Hong Kong attracts photographers from all over the world like flies to the light of the many custom neon signs hanging from its clustered buildings. It’s not easy to capture neon lights. It takes creativity and patience to capture neon lights in low light. These five tips and tricks will help you preserve Hong Kong’s neon cityscape.
Take some props
It takes more than a great angle to make a signed photo look interesting. Sometimes you may need a prop to spice up the shot. Hold the reflective side of a CD in front of your lens. Although you might need to adjust the angle of the disc, once it is in the right place, you will see a flash of color that fills in any space in your image. You can also buy glass prisms from Amazon or eBay for a more sophisticated look. Because prisms reflect light, they can create flares and rainbows which can add a cool effect to your photos. Ask your model to wear glasses when taking portraits of them. Your audience will be drawn into the photo by the reflection of the neon signs and light coming off the glass. Use reflective surfaces around you if all else fails. Anything from shop windows to puddles on the floor can transform an ordinary photograph into something extraordinary.
It can be tempting to increase the exposure on your camera because of the contrast between LED neon signs and the darkness. This is a trap that you should avoid! Instead, you should underexpose the photo and then enhance the details in post-editing. This will enable you to keep your ISO low, capture more detail and minimize grain while still retaining the colors and highlights.
Tap on the part of your image that appears to be at the center of the brightest and darkest areas of the image if you don’t have the option to adjust the ISO. This will adjust your phone to mid-brightness, giving you the same freedom as a DSLR to experiment with light.
Before you go out, pick a neon sign
Before you travel on a photography adventure, make sure to find the best neon signs. Because Hong Kong is flooded with light sources, it can be hard to find the sign you are looking for in the dark. Tsim Sha Tsui’s Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, and Wan Chai are all filled with fantastic signs. But don’t be afraid of going off the beaten path. You might also find interesting signs in less-known areas like small villages or restaurants.
Tips from an award-winning pro on how to photograph the stars of Hong Kong.
The key to success is a post-processing
There are many funky designs and colors available for neon signs. Once you are happy with the shot, don’t stop there. You can import your photo into Lightroom or Photoshop and experiment with color curves, highlights, and lowlights until the desired color scheme is achieved. You’ll have more control over the colors and brightness if your camera allows you to shoot in RAW format. You can brighten or enhance the highlights if you follow the second tip. This will bring back all the detail.