• Photographing Neon Signs

    "Neon Alley" captured by Ryan (Click Image to See More From Ryan)

    Many photographers feel that taking snapshots of neon signs is tricky and calls for expertise and thus try to avoid it altogether. But with the right photography techniques, exquisitely beautiful snapshots of neon signs are possible.

    As a first step, you must select the best time to take a snapshot of the neon signs. If your intention is to confine your focus only on the sign, you can take the snapshot at any time of your choice. But, if you plan taking a photo that also covers the surroundings, the ideal time to take the photo should be either15 minutes before dawn or 10 minutes after sunset. This is called the blue hour as it is dark enough to allow the neon tubes to show up well, and there will also be adequate light to see the surroundings.

    It is advisable to override the automatic flash feature of your camera by following the method as contained in the instruction book. You can use your camera’s internal light meter for the snapshot and the matrix meter function is best for this. If your camera has a spot meter feature, then you can meter over a wide range of the photographic area, including the lightest and darkest areas.

    It is suggested that you place your camera on a tripod to shoot. A tripod will lend stability to the camera and help eliminate the likely blurriness that may occur if you hold the camera by hand. You can also further minimize the blurriness by using a remote shutter release.

    You may have to follow certain different techniques when using a digital and film camera. You can set your ISO to 100 speeds if using a digital camera and if it is a film camera, you can select a corresponding film ISO.

    You must adjust the white-balance of your digital camera for the ambient light and if you balance your camera for daylight, the image will depict a pleasing warm glow. Further, a tungsten balance will make the sky appear more bluish. Instead, if you are using a film camera, it has to be balanced for daylight photography. You can buy film that is balanced for tungsten or fluorescent and then obtain the same effects by using filters.

    For those who wish to take crisp and clear photographs of neon signs at night, the following tips should be of help.

    1. Set ISO as high as you possibly can.
    2. Get as near to the sign as you possibly can.
    3. Open up your aperture to its fullest extent. The aperture is your f-stop and it is measured with numbers – 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, etc. Keep this number as low as you can.
    4. Do not go below 1/100th of a second on your shutter speed.
    5. Never use flash as it will only lighten the background and spoil the overall effect.

    "Mel's Drive In" captured by Dave Jennings (Click Image to See More From Dave Jennings)

    The tricky issue about shooting neon is you are shooting light it. As a camera functions by recording light, it is almost certain to capture a neon sign, even if the sky around the sign is utterly black.

    It may be worthwhile to study how some eminent photographers have captured images of neon signs as that will serve as an inspiration for you. You can have a look at

    Thomas Hawk, Clear light, Devil Doll, Happy shooter, lounge listener and Tom Spaulding – amongst others.

    About the Author
    Peter is an expert author for Neon Business Signs Neon Lights. He written many articles like Custom Neon Signs Tattoo Neon. For more information visit our site myneonhaven.com. Contact him at myneonhaven@gmail.com
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