In the evening or at night you can take very beautiful photos. However, to avoid disappointment, I recommend that you prepare very well.
Good preparation is half the success
At first, get to know your camera so well that you are familiar with its functions and know by heart where all the buttons and dials sit and what they do. Make sure the battery is fully charged and the storage card is empty. Clean your lenses before you go. To be on the safe side, pack a spare battery and storage card as well as a lens cloth into your camera bag.
Use a wide-angle lens
For shooting in a city, I strongly recommend a wide-angle or wide-angle zoom lens (e.g. a 9-18 mm lens; 35 mm equivalent: 18-36 mm) since wide open spaces are rare and most of the time you will be close to buildings. My favorite is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14 mm F2.8 PRO lens that I always have with me. A fast lens like this facilitates good image quality.
Apart from sorting out your equipment, you will also need to decide what you want to photograph. The best time to take photos depends on what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to photograph a nice sky and details, it is best to start half an hour before or half an hour after sunrise or sunset. These times are called the "blue hour" and the "golden hour".
Do you want a dark sky? Then go at a later time until late at night. If you would like light trails of car lamps, make sure that you are standing on an overpass, a bridge or somewhere similar. The Olympus Live Composite function is ideal for this. If you are well prepared, then you can set off with a good feeling and come home with pleasing results.
Ensure the best image quality
If you have identified a good position at the location, determine the settings. Set the camera to record images both in JPEG and RAW. This gives you more freedom in post-processing. You can leave the white balance on automatic. Even though this might not always produce correct colors, they can easily be adjusted in software. Set the ISO to a low value, such as 100, to avoid image noise.
If you want full control of the exposure, set the mode dial to M (manual exposure). Olympus cameras allow shutter speeds of up to 60 seconds. If you want to work with even longer exposure times, choose Bulb mode.
A tripod keeps the camera steady
Even if your Olympus camera might allow handheld long-exposure shots, I advise you to take a tripod along, for long exposure times it is simply necessary. In this case, image stabilization is not needed so turn it off. When using a tripod it is essential to control the camera remotely. Use the built-in self-timer or a dedicated remote control.
Multiple exposures increase your options
In the dark the camera has difficulty focusing on the subject, so you better do this manually. A great help is the "Focus peaking" function, with which you can check your accuracy on the LCD. Taking more than just one shot of a specific situation gives you the chance to pick the best one later on or merge differently exposed images into one in software. Or try the HDR function in your camera.
My tips for successful evening photos:
• Prepare well before you set off
• Choose a wide-angle or semi-wide-angle lens for evening photography
• Use a tripod to create beautiful, clear images
• Work with a remote control to prevent vibrations
• Create multiple exposures in one place using bracket settings and merge them afterwards
• Possibly edit your images to correct the colors, sharpness, contrast or any distortions
Author & Photographer: Gerrit de Groot