I'm a real beginner at photography, but over this past year I've been trying to teach myself little tricks here and there. Currently I want to start trying out night photography. However, despite watching lots and lots of videos on which settings I should put my camera on, once I'm outside the camera can't even begin to show anything. It just says the subject is too dark and shows a completely black image on the screen. I'm sure I'm doing something really basic wrong but I don't know what it is. I have a Nikon d3100 with the kit lens and 50mm lens. Is it something to do with that? Or something else?

  • \$\begingroup\$ have you tried to push your ISO up high enough so that it can focus then lowered it to your settings to take the picture you are looking for? \$\endgroup\$
    – thebtm
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 20:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you tell us more about what settings you're using? The "subject is too dark" message is typically displayed when using one of the automatic modes and for night shooting you most likely want to work in manual exposure and manual focus modes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Turn off the "screen". Use the eyepiece. The 50mm probably has a much larger aperture than the kit zoom lens, like f/1.8. \$\endgroup\$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am having the same issue. As far as I can tell I have gone and turned everything off and is set at manual but am still getting subject to dark. Trying to take night sky or Astro photography shots. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aubrey
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 3:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you trying to do night sky photography? In other words, astrophotography? Or are you just trying to take night shots of terrestrial subjectS? \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 4:23

4 Answers 4



despite watching lots and lots of videos

Spend less time watching videos and more time taking photos.

##Prepare your settings##

  1. Define what is your "night" photography. A cityscape, a dark night on a dark forest without any light?

  2. Mount the camera on a tripod

  3. Set your iso at 800 and manual mode as a starting point.

  4. Open your lens all the way up. If you have your 50mm try using that one. Let us say at f1.8?

##Make a bracketing##

  1. Shoot one photo at 30 seconds. One at 15, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4.

At some point, you will find what iso/aperture/speed you have a good result.

If you do not have an image at 30 seconds... something else is wrong.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose that last sentence is where you are supposed to realize that you forgot to remove the lens cap covering the front lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – user
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 13:14

Get a tripod.

This is essentially why the camera says subject too dark. It is a warning normally issues to indicate that the resulting image will be blurred due to the camera moving during the exposure.

Use the optical viewfinder

As long as you can see your subject, you will be able to shoot it. That is what a viewfinder is for. When you use Live-View, the camera has to basically perform an exposure 30 or more times per second to show the preview. However, beyond a point, 1/30s is insufficient to show any details which is why the screen appears black.

Take Longer Exposures

When you take night photographs, exposures will easily reach into the order of several seconds and your camera will let you pre=select up to 30s but do not let that limit stop you. You can take longer exposures of several minutes (even hours on some models) by using Bulb mode.


I have a Nikon. You’re auto exposure lock might be on. Switch this off in either the menu settings or by pushing AE-L button. Hope that works.

  1. Use the exposure meter, try to bring it to 0 first

  2. Change focus mode to manual: The camera might not be able to focus hence the shutter may not work. This was the reason for my countless googling around why doesn't my camera take photos at night

Then shoot

  • \$\begingroup\$ The camera might not be able to focus hence the shutter may not work. This was the reason for my countless googling around why doesn't my camera take photos at night. \$\endgroup\$
    – Soura
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 7:36

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