Photographing The City Of Moscow At Night

Landmark buildings reflected in the waters of the Moskva River on a summer evening in Moscow, Russia.

Travel and photography represent a perfect marriage for many creative souls.

While travel is, arguably, the best way to learn about the world and how folks live outside of your everyday experience, photography allows us to record a lasting visual documentation of our journey.

But, just as the night offers the traveller a new range of experiences, a whole new world seems to come into existence for the photographer once the sun goes down.

The above photo was made standing on a bridge overlooking the Moskva River towards the Kremlin in Moscow.

The magnificent St. Basil's Cathedral illuminated at night in Moscow, Russia.

Do You Need A Tripod For Night Photography?

While all the photos in this post were made with the aid of a tripod, you can certainly embark on a night photograph adventure without one.

However, you’d need to take into account the following:

A night time view of the spectacular Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Russia.

Choose scenes with reasonable amounts of illumination

Try to compose your photos around well illuminated scenes. Not only will your photos be more interesting, but the more light there is the faster your camera's shutter speed will become.

And the faster the shutter speed the less chance there is of movement occurring.

Sometimes subject movement, such as people moving through an otherwise stationary environment, can be very evocative. But, with the exception of images based completely around movement, camera shake is rarely a good thing.

Moscow by Night

About To Travel?


Change Your Camera's ISO To Avoid Blur

It's important to understand that, when using Exposure Modes (e.g., AV/A, TV/S, P) other than Manual Exposure, every time you double your ISO your Shutter Speed will automatically double.

That's important because the more quickly the image is exposed the less chance there is of blur occurring as a consequence of either subject movement or camera shake.

Beware Of High Contrast Scenes

You may notice how quickly shadows blend into black when photographing cityscapes at night.

Again, make sure the most important parts of the scene are well illuminated and allow the darkest areas to go into deep shadow or black.

That loss of information in the darker areas of the image can help accentuate shapes and also add a sense of mystery to your photo. 

What's Best A Zoom or Fixed Lens?

A fast, fixed lens can be an advantage for night photography. Assuming, that is, you’re employing it’s physically widest apertures (e.g., f1.8 or f2).

The magnificent Red Square on a warm summer's evening in Moscow, Russia.

Photography is a Physical Endeavor

The compromise is that, as it’s a fixed lens, the advantage of a zoom lens (many focal lengths within the one lens) is lost to you.

The loss of the ability to zoom forces the photographer to move to arrive at a good composition. Some folks refer to this as having to zoom with your feet.

Once you start moving forwards or backwards, you’re only one step away from moving left and right, or up and down.

As a result neurons in your brain start to fire and the whole process of making a picture becomes more interesting as you begin to explore different viewpoints, perceptive and directions of light.

I regularly run special one-to-one night photography classes in Melbourne, Australia. If you’re in the area and you’re interesting in learning how to make fantastic night photos feel free to contact me and we can discuss the options.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru