Tripod is fine … but it does not have to be big
Night shots usually require long exposure times. Although a tripod is quite indicated, I know very well how tripods are boring. They are large and heavy, take up space and often can not be carried as cabin luggage on plane travel. A large tripod is very important in star or boreal auroral shots, but for other night shots I prefer to use a small tripod with flexible legs. Read more about techy gadgets in NoFluffTech
An extra tip: Of course these tripods are not as stable as a normal tripod. If you do not have or do not like using a remote shutter release, it’s quite possible that the movement of pressing the shutter button will make your picture completely blurred! In this case, use the camera timer (when the tripod seems to me especially swinging, I use the 10-second timer, otherwise use the 2-second timer).
Use your camera’s (understated) leveler
It’s very easy to take crooked night shots because we have fewer references. In this situation the ideal is to use the built-in leveler of your camera to have straight horizons. Look through your manual: if your camera does not have a leveler, use the tripod bubble leveler.
3. Has it rained? Be glad!
Rain is usually bad news, but for night shots it’s welcome. Have you noticed that in most of the night scenes of the movies the sidewalks are wet? It is that the water reflects the light, so the rain helps us to make the scene more bright and interesting.
The next time it rains you already know: instead of shrinking in bed, put on a raincoat and get out to take pictures!
Closer openings (such as f / 22) allow for longer exposures and consequently we can record interesting movements.
In night shots the smaller aperture also allows the specks of light to resemble stars. It may seem like a rather small detail, but in a mostly dark photo this makes quite a difference.
Finally … the settings
I know that one of the great difficulties of night photography is the more technical part. Although each situation is unique (for a change!), Some tips are valid:
To focus: use the camera’s liveview (LCD screen) and zoom in to focus manually. It is usually easier to focus on points of light than in other areas. I do not usually rely on automatic focus in these cases.
For the photo do not get too noisy: bet on long exposure instead of high ISO. I personally do not think noise is something so evil . See in the settings of the photos above that sometimes “sacrificed” the ISO, sometimes the aperture. And, in most examples, the exposure time (up to 30 seconds.)
For the photo not to be shaken: the tripod is your friend, but if you do not have one, support the camera on a bench, on the floor, on the wall, anywhere 🙂 Just do not think it’s possible to hold the camera firm for 2 seconds.
For the picture not to be dark: the photometry of a night scene is different from the daytime scene. Your photometer will hardly reset. Although, I repeat, different situations ask for different solutions, remember that the tendency is for the photometer to get one or two points on the negative. In doubt, test and redo.
And an extra tip: all places that get crowded with tourists during the day are usually empty at dawn. If your travel destination is safe be sure to book a night for sightseeing. It’s fun to see places from another angle, and I’m not just talking about the photographic point of view.