Best settings for UV party

edited September 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I have never taken photos under UV light before in the dark. I need to know the best settings to get good photos of the glowing objects and people. Using a Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm lens.


  • edited September 2015
    I have not done this in digital, nor in any form for a long long time. The basic rule is that there is very little usable light, and for digital it may be even less because most of the invisible UV spectrum is filtered out. All you'll get is the visible spectrum of violet and whatever glows. If this is a party, hope that whoever is throwing it knows what works best, and provides interesting phosphorescent paints that react to UV light, because otherwise you'll get little except violet in color, and that's pretty dim.

    Since it is mostly dark, the camera's meter will probably try to overexpose the picture to turn the black shadows gray. In P, S or A modes, you can do an exposure compensation (go in [-] direction), to darken it, or you can turn off Auto ISO and go to manual. In manual mode, which might work best, you cannot use the exposure compensation, and Auto ISO will boost ISO if the meter doesn't like your choice. So if you don't like what the meter says, you must switch to manual ISO. That will work fine if the light level is fairly constant, but if not, you'll have to keep an eye on your exposures, and change settings yourself as needed. With manual control and manual ISO you're 100 percent in control, and the camera's meter is only an adviser.

    For the most part, the usual issues that occur when it is very dark will apply.

    Auto focus will be difficult - the AF assist light can help, but you may find it hard to lock on, and either have to focus on something else and recompose, or go to manual. If you have a flashlight, sometimes you can shine that on a target and focus that way, but it is distracting. Focusing and recomposing will require that you switch to single servo, single point AF, and it may still be slow to work and hard to get the camera to fire. If it keeps being a problem you'll have to switch to manual focus or back button focus, both of which put the camera in release priority and allow a picture even if focus is not perfect.

    Wider lens settings will probably be easier to focus and more forgiving, unless you're aiming at a fairly well lit subject.

    You'll likely have to boost ISO and compromise on shutter speeds and depth of field. Expect blurring if subjects are moving, and camera shake if no tripod.

    If you shoot in Raw mode, you can do some of the exposure compensating afterwards with either View NX2 or Capture NXD or other programs that read raw files, and with some, including NXD, you can also reduce noise.

    If you shoot imaginatively and compose well you may find that the usual requirements of sharpness and dynamic range do not apply the same, and you may get some dramatic results. Use your imagination, be fearless, and experiment. Deleting is very easy!

    I should add that not having done this in digital or in color for that matter, I have no idea what the best white balance setting would be. If you use one of the Nikon programs that read Raw files, you can alter color balance in post processing without problems. It may take a bit of experimenting to get the best colors.
  • edited September 2015
    Like @bruto, I have not done this sort of thing for a while. It was all the rage in the "swinging 60's" when film was king. However, there is no reason why you should not have some success with digital. What you will be trying to photograph is the fluorescence induced by UV light on certain materials. For white balance I would try 'daylight' as this is the type of film I used to use. A tripod is an absolute essential because your exposures will be quite long. I am not familiar with your camera, but if it has a night portrait mode you might experiment with this. I agree with @bruto for most of the other advice. Use an aperture that will give you good depth of field and set your focus when the lights are on then lock focus. When the lights are off, anything that moves within that depth of field will still be in focus. Unless you intend to shoot movie, ask any interesting colors to stand still for a few seconds while you take the shot, otherwise your picture will just be a blur of color.
Sign In or Register to comment.