Portraits at Night

Lesson 9/17 - Self Portraiture


Portraits at Night


Lesson Info

Self Portraiture

Wow, what a beautiful skyline. I'm gonna capture this moment. Let's take a selfie. Handsome guy. But let's level this up. Your best way to start with night portraiture is actually self-portraiture. What used to be really revered among photographers was the craft of self-portraiture. You can apply that same principle to leveling yourself up and making night portraits. So there's another great reason, you're always available. You don't have to worry about anybody flaking out but yourself. So iPhones, awesome, Androids, all those other good stuff, fun tool, but they really are not so good in low light. So let's start with the right tool. Fortunately, we've got it set up right here. I'm already set up with my Nikon D750, my tool of choice for night photography, and we're gonna start simple. How do you take a self-portrait? Start with self-timer. I've set it up already at 1600 ISO, f/2 on my 35 millimeter lens, and a 60th of a second, a 60th so it's not so blurry. And I've also set it to se...

lf-timer here and five seconds, so I've got a little bit of time to get in front of the camera. Let's see how it looks. Uh, it's a little bit dark. Guess the light's failing. So let's ramp up the ISO a little bit, which is not my first choice, but it's where we've got to go. Now we're getting somewhere. The higher ISO, it works. The skyline's not too bright, my face is not too dark, I'd like it to be a little bit better, so what would you do with that? You'd add light, but let's start with this. Another way you can do this is to increase your aperture and turn yourself into a silhouette. So let's try that right now. If we had a stronger light source we could do it a little bit differently. Now I've controlled the highlights by bringing it down, and you can see a silhouette of me. I'm sharp, the skyline's there. But it's lacking a little bit of light. And that's something that we'll cover in a future chapter, how do we add light? But you've gotta start somewhere, so why not start with the available talent, yourself and a camera with self-timer. I've got another tool right here. It's called an intervalometer. This can help you take better self-portraits. Why? Because you can set the self-timer duration more than two, five, or 10 seconds. You can set it to any number of seconds, minutes, or hours that you want. So if it takes you four hours to walk to where you wanna be in the scene, you can set it on this. Unreasonable, but true. You can also use this to control the length of the exposure, and that's what we have going on right here. I don't really wanna use ISO 6400, because it gets kinda grainy, right? So I'm gonna set my camera so that it has the proper exposure for the city lights, and try and make a silhouette of myself. Optimal quality is not at the highest ISO, I like shooting down around 100, and I'm gonna make sort of a soft silhouette of myself looking at the skyline. You're not gonna see my face, you're gonna see the back of my head, but you'll be able to clearly see my shape if I hold still enough. What I've done is I've adjusted the exposure from a very fast ISO to ISO and increased the amount of time. So the time that we have set right now is two seconds at f/4 and ISO 100. The effect is gonna be much more quality and probably a little bit of blur on me, but it's gonna tell a different story. I've also connected my intervalometer. This intervalometer is set to a five second delay, which we used before, and... An eight second exposure, ah, four, excuse me. Four second exposure. The interval should be only set to one second, which really doesn't matter because we're only making one picture, but we should set it there out of habit anyway. And we're gonna set it to one exposure. So now we're gonna hit the Start/Stop button, and I'm gonna walk over to my position and take a higher quality silhouette portrait. So let me do this, let it hang low so that it doesn't knock the camera around, and now you can see that the skyline is clear and crisp, and you see a little bit of my back there, which is an interesting shot. If you wanna take a silhouette picture of yourself at the highest quality, you should drop your ISO down to its native. My camera's ISO 100. I've gone from 6400 to because I wanna keep that quality, but I can't keep my face still that whole time at four seconds, so I'm gonna make it a silhouette instead and not put extra light on me, just to start simple. So let's make the skyline the star, but let's put a person in it. I'm gonna hit the Start/Stop button and I've got five seconds to walk in front of the camera again. And I'm just gonna gently put this down so it doesn't swing, and walk in. And if I held my breath, I might not have moved too much. Oh, look at that. I've got sharp skyline and I've got blurry Matt. But there's a human in there where there wasn't before. One final thought. Starting with self-portraiture can help you get over that point where maybe you're a little afraid to take pictures of other people because you don't wanna make mistakes in front of them. It's a lot easier to make mistakes with yourself and learn through it so you can set aside that fear. And also, there's one other thing you can do. You can start today, right now, in fact. Why don't you go take a self-portrait?

Class Description

Learn to capture amazing environmental portraits at night and incorporate a starry landscape or beautiful urban environment with your subjects. Get started in night portraiture by knowing what gear to choose, what to look for in locations and how to use your friends as subjects. Incorporate lights into your night photos and bring life to a long exposure. In this class you’ll learn: How to take self portraits at night without losing any of your background or subject How to choose a light source and add life to long exposures What to get right in camera and how to develop your images further in lightroom How to safely use pyrotechnics to take your portraits to another level  



I learned some techniques in Matt's class, which were helpful, but believe this was for the advanced photographer and i was a little confused at times. i would've liked to know the "how to" with the lights, showing how to program them with more detail. I am just learning how to set my camera for different lighting situations. But a very interesting course and glad i went through it.


Great class! Liked it so much that I booked a trip to Colorado to work with Matt and Lance on one of their National Parks at Night classes. Highly recommend.

Peter Mackenzie

I don't understand the negative reviews. This class feels less hands-on than the other classes in the series, but the information is useful and makes sense. You also need to understand that all classes out of the night photography series will cover the basics in one way or another, so there is some repetition. Whichever class out of the night photography series you view last will feel like it has more repetition, especially if you have some skills before taking those classes. Just skip the intro and move on to the tricks Matt has to share.