting up a landscape.

Have a tip that helps you get the best from your vacation or travel photos? Share it below in the comments section.

Looking for more Travel Photography Tips? Check out:
How to minimize the loss of your pictures during vacation
Snow and Sand Opposites Except when it comes to photography

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