This photo tip is mostly geared towards trips in urban areas as opposed to nature type adventures.

I understand that after a long day of wandering around a new city seeing and doing as much as we can, some times we just want to have a good meal, head back to the hotel and call it a day. That’s perfectly understandable, specially if you need to be up early the next day. If you can however, I really do recommend you step out at least once during your trip to explore the city by night.

Once the Sun has set and the lights turned on, everything changes. The look, the feel, the atmosphere and sometimes even the people themselves are different. This is a great opportunity for you to capture the same things but with a different vibe. For me, the photos taken in the late hours of the day are always the ones that provide the strongest emotions.

Some might think that dedicated and expensive camera gear is needed for good results but that’s not the case. Unless you want to make large prints of your pictures, you can use a relatively recent cell phone. Since you’re most likely going to display these photos on your mobile device or on social media, the results will be perfectly acceptable.

Need some examples to convince you? Below are some late night photos taken in various cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Las Vegas, Lisbon, Montreal and Paris. They were all taken with a cell phone (hand held). You will only notice the noise and the lesser quality when viewed at full scale or when zooming in really close.

The way I like to shoot these is by simply lowering my exposure from whatever value the phone suggests by default. On most devices, this just means that you tap somewhere on the screen to bring up the exposure control or call it the light sensitivity control if you want. I then slide the control to lower the sensitivity and get everything the way I like it. Now I say tap anywhere on the screen but you’ll most likely want to tap on your main subject (as opposed to the sky for example) as this also focuses the camera on that area as well.

So after your long day, take a few hours to rest in the hotel room if you have to but make sure to grab your camera/phone and go explore the city by night. I’m sure you will not regret it. Just make sure it can be done safely.

Restaurant facade in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Godzilla Road. Kabukicho district.
Girls in yukata. Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto.
Umbrella meeting. Ebisubashi bridge, Dotonbori, Osaka.
Viva Las Vegas!
Comur, Conserveira de Portugal. Sardine store. Lisbon.
Montreal Botanical Gardens & Olympic Stadium.
Reflections in Paris.
The Louvre by night. Paris.

Christian is a Montreal based traveler and hobbyist photographer. He has a regular 9 to 5 job but will use his passport whenever he can. His photos are nothing to write home about but he likes to share them nonetheless. Talk to him about all things Japan. English is not his strong point so please let him know if you spot any mistakes.

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