Evening Event Photography

In photography we cherish the “golden hour” and the “blue hour”, the short period before and after sunset when the light changes to soft warm and then to gentle cool. This is, of course, also the time when many outdoor events take place such as concerts, fairs, and many public get-togethers.

It has been one of my favorite times to photograph happenings. The most recent one was “Night Market”. I will share my approach and some photos from that event.

When shooting such events I want to concentrate on the subject matter, the places and especially the people. With the rapidly changing light that does not leave a lot of time to take care of the technical details. I think of such shoots as consisting of three distinct parts. The time before actual sunset time when there is still plenty of light, the time after sunset when the light gets dim and it becomes harder to even see the camera controls, and the third part that consists of artificially lit situations like concert stages where the light often is very harsh.

In this article I will just review my approach for that first part, when light goes from daylight to dusk, when the artificial lights do not yet dominate.

For the “Night Market” I decided to use my “evening setting”. That is aperture-preferred with a specified slowest shutter speed, auto-ISO and center weighted light measurement. I use single point focus so I can control what is sharp.

My settings were: Mode A – aperture preferred. Aperture at f/5.6, shutter speed at 1/125 second max. Sensitivity at ISO 200 with auto-ISO. That means the ISO will be at 200 when there is enough light for a shutter speed of 1/125 s or faster.

Does that work? It does, but not as smoothly as I would like. The bright sky or bright lights can still confuse the camera and cause the subject of interest to be under-exposed.

Here is how that worked for my shoot. This shows the thumbnails of my RAW images.

You can’t make out the details of the photos, but you can clearly see that some look darker than others.

For comparison, here are the thumbnails of the final selection of post-processed images.

You can see that these are more uniform in appearance. But, of course, each photo required careful, individual adjustment. Something I want to do anyway.

What you could not see in these thumbnails is how the light got dimmer over the period of this shoot. This chart shows the ISO setting selected automatically by the camera for each exposure.

My first photo was taken at 6:43:23 pm, The last one at 7:27:59 pm (the chart only list the time for every other exposure). The first few were at ISO 200 as there was still plenty of light for the overview photos. Two showing action on the stage are exceptions and they required ISO 1600 and 1800. Then the ISO values crept up, A large block required ISO well over 4000, these where stage shots, and finally some near ISO 2000, again overview photos.

One image required ISO over 10,000. I use a Nikon D800, a camera that is nearly eight years old. It’s low-light capabilities are not anywhere near what modern cameras can do. There is a lot of noise in the images at higher ISO.

This gets me to post-processing. I use three photo-editing apps. First ON1 Photo RAW for exposure adjustment, pepping up the image, and sometimes some other corrections. Then come Topaz Labs DeNoise AI which is a magic tool for noise elimination. The final step is Microsoft Photo Gallery for cropping and minor adjustments as well as resizing.

Here is that image that needed ISO 10159.

You can see plenty of noise in the Original on the left. That is the part in the little white box on the right. The middle image shows how beautifully this tool cleans up the noise.

You can see that noise just is not a limiting factor for my evening-time photography. You may have questions about some of the details. Those are topics for other posts and some of those will be in other sites.

Back to that very first photo. It is an overview of the “Night Market”. I did this exposure as I walked in as a test to make sure that I had set up the camera correctly and I was able to get decent photos. This shoot was done on assignment for Peachtree Corners Magazine. I included this first image in my delivery to the client. They liked it enough to use it as the title image on their Facebook page. What more could I ask?

Oh yes, I did promise to show some of the photos. Here are the ones that Peachtree Corners Magazine included on their Facebook page. Click on the first one to go to the gallery.

.:. © 2020 Ludwig Keck


  1. Lovely reportage. That is much like I set my camera for such work. I continue to be in awe at the ease in which we can capture this quality of imagery at these ISOs. I remember vividly attempting to get photos of our grand daughters synchronized swim team with ISO 600 film; the fastest available at the time. How I would have loved 3 more stops.

    1. Thank you, Tom. Indeed times have changed and so has photography. I love shooting in the dark when I can’t even focus. I will do an article on that in a few weeks.

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