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How To Take Nightshots in Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India sites and temples: Jai Mahal


Jai Mahal

f/8 at ISO 100, 4.30 minute exposure

I arrived in Jaipur late in the evening at 11pm.  I made my way from the terminal to the luggage pick-up carousel, hoping like everyone else that was standing two inches apart from each other, that my bag was going to be there.  After waiting for 20 minutes and seeing the conveyor belt stop and everyone leaving happy with their bags in tow, I admitted defeat that India had won.  Just as I was about to leave to report my missing bag I just happened to see it circulating around on the other conveyor.  Guess I was standing with the wrong crowd!

I get outside the airport and pay for a pre-paid taxi.  I show the driver my iPod with the three maps I had downloaded to it from Google maps (I know smart, right) Jaipur, India sites and temples: Jai Mahal and off we go.  Little did I know that it would be another two hours before I finally found a place to sleep for the night.

We get to the neighborhood where this hotel is suppose to be and I realize this guy knows nothing about this area.  He’s friendly and trying his best but has no clue how to read the map or figure it out.  Time after time he would stop and ask someone on the street where something was and time after time we’d end right back where we started.  I only paid 430Rs ($9.60 USD) for my 30 minute ride but what I was getting was a two hour city night tour in an area that didn’t offer much.  Joys of traveling I know.

I finally tell him I’m done, that if this place is that hard to find, I don’t want to stay there.  He keeps trying to find it and I begged him not to anymore.  I think it became a challenge for him in a way, so I finally just told him if he could find this other hostel I had wrote down as a backup I’d pay him another 200Rs.  He agreed and off we went back towards the center of town.  He actually found this place with no problem and after I checked in, I stumbled into the room and crashed.

I slept in so late that by the time I got up it was late afternoon.  There was no use in trying to visit any sites now as most of the places would be closing in a few hours.  I asked the hostel owner, who is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army, if he knew any places that would be good for night photography.  He gave me a list of three places: Amber Fort, Jai Mahal and a museum called Albert Hall.  Asked if he knew any rickshaw drivers and he said yes and called for one to come pick me up.

While waiting for the driver to show I asked two girls from Hong Kong, who were staying at the hostel,  if they wanted to join me for a night tour.  They both said yes and thought it would be cool to see the sites during the night, as one of the girls was into photography as well.  We spent the next three hours driving around the city looking for locations that would make great night shots.  Our rickshaw driver charged us 400Rs (split 3-ways) and found this to be good value for what I got back in return on photographs.

Photography Lesson:

I tried a new technique with the camera that night.  I wanted to shoot the building in the top photo but couldn’t get the auto focus to work because it was to dark.  So I exposed on something in Auto Focus Mode to get it to focus and lock and moved it from AF to Manuel.  I spun the camera around after locking the shutter open (I was in Bulb mode) for a 4.5 minute exposure.  It came out great and I have to thank Joseph from Bangalore on this little tip he gave me.

  • ISO: low as possible, try 100 and work your way up.  Remember the higher the ISO the more noise you will have in your photo.
  • Aperture: you don’t need to go big but something in the middle should be fine.  Try from about f/8 to f/11
  • Exposure: just because you can go longer doesn’t mean you should.  Remember that light coming from the city will show, so do a test of 30 seconds first and if the photo is to dark, expose longer and work your way up till you find something that works.  Anything after five minutes will start to show star trails, so if that’s what you’re wanting go longer but be careful to watch out for excess light (car lights to security lights exc) because it could blow out your photo.  There is no set rule on this, it’s trail and error.
  • Mode: set your camera in “Bulb” mode to be able to shoot longer then 30 seconds.  If you don’t have Bulb mode you’ll be limited to only 30 second exposures, so drop your aperture down and raise your ISO to compensate.
  • Equipment: A tripod and remote are a must but if you don’t have one, try this: lay the camera on a rock or step, anything that won’t move.  Then without touching anything but the shutter release button click to take the photo but be sure not to shake the camera in anyway.  Once you have it timed and want to end the exposure, click it again but remember not to bump the camera.  If you do you’re going to get a lot of blur in the shot.  Just to prove to you that this work, the photo “Amber Fort Lit Pp with Colors” was made without a tripod.  I sat it on the ground and did the above.  Can you tell a difference in it?

I actually just came to Jaipur to shoot one photo of the City Palace and then leave shortly after but I’m finding it hard already to not stay longer.

A Side Note:

While at the Amber Fort the second night, I was standing by the road trying to get more night shots when two police men rode up on a bike and informed me I couldn’t shoot “still photographs” (ie; I couldn’t use a tripod) of the fort.  I asked why and that I had the night before without any issues, that I wasn’t on the fort complex property and that it was a freaking tourist site and that’s what tourist do, take photos.  All that did little and the response was “cease and desist” sir!  They stated I needed permission from the government to do so.  I did so not happily and took one more shot (Amber Fort Lit Up with Colors) and moved on where I wasn’t going to be imposed on.  My rickshaw driver said they were no good, that it was wrong.  I asked my hostel owner (the retired Army officer) and he said it wasn’t right either and that they might have been just looking for a bribe.  Either way, they never came back but it ruined my second night shooting and left a bad taste in my mouth.

If you plan to do what I did, try to stay in the shadows and not be seen or have money ready to pay a bribe.  That or contact the Rajasthan tourism board before hand and clarify that you do need permission (which I doubt) and if so get a written letter with contact info from them.  That way if you do get hassled you can throw that in their face and tell them to f-off!


