Updated: Nov 1, 2020
There's a magical time of night when the sky is dark, shop windows are brightly lit, and the city feels just as alive as ever. The streets are moody, and the light diffuse - perfect for creating stunning street images. However, for all the beauty of this splendid time, there are major issues associated with photography after sundown. But how can you work around them? It's surprisingly simple.
Even on a well-illuminated street, your camera will be tested by the pitch-black shadows associated with photography after nautical twilight (known to photographers as the blue hour). One of the biggest issues with such conditions is also the most obvious - shutter speed. Though you may be tempted to use typical 'daytime' settings, capturing a tack-sharp image should be your #1 priority, so it's worth adjusting some settings slightly. Don't be afraid to raise your ISO to uncomfortable levels - although you should only need a setting of around 4000 ISO, you should push it higher to save your shutter speed - it's far better to have some grain in your shot that can be (partially) corrected in your editing software of choice than camera shake. If you're bold in your choice of ISO, then you should be in the clear when it comes to capturing sharp images... if it wasn't for one low-light annoyance: autofocus. Most mid-range DSLRs and mirrorless cameras (though there are exceptions) can take autofocus readings in light as low as -6EV. A well-lit city street just approaches this margin, and if you photograph dark buildings or cityscapes, your AF system will likely be unusable. There are, thankfully, workarounds. If you're in a truly abysmal lighting situation, look for bright
windows and light sources - even a car's brake light is bright enough for your camera to lock focus. You could potentially work with even less light if you work with only certain autofocus points - your large, central point is by far the most sensitive, and should give you some extra room to focus and create a stunning image.
But if there was any tip I had to give to the nighttime street photographer, it would be to persist. Think of creative ways to solve problems, and you will succeed in capturing incredible images.