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How to Photograph Neon Signs

November 18, 2019 2 min read

As winter has finally arrived, the darker mornings and evenings can be an interesting opportunity for photographers. Urban environments come alive in the dark, mostly thanks to the popularity of neon signs advertising shops, bars and hotels. Cities like London, New York and Hong Kong are much more visually appealing at night, with photographers flocking to capture the vibrant signs.

However, trying to capture and enhance the effect of a neon sign isn’t always so easy, mostly due to the low light conditions and the reflective, glowing nature of a neon sign. It can take real skill to bring a neon sign to life through the camera lens. If you’re hoping to improve your photography, here are some top tips when it comes to neon signs.

Tip 1: Using props

While you may want to keep the neon sign itself as the focal point of your photo, the shot might benefit from the use of a model. This can highlight the imitable glow of neon as it bounces off their hair or clothing.

You can add to this by asking them to wear a pair of glasses; the reflections can create an eye-catching effect as the neon can be seen from different angles.

Tip 2: Find your angle

Experiment with different ways to capture the neon sign and whatever background detail you want. Look for unusual perspectives, and take advantage of natural occurrences like puddles to help create a unique image.

While there’s nothing wrong with simply standing in front of the sign to capture the perfect photo, switch it up a bit between different shots. You never know what you might end up with!

Tip 3: Adjust your camera settings

This may take some experimentation to find out which settings work best for you. When shooting at night, many suggest using a high ISO, which will increase the ability to gather light through the camera sensor. However, a high ISO may create a grainy image which you will need to remove in the editing stage.

Try different settings to work out which image quality you prefer. Consider underexposing your photo and bringing it up in the editing stage, in order to preserve the colour and highlights of the image.

Tip 4: Shoot in RAW format

If your camera gives you the chance to shoot in RAW, you will have greater freedom to adjust colours and brightness. RAW format allows you to preserve more image data, resulting in higher quality photos.

Shooting in RAW can make it so much easier to make all different kinds of adjustments. This could be particularly helpful for neon sign photography because of how vibrant and different each neon sign can be.

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