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edited January 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
What settings should I have my camera on for dusk photos? Specifically that short period of time after the sun goes down, but it is not completely dark yet.


  • edited January 2017
    Aside from the fairly obvious one, of having to compensate for poor light - i.e. slowing down shutter speed and either using a tripod or jacking up the ISO, a couple of thoughts.

    First, if you're trying for scenic shots, it's likely that the still light sky will overpower exposure and cause other areas to be dark. You may need to overexpose some if you want detail in the shadows, or if the sky and clouds are important, shoot in Raw mode and expect to open up shadows in post. Or, of course, compose in a way that makes silhouetting of foreground objects a feature rather than a fault.

    If you're looking for a colorful sky, consider changing your white balance to "cloudy" or "shade". Changing the Picture Control to Vivid will often increase contrast in a way that is not sought, but a warmer color balance will make sunset colors pop a bit more. Again, if you shoot Raw, you can modify both color temperature and Picture Control later.

    As a general rule, the darker it is the more you need a tripod. If you can support the camera you won't have to jack up the ISO to a noisy level. If you must shoot hand held, try to keep your aperture as wide as possible without losing focus on important elements, and make multiple shots. Put the camera on continuous shutter mode, and take a few at a time in the hope that one of a series will be sharper than the others. Practice holding steady, and try to foresee what you can get away with. The wider the angle, the easier it is to hand hold, so when you get into critical levels of camera shake, zoom out if you can. If you get a shot sharp, you can crop it, but you can't unblur.

    Noise is always worst in dark areas, so what ISO you can get away with depends a little on what you're shooting. Expose for the highlights - that is, try to make your brightest points bright without blowing out, even if the overall effect is to look over exposed. If you shoot in Raw mode, you can decrease exposure in post processing, and when you do that, you'll also decrease the noise. If you're shooting ordinary scenes, or street scenes, in poor light, the camera will likely overexpose at least a little, as the meter seeks to turn the predominant shade medium gray. If there are bright lights, chances are they will be blown out, but if either there are no bright lights, or the result is not bothersome, you're better off with some overexposure, as it insures the most shadow detail and the least noise.

  • Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response!
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