Best Settings for Night Photography
The benefit of being in Manual Mode is that you’re free to make adjustments to the settings. A scene is never the same and you can’t rely on using the exact same settings every time you’re photographing the stars. However, there are some guidelines you should follow:
The only setting that should remain more or less the same regardless of your subject when photographing in the dark, regardless of your subject, is your aperture (there are exceptions but they aren’t suitable in a beginners guide).
During regular landscape photography, we tend to keep the aperture somewhere between f/7.1 and f/13 as this will result in the overall sharpest images. The complete opposite is true in night time photography because you need to keep the aperture as wide open as the lens allows. An open aperture means that you use a low f-stop such as f/1.4, f/2.8 or f/4 (also called shallow aperture). How shallow the aperture can be will depend on the lens you’re using. Some lenses allow an aperture of f/1.2 but the most common for night photography lenses is f/2.8. Don’t worry if your lens doesn’t have an aperture that wide; f/4 also works. However, if you’re becoming more serious about night photography, I recommend investing in a wide-angle lens that has an aperture of f/2.8 or shallower.
More light enters the lens when we use a shallow aperture and more details are picked up from the highlights in a scene. This means that we don’t need an extremely long exposure in order to get a detailed image of the stars.