model night portrait photography

How I shot my first night photography shoot

Night photography has a special appeal. The artificial city lights reflected on surfaces all around and the moonlight shining create a mysterious atmosphere.
Although I had done a few night shots during my days at the academy, this was the first time I had a model for a night portrait session. Ema was as excited as I was to try this out on a late summer evening and she embodied a character full of wanderlust for my images!

This is how we made it and a few tips along the way:
I wanted to use ”natural” light (the ones we found on location; street lamps) because I’m not a fan of flashlights and its effects. Therefore, the use of a tripod was a necessity. It helped me stabilize the image and allowed me to shoot with longer shutter speeds with my lens wide open (on F/1.4). Without a tripod all my shots would’ve been blurry and shaky, but this way I managed to keep in the final photo all the play of colours and light!


model night photography
Ema was illuminated by light coming from her right side from a big reflector nearby. The street lights in the background were transformed into a soft bokeh because of the aperture I used for the shot.


I cannot even begin praising my lovely Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens, I’ve got so much love for it! I’ve been using an old analog 50mm lens for years and I’ve got so used to the feel of it that now, whenever I imagine a scene for a photo, I see it as I would through a nifty fifty lens.
The wide aperture, my personal eye candy, allowed me to keep the background reduced to a beautiful soft bokeh, while being able to capture a variety of colours.


model blue hour portrait photography
The wide aperture allowed me to keep the model in focus while blurring out the background.


Ema, as well as me, loves the style of the 90s. With a few simple items we created a story of a ”night wanderer”: a girl who found herself in a new city. She’s lost, but that keeps her excited and ready to explore all the little alleys because her wanderlust heart is ready for new adventures and more travelling.
I like to imagine ”stories” about my characters because then I can tell the model how she should be/feel like in front of the camera and why. I find it always better that way than to tell my models ”well, just stand there with your hands on your hips”.


model sitting night portrait photography
About ten meters from here a volleyball match was going on! That’s why the reflectors were on and the reason we could get so much light in this particular location.


Of course, when I say ”natural” I’m referring to city lights that we had found on spot without using any additional light sources. The challenge was to get enough light while at the same time keep the feel of a night shoot. There were lights of different temperatures in the city: some emitted orange light, some white, while there were also the ones with a bluish hue to them. Cars passing also created interesting light scenarios and we used a busy street to make a few shots. Bottom line: take a while to explore your surroundings and use what you have available! πŸ™‚

model night portrait photography
We shot this photo standing on the side of a street and used the passing cars and a few street lamps as our light sources.




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