Taking dramatic nighttime photographs with your DSLR camera is easier than you might think! Here are my top tips for creating beautiful photographs after the sun has gone down.
Switch off the flash. If you leave your camera in Auto mode, it will try to fire the popup flash to compensate for the low light. All this will achieve is an "over-lit" foreground, with a background that's been plunged into darkness. Using any of the other camera modes will negate this problem.
Use a tripod. You will need to use long exposures to get great nighttime shots, and therefore you'll need a tripod. If your tripod is a bit flimsy, hang a heavy bag from the center section to keep it from blowing around in any winds!
Use the self-timer. Just pressing the shutter button at the end of your exposure can cause camera shake, even with a tripod. Use your camera's self-timer function, in conjunction with the mirror lock-up function (if you have this on your DSLR) to prevent blurry photos.
Use a long exposure. To create great nighttime shots, you need to use a long exposure. I usually start at a minimum of 30 seconds and extend from there, if necessary. At 30 seconds, any moving lit objects in your shot, such as cars, will be transformed into stylish trails of light.
Remember your batteries. Long exposures drain camera batteries quickly. So make sure you carry some spare batteries if you're planning on doing a lot of nighttime shots.
Remember your depth of field. You will probably need a large depth of field for your nighttime shots, particularly if you are photographing buildings and lit structures. I would use a minimum of f11, preferably f16 and upwards. Remember, however, that this will mean that not much light is being let into the lens, and you may need to adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
Watch your ISO. If you've adjusted your shutter speed and aperture, and you're still not ending up with enough light into your photograph, you could consider upping your ISO setting. This will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions. Remember, though, that it will add noise to your image.
Experiment with A / AV and S / TV modes. If you want to help yourself learn as you go along, consider experimenting with these two modes. A / AV allows you to choose the aperture, and S / TV allows you to choose the shutter speed. The camera will sort out the rest. This is a great way for learning how the camera exposes images, and it will help you to achieve the correct exposure.