Stunning simple night selfies
Stunning simple night selfies: In this age of digital manipulation, a lot of people are being discouraged to take and publish night photographs. We are often too quick to forget that you don’t necessarily need fancy cameras or gear to get stunning images of the night sky. Here are five tips to produce simple single astro-selfies that will impress your following!
Astrophotography is the art of taking pictures at night. There exist many techniques that a lot of amateur and professional photographers use to take beautifully detailed pictures of deep-sky objects, the milky way, the moon or aurorae. Back behind their computer screen, many also use editing tools to embellish their pictures by adding filters, effects, or objects that weren’t there. The result can be quite staggering and at the same time discouraging for some people. Confronted with so many composites impossible to achieve in real life, some beginners, amateurs but also professionals feel ashamed of posting their pictures, thinking they can’t possibly compete. Fear not though, I can assure you that at any level, it’s still possible to take astounding single astrophotos with simple gear and very basic editing, which will make them stand out and receive much attention!
The composition is key
Since you cannot physically move all the elements and put them where you want them to be like in a painting, you’re going to have to search for a stunning composition. The key here is to include a varied set of different physical and biological components to your landscape. Don’t overload the frame with too many distracting things like bare branches, scattered clouds or multi-colored rocks. If you can, mix mountains, water, clouds, nice uniform tree lines or even flowers. It’s important to also balance your composition. Make sure to have a straight horizon and layer your frame with the different elements. By adjusting your shooting angle and height, you can often make elements appear and disappear at will!
Include a well-placed eye-catching figure
I am not such a big fan of including man-made or human elements in my pictures. However I found that sometimes, it does add a relatable component. On social media specifically, astrophotographs displaying a human silhouette tend to get far more attention because your viewers will imagine themselves in the picture and your message will get through to them much more easily! Nonetheless pay attention to where you place your human figure. Have them stand in a brighter area of the foreground and not in the shadows where it will be difficult to spot them at a glance. Remember that most people will spend a split second on your photo before scrolling down, so try to isolate your subject in the best way possible. Prefer natural lighting to light-painting or flashlights, as they will completely distract the audience. If youare the subject, use a remote shutter release and take a series of pictures with different poses. In the picture below, the figure is dark but it was placed in the center of the image close to water, so the reflection and the red light of the camera instantly directs your eyes toward them.
Know your gear well
It is not hard to take a very simple and aesthetic shot with very basic gear. However you will still need to know your gear well. Knowing the basics of astrophotography, shooting in manual mode and the limits of your equipment will make the difference. That’s why you will have to go out and try prior to your photo shoot. If you realize that your camera cannot handle low light very well for example, you will have to trade high ISOs for a longer exposure time. In the same way, if your lens has a rather narrow aperture (for example f/4), you will also have to compensate in another way. Try and find the best set of settings that work for your taste and the situation. Stop worrying too much about star trailing caused by very long exposures or optical aberrations perpetrated by low f-numbers. It’s sometimes better to have a slightly blurry but smooth sky than a sharp but too grainy one!
More preparation, less work
Working hard on your composition will save you the trouble of spending hours on post-process and still wow your audience. The best shots are often the ones that require the least editing! In order to ace the composition, you will need to prepare religiously for it. Pick a night during which you know the atmospheric conditions will be clear and favorable. Sometimes just a few clouds can be distracting if out of place. Pick a nice location that you preferably have visited before and that you know contains all the elements you want to encapsulate. Don’t be afraid to take test shots during the day! At night, don’t hesitate to take the same shots with different settings to be able to select the ones that worked the best when you look through them on a screen. I always recommend to give your shot enough light to start with to avoid many complications in post-process, such as dealing with a too much noise. Remember to shoot in RAW format to be able to retain maximum data and edit your shot in a lossless format.
This might sound trivial but great shots are often ruined by over-processing. I am not saying to publish you RAW files the way they are out of the camera either! However try to go easy on certain sliders like saturation, sharpness, clarity or contrast to name a few. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all up to your tastes and photography surely is an art. If your composition is on point, you won’t even have to process your picture much anyways to make it go from good to great. I advise you to give a nice even exposure to the whole picture without clipping data in the shadows or highlights. A slight vignette can make your shot get this really cinematic look. Keep colors as they are on the RAW. You can bump up the vibrance and saturate a bit, but use those sliders with parsimony.
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