5 Useful Tips to Focus in Night Photography

5 Useful Tips to Focus in Night Photography

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With the arrival of summer it is also the perfect time to start doing some night shots. Like many landscape photographers I also love night photography and some time ago I wrote this guide about how to plan and shot the Milky Way

While shoting for the stars usually we are completely in the dark and is not always easy to find the correct focus point, so I decided to write this guide to give you som tips for focus in night photography

Manual Focus

During the night and without any light point the manual focus is one of the most efficient way to focus in the night. To achieve it simply move the manual focus ring until the infinity symbol. When using manual focus we have to consider that the exactly focus point can vary from the symbol of infinity from lens to lens.

So knowing your instrumentation is the key to the success of a manual focus. Write down or try to memorize then which is the optimal focus towards infinity on your lens so that you can easily recognize it in the dark

Live View + Zoom

This is also a recommended function during the day, it is about using the live view zoom to set the manual focus correctly. Just zoom in on a bright spot, such as the moon or the stars if we are shooting for the milky way and set the manual focus easily through the live view

Many mirrorless cameras have focus peaking as part of some live view systems, that shows you regions in the frame where the highest contrast exists by highlighting them in a bright color. Focus peaking consist to put focus very fast without any risk to wrong

Pre-focus during the day

This easy trick consist to focus your camera at a infinity subject during the day using autofocus. Then, switch the camera to manual focus and use a piece of gaffer tape to keep the focus on the lens from moving

Consider that using pre-focus which will be limited to the focus we set with light, so for every change of the subject it need to change method and focus

Target light points

Consists simply of focusing on a light source, if the moon is present in the sky it is surely the best point of focus to choose, instead if there is no moon you may be able to do it using a shining star

It is not always so easy to find light sources that can help us to use this function, in any cases can be very usefull light up the area with a lamp or laser pointers to illuminate the area, this may allow you to focus and set the desired shot

Hyperfocal focusing

Distance is defined when the lens is focused at infinity, where objects from half of this distance to infinity will be in focus for the lens. Instead, the hyperfocal distance may refer to the closest distance that a lens can be focused for a given aperture while objects at a distance (infinity) will remain sharp

Many lenses have hyperfocal markings on the lens barrel. This funcion allows you to set your lens so that, at a given aperture, you can determine at what distance objects in the frame will be in focus. So, without even looking at the viewfinder, you can set your focus

Here was the tip to focusing the dark, as you can see many relays to manual focus or with some experience in the field. And what about you? I’d like to know what methods you use to focus at night, let me know in the comments

If you are looking for more information on night photography, I suggest you to read more on the night photography guide or how to plan and shot the milky way

Stars Zoom

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Hello guys! Here I am again with a night picture from the beautiful Rocca Calascio. What you see is the castle, with the path that leads to the slopes of the fortress. The way was glimpsed in the darkness and the atmosphere created by this photo was something that catch me imediately I like very much that mood and I also like the light pollution behind the castle that seems a daylight lighting

Speaking of the sky and the stars this time I tried to do something different, I enjoyed playing with the zooming and  Photoshop levels to create something original and slightly different from the usual, one created is a startrail zoom made by copying the same level multiple times and changing the blending mode into lighten, the sky full of point-like stars seemed to me too reductive for this beautiful castle 🙂



After created the images stack I changed the blending mode into lighten to create a zooming effect, than i merged the result into a final frame. Using TTS PRO I launched luminosity masks with I increased the lights of the darks and decreased the highlights curves. I created contrast zones to fix the light and the contrast over the main part of the picture

The next step was to fix colors using auto correct, that give me a very good color tone, than I slighlty changed it by reducing blues and increasing yellow using a warming filter.

I used dodge and burn to lighten the path that lead to the castle, I also launched orton effect decreasing the opacity to 8% to create a soft and dark dreamy atmosphere in the image. The last step was to darken the image e and to launch a noise reduction with very low opacity just to give the last touch

All the effects I mentioned above are inside my brand new panel TTS PRO, that I recommend to download to  fasten your workflow and to have all the effect in one click application!

I  hope you will find this usefull. I love to hear that from you!



Camera: Nikon D-800

Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2,8 (Shot at 14mm)

Single Exposure

ISO: 3200 at f/2,8

Software: Photoshop CC2018

Plugin: TTS Pro


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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