I love nighttime in December! The air, the stars, the lights ...it's wonderful!
Taking pictures at night is a lot of fun, but it can also be challenging. Since there isn't as much light at night, your camera has a more difficult time focusing. If it doesn't detect enough light, your camera compensates by taking more time to actually snap the picture, staying open longer to allow more light in. This is great if you can hold your camera perfectly still for the couple of seconds it takes to snap the picture. However, if you move around at all, it can create a blurry picture.
The surefire way to stabilize your camera is to use a tripod. However, like many of you, I do not have a tripod. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to minimize movement. While they can be especially helpful for nighttime shots, they can be applied to any situation where you are having a hard time getting a clear, focused picture.
* Hold your breath as you snap the picture. I thought is sounded kind of weird at first, too, but it does help!
* Hold your upper arms and elbows tight against your body.
* Use the self-timer. I love this trick! This way you don't have to move the camera around as you push the shutter button down.
* Create your own tripod. Set your camera down on something stable - a rock, your car, anything that isn't moving. If you can't find something that will work, stabilize yourself by leaning against a tree, lampost, or something else closeby.
* Experiment with the Night Mode on your camera. My camera has extra settings when I press "Menu" in this mode that allows me to let in more or less light by speeding up the shutter (look at your camera manual for details on how to do that). If you don't have Night Mode, try switching off your flash (unless there is something within about 10 feet that you want illuminated).
* Another note on experimentation: depending on what you are taking pictures of, you may find that you actually like the effect it creates to keep the shutter open longer. This is especially fun in pictures where you want to capture movement (see example here). If using the tips listed above takes away from the effect you are going for, don't use them! Be creative!
Now get out there and practice before the season is over!