edited January 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I apologize if this question has been answered before. What would be the best setting on the D3100 for shooting yellow street lights at night? I haven't gotten the camera just yet but there're specific places I'd like to explore with the camera at different times of the day (sunset, midday, dawn, twilight, night). These are places I can't just be at at any given time so the moments. If I'm lucky enough to be there I'd like to make the most out of my photographs.


  • edited January 2015
    You'll want to underexpose by about a stop or two to make the scene look as it is. This is because nighttime makes your camera think it needs to boost the exposure since it's too dark, not knowing that it's supposed to be dark.

    You'll also want to shoot at small apertures because this makes the light sources look like bursts, but this means that you'll need a tripod since it will likely be a long exposure.
  • edited January 2015
    I suggest also that as you're practicing for the best settings, you shoot in Raw mode. Processing in Raw mode allows you to make certain corrections without altering the basic picture, so they can be instantly changed back or reset. For experimenting with street lights, you will especially benefit from the ability to change exposure (+/- two stops in RAW), and the white balance. Auto white balance may turn out to make your colors a bit cold, but what works better will need some experimenting because street lights come in so many different flavors. Raw mode allows you to choose your white balance setting and choose fine gradations that are not available on the camera.

    You'll get the best look, as @ohyeahar suggests, with relatively small apertures and probably with low ISO speeds too, so you'll definitely benefit from a tripod. You can grab almost anything at high ISO, but the higher settings will be noisy and less sharp. This will be especially visible in very dark underexposed areas, the very thing you're looking for at night.
  • edited January 2015
    I heard switching to live view locks up the mirror and allows for low exposure shots without vibration. Is that practicable in this situation?
  • edited January 2015
    Hmm, I find shooting in Live View causes more vibrations. I think you're referring to Mirror-up mode. Yes, use that when possible, but I'm actually not sure if this is a feature of the D3x00 cameras.
  • edited January 2015
    Oh, Mirror up mode. Thanks anyway.
  • edited January 2015
    The mirror is up in Live View on the D3xxx series, and this is the only way to shoot with the mirror up. If you are using a tripod it probably does not make enough difference to worry about, and if you are not using a tripod the mirror will not be your biggest concern. Mirror vibration is a very minor concern these days, and you may never notice a difference.

    Live view on a tripod can be useful because you compose from a little distance, and also because stray light through the viewfinder (a small but real issue in viewfinder mode) is not an issue in live view.

    Remember though that the live view is exposure corrected for the display only. What you see does not reflect your exposure settings. If you're wrong, it will be wrong even if the display looked good, and if you have a specific exposure compensation in mind, you will not see it.

    If you're hand holding without a tripod, you may find that viewfinder mode works better than live view. I find live view hard to hold well freehand.
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