Night Photography in Tokyo

A guide to make sure your photos are amazing

От Michael Ying   

Tokyo is one of the rare cities of the world that gets more beautiful when the sun goes down. With tall buildings covered in neon lights and hoards of people moving throughout the city, it's a photographer's dream to shoot. But you don't have to be a professional or even a hobbyist to take great pictures of Tokyo at night. Here are some tips for better night photography in Tokyo.

Tripod + long exposure = Light beams and movement 

How do photographers achieve those cool light trails in photos? Well half of the answer is a tripod. It is actually rather simple:

1. Mount the camera on a tripod

2. Select a slow shutter speed, (you can do this on shutter speed priority mode or manual mode) anything below 1/30th of a second should show movement. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the light trail. If your camera does not allow for specific controls, be sure to turn the cameras flash off. The camera should adjust to a slower shutter speed automatically. 

3. Compose the photo, and click the shutter. 

A tripod is essential for long exposures at night, and but if you don't have one, any flat surface will work. Be sure to use the timer to avoid camera shake.

Settings 

For long exposures, low ISO and small apertures should be used. If normal exposure times are the goal then it would be best to use high ISO. 800 to 1600 ISO will do great, anything above 1600 will probably end up too grainy. Use contrast to erase grain and darken your blacks. A little trick to taking steady photos: Make sure to always click the shutter on the exhale.

Lens Choice

Wide-angle lenses give a better sense of scope and scale. A great walk around lens for night photography would be anything from the 24mm to 50mm range. Even if you don't have an expensive lens with a fast aperture, you can still take a nice photos with a steady hand. Wide angle lenses should be used to capture wide areas and create a feeling of space in smaller areas. 50mm is a great lens for capturing people, and fast apertures will be great for night photography.

Location

Tokyo has many overpasses for people to walk across busy streets. These overpasses are great locations to shoot photos as they are not blocking any streets and give great vantage points. Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ueno have really great views from overpasses to capture Tokyo at night. Shooting in train stations is ok but you must be discreet. If you try to set up a tripod in the middle of busy Shinjuku station, the police will tell you to stop. But there are other great locations outside of the station, so explore first before choosing a location. Shibuya has many freeways intersecting on the south side of the station which are great for long exposure photography. 

Composition

Be sure to look for strong lines. Use Tokyo's skyscrapers and never-ending streets to create vanishing points in your photos. Combined with wide-angle lenses, the use of lines will create a very strong impression for the viewer. 

Well there you have it! Here are a few tips for your trip to make sure you capture Tokyo at night. 

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Michael Ying

Michael Ying @michael.ying

Originally from San Francisco, I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2011 and have been living in Tokyo since 2014. I'm currently a photographer and dancer, and spend most of my free time finding new places to eat. I love it here in Tokyo! Insta: mikemisc

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