Etiquette in Night Photography
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Going to be with other folks when shooting at night? Follow these simple guidelines and you may still have some folks who will shoot with you again!
Before you turn on a light, ask "Are you open?"
Probably the number one rule. When you turn on a light, any light - even red, it will most likely ruin the shot for everyone else. Red lights are just a ruinous as white lights. In fact, I would even argue that white lights are better. Happy accidents (a subtle light on the foreground) might happen. However, a red light all over the landscape is terrible. The only reason red lights are good at night is that they do not destroy your night vision, when needing a light.
Be aware of your car lights too:
If you car is nearby, try to turn off any and all car lights that come on when you open any door. This was a requirement when I bought my last car. For some cars, this is not an option. If you can't manage this, park further away from the photography location. Don't open your car doors without asking, "Are you open"?
I have often found myself shooting in a popular spot, when I see another person walking toward me with a flashlight. Keep in mind, their night vision is gone. It's much better to announce yourself than accidentally surprising them. You never know what people are carrying to protect themselves. Better to be on the safe side. Always announce yourself if coming and/or going at night (and you see another person).
Sometimes we walk in front of cameras on purpose when we light paint the scene. If you are wearing any light colors, your camera will pick up the light. Wear black and you can evade the camera, especially if you accidentally walk in front of someone's camera.
Turn Off all Camera Lights and Beeps:
Look at the front of your camera when you take a shot. Do any lights go off? For example, when people set their camera shutter on a 2 second delay, a red light will often show on the front of the camera to count down to the shutter.
Gaffer's Tape is perfect for taping over some of the lights that may go off on your camera, otherwise, they can ruin people's photos.
Point lights down, not up.
Lots of folks wear headlamps when they shoot at night. Lights are important at night - especially when walking on a Texas trail. However, keep in mind that your light should be pointed down and not out. Headlamps don't really help out here. This really increases the opportunity to ruin other people's shot as well as their night vision. So, if you can help it, hold onto your headlamp (when walking a trail) and point it down (not out).
A car leaves a parking lot at Big Bend National Park as the International Space Station flies overhead.