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Amber Fort

Amber Fort lit up halfway

f/8 at ISO 100, 4.30 minute exposure


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Amber Fort

Amber Fort lit up with colors

f/8 at ISO 100, 6 minute exposure

(Note: no tripod was used on this photo, as I sat the camera on the ground)


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Jai Mahal

Jai Mahal Palace

f/8 at ISO 100 for a 25 sec exposure


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Albert Hall

Albert Hall Museum

f/9 at ISO 100 for a 60 sec exposure


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Albert Hall


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Jai Mahal


Jai Mahal semi-color

f/8 at ISO 100, 1.5 minute exposure


Jaipur, India sites and temples: Jai Mahal


Jai Mahal blacked out

f/8 at ISO 100, 5 minute exposure

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  • Brad Benner

    Awesome job on making the most of your time in Jaipur. Did you make it to Udaipur — that was my favorite city in India when I was there for 2 months in February & March.

  • Anonymous

    Nope I didn’t make it down that far, as it was going to be a 12hr ride from Jodhpur just to get there, then I would have to travel all the way back up to get to the desert.  I skipped it as Rajasthan is just to damn big! lol  I’ll make a return trip there someday and cover it more.  I heard good things about it, just didn’t have enough time.

  • Erik Smith

    Thanks Troy. This was more helpful then you will ever know. Now I just need to execute it!

  • Anonymous

    Erik: Just passing on a tip a friend told me, as thats what it’s all about man! :)  I had a hard time with this before on getting the camera to locl focus when dark and couldn’t figure it out.  Was looking at a friends gallery and asked him how he got the shots at night bc of the issues I was having I was wondering.  He said “Simple man, just focus the camera on something far away that has light, lock it in and turn the camera around to compose… then fire away!”  It worked like a charm and been doing a lot more night photography bc so.  So I do hope it helps ya and that you go out and try it.  Let me know how it works for ya!

  • Matthew Karsten

    Great images! Love the museum one.

    A tip for focusing when there aren’t any other sources of light around (out in nature) is to shine a flashlight (or 3) on your subject to focus, then turn it off for the shot. This works provided the objects aren’t too far away.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you liked amigo!  You want to know something funny… I do use a flash light all the time to light a persons eye up or something when shooting at night with the light kit to get the camera to focus and lock.  The flash light doesn’t show bc I use lights that over power it.  Anyways, it never occurred to me do the same in a different way for far away subjects (like buildings exc).  Hell you could even use the moon to focus on and then recompose your shot after you framed it, anything to get it to lock, as yeah a flashlight won’t work on things like that… unless your packing around a beckon light that is! lol

  • Sebastian

    Beautiful pictures and thanks for the tips! 

  • Alonna

    love these photos Troy, especially the first two Jai Mahal with the reflections.  nice work!

  • Peter Heck

    Beautiful photographs, the lighting is perfect.  And cheers for the tips, most definitely will come in handy.  My favorite is Jai Mahal semi color.

  • Megan

    Stunning shots as usual! 

    The taxi thing – every taxi driver I had had serious trouble finding the hostel I was staying…I wonder if it was the same place?? I ended up hightailing it out of Jaipur after only 2 nights though…I’d just been up in Mcleod Ganj and even after coming via Delhi (which I always insist I’ll never go back to but have been through like four or five times now, arggh!) Jaipur was just a bit much. Went on to Pushkar and was much happier there! 

  • Anonymous

    Great shots Troy. Long exposure night shots are some of my favourite. These ones rock!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Alonna, I was so happy when I did the test shot and seen it came out just as I had pictured it in my mind… love love that when it all comes together! lol

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t make it to Pushkar but I heard good things about it.  Will have to hit it up next time when I return.  Yeah the taxi thing there… I just think it’s bc no roads are marked in India and no taxi driver has a clue about anything.  In the end I found a great hostel and I know it was better then the location I tried to go to 1st.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take that as a high compliment coming for you guys! :)  I did a lot of night photography while in Rajasthan bc somehow I got myself on some weird sleeping schedule and seemed to sleep a lot during the day and venture out at night.  Guess it worked out some a little for me and was fun exploring new tricks with the camera at night.

  • WanderingTrader

    Are those flying stars in the first few pics??

  • WanderingTrader

    Are those flying stars in the first few pics??

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, star trails from the long exposure.  I didn’t edit them out (although I would if printing) bc I wanted to show that after a few minutes this is what you would get.  The longer the exposure then longer the star trails will be.

  • Cam

    WOW! Incredible shots man!
    Big Thanks for the tips also, very helpful. I can’t wait to test it out for myself

  • Brendan van Son

    That first shot makes me want to jump on a plane to Nepal man.  Great photos as usual

  • Bluegreen Kirk

    I know nothing about photography!  I all do know is I love the photos you posts and these are no exception.  Do you know what the structuce completely surrounded by water was used for?  Great shots!

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t a clue man, other then these buildings were palaces back in the day.  So maybe sunbathing to private swim house, who knows as it’s India! :)

  • Lora House

    Oh My God , your photos are gorgeous , and of course the very place is gorgeous – maybe one of the most beautiful places in the world – India!

  • Appushori

    Wow- I said.

  • Anil kumar

    nice photos of  night

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  • San

    Nice work…..worth loosing your sleep at night :-)

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