bokeh night portrait Photo by Henri Pham on Unsplash

A Complete Guide to Night Photography Portraits: From Gear to Post-Processing

October 14, 2022

When the night falls, the world changes. The city streets are lit with different kinds of light, and the air is filled with different magic. This is the perfect time to capture beautiful night photography portraits. This article will discuss everything you need to know about night photography portraits: from gear to post-processing.

Gear for Nighttime Portraits

Camera with Great Low Light Performance

Night photography portraits can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor. Whether you're shooting cityscapes at night or portraits of loved ones in a dimly lit room, a camera with great low-light performance can help you capture amazing photos. When shopping for a low-light camera, pay close attention to the sensor performance and autofocus capabilities.

A good sensor can gather light, producing sharp, noise-free images. Autofocus is essential for capturing sharp shots in low light; look for a camera with fast and accurate autofocus to avoid missing the perfect moment.

Lens with Wide Aperture

Nighttime portraits can be beautiful and mysterious but can also be challenging to capture. One of the biggest challenges is finding a lens with a wide enough aperture to let in enough light. A lower f/stop number indicates a wider aperture, so a lens with an f/2.8 aperture is ideal for nighttime photography. A fast lens is also essential because it allows you to use a shorter shutter speed, which is necessary for avoiding blur.

a girl holding a roung light in the light

Photo by Drew Tilk on Unsplash

In addition, a fast lens will autofocus more quickly and accurately in low light conditions. Many portrait photographers prefer to use prime lenses for nighttime photography because they typically have wider apertures than zoom lenses. Prime lenses also tend to be sharper and less distorted than zoom lenses. So if you're serious about nighttime portrait photography, invest in a fast prime lens. It will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.

Constant Light with Tripod

A tripod is a must-have for anyone trying to capture sharp, detailed images in low light, and a constant light source can be incredibly helpful for illuminating your subject. While flashlights and other handheld lights can work in a pinch, they often produce harsh, unflattering light.

A constant light source attached to a tripod, on the other hand, will provide a steady, even light that will bring out the best in your nighttime portraits. In addition, using a tripod will allow you to keep your camera steady for long exposure shots, ensuring that your photos are sharp and blur-free.

Best Camera Setting for Night Portraits

If you're hoping to capture some stunning night portraits, there are a few key steps you'll need to take - and camera settings are one of them. So, what are the best camera settings for night portraits?

 a man looking aside by surrounding with neon lighting

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash


When shooting night portraits, it's important to keep your ISO as low as possible. A high ISO will result in noisy, grainy images, so you'll want to avoid that if possible. Instead, keep your ISO around 100 or 200; this will help you capture crisp, clear images. Of course, there will be times when you need to raise your ISO to get proper exposure. But if you can avoid it, do so - it will make a big difference in the quality of your night portraits.


In night portraits, you'll want to use a wider aperture to let in more light. A lower f/stop number indicates a wider aperture, so aim for a f/stop of around f/2. This will help you capture beautiful, detailed night portraits that are properly exposed.

Shutter Speed

In night portrait photography, it's important to use a fast shutter speed to avoid blur. A slow shutter speed will result in blurry, unusable images, so you'll want to avoid that if possible. Instead, try to use a shutter speed of around 1/ 125; this will help you capture sharp, detailed night portraits.

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography Portraits

Processing 1

We will start with the raw editing.

Step 1

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography Portraits

Add clarity to the image to make the mid-tone contrast pop more. Then add some vibrance to make it more colorful in the image. Add Shadow to see the background, then add some overall contrast and boost the exposure.

Step 2

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsDrop the whites slightly because the whites on the subject face were a little bright.

Step 3

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsGet the brush tool out and drop the exposure, the shadows, and the blacks, so this is a masking tool.

Step 4

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsBrush the subject's skin on the parts you want to make a little smoother. Ensure you don't go over any contrasting lines because you want to keep those parts sharp. In this case, we are masking all parts we want to smoothen except the eyebrows and the eyes.

Step 5

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsOnce you have all the parts you want to smoothen, you can eliminate the black shadows and the exposure change. Drop the clarity a little bit to smoothen the skin out a little.

Step 6

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsAdd a little more sharpness and brightness to her eyes to make them pop out more from the image and stand out. Add some darkness to her eyebrows, too, to make the features of her face a bit more dramatic.

Step 7

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsNext, go to her hue selection and change the saturation of all the colors apart from her skin tone. This will make the image pop more without making her skin look strange. Change the colors in the image and make them look dramatic. We're not going to change the red and orange channel just because that's the color of her skin, and if we change those, it might make her skin look a little bit strange.

Processing 2

In this process, we will jump into the native photoshop and finish the image.

Step 1

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsIf you have people in the background like in this photo, you can do a rough deletion using the content aware fill tool. This way, you will eliminate anyone in the background, not the subject.

Step 2

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsSince you are shooting at a low aperture, you will have to select the patch tool, go through the subject's face, and remove any imperfections that can be seen. Remove any bits that aren't smooth or maybe a different color, making a face smoother and perfect.

Step 3

Post-Processing for Great Night Photography PortraitsTo put the subject more in the middle of the frame, press the free transform, right-click again, and click distort. In this case, we're just going to distort the image slightly so that subject is directly in the middle of the image. You don't want to do this too much, or it'll start making the image look slightly strange. This is because when you distort, you lose quality in the image. After all, pixels get duplicated. However, you won't be able to tell by just doing a little distortion to put the subject in the middle.


Night photography portraits can be fun, challenging, and rewarding to spend an evening (or night). By understanding the basics of shooting in low-light conditions and using some simple post-processing techniques, you too can create stunning images that capture the magic of the night.

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