Photo Breakdown - Night Shoot with Yayha

Ah, yes, finally I find a model that wants to do a shoot at night! I met YaYha at a local coffee shop in Chiang Mai, and we got to talking about photography pretty quickly. We decided to do a photo shoot here in Chiang Mai, but wanted something different from the café and coffee vibe that is a popular location for photo shoots. We decided to try a night shoot, and set out around 8:00pm to begin the shoot.

We shot at two locations, both of which provided AMAZING light from all different directions, creating incredible lines of interest and backlighting Yayha with perfection. Before I get ahead of myself, lets talk through a few of the photos and why I love them so much! This is a good learning opportunity for those that are interested in not only night photography, but newbies that just want to get into photography in general!

Boom, here is one of my favorite pics. I love it for so many reasons. I’ll break down each aspect of the photo in the sections below, and we can discuss anything else you notice in the comments below.

That lighting.... love it!


Let’s start with the model, Yayha. First of all, she looks great. When we spoke in the coffee shop about the theme of the shoot (always important to do!) she expressed interest in something casual, cool, and perhaps slightly sexy. Well, she nailed it. Her hair is very natural looking, makeup is low-key, and her shirt is young and fashionable. I had her move her backpack to one side and tilt her head to create some asymmetrical interest, tilt her shoulders slightly back, and had her look into the camera.


We went to a night market here in Chiang Mai, and luckily there were rows of beautiful lights hanging above the market (you can see these behind Yayha). Light from the clothing stalls in front of Yayha was enough to keep her well-lit, and the light behind her also helps separate her from the background by creating a slight glow around the edges of her body. I shot this with the camera settings necessary to allow some nice bokeh (background blur) that puts the interest on the subject, Yayha.

Camera Settings

While some of the other professional photographers reading this might have been waiting for this part, some of the newer photographers might not be too versed in camera terminology. No worries, I will explain in a way that's easy to understand. I shot this with a Sony a6300, a mirrorless camera that has awesome low-light capabilities. The camera settings are 50mm, f/2.0, ISO 500, and 1/80 shutterspeed. Note that because the a6300 has a crop sensor, the real focal length is 75mm, adding to the background blur and the true form of Yayhas face. The f/2.0 is almost wide open, as my lens can go as wide as 1.8. This wide aperture allows for lots of light to reach the sensor, as well as creates some great background blur. The relatively low ISO of 500 (thanks to the a6300’s amazing low light abilities) allows me to maintain sharpness and detail without sacrificing quality, and the shutterspeed of 1/80 is just above the minimum for blur-free handheld shots (don't want to dip below 1/60 of a second, your shots will be blurry).

Editing Process

Like all of my photos, I used Lightroom for the editing process. For this photo and all of the other photos from this shoot, I used my “midnight tones” preset that I created for some of my night shoots. The preset offers soft and cool color tones that are rich in brown and dark blue, but free of distracting greens and bright oranges. I desaturated much of the colors, and added a matte finish to the entire image. I did some localized editing and added a tiny bit of vignetting as well. The localized editing is different for each photo, and I might create a guide on localized editing in the future.

There are lots of other small details hidden away in the preset, but they are too much to get into now. If you are interested in this preset that I used on all of Yayhas images, feel free to check it out in more Lightroom Preset Store. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments below. I am more than happy to answer them J

Artistic Standpoint

While much of these were discussed throughout the rest of this article, we can sum them up once more. The backlight on Yayha separating her from the background and adding interest and color to the image is what truly makes this image. If the light did not reach her, her outer edges would not be glowing and there would be much less interest in the photo. The shadows on her body and very natural color tones throughout the image also create a very calming vibe, and of course the look on her face adds a sense of wonder and naturalness. She is also incredibly beautiful, something that makes every image much easier to look at.

Of course, there are many more things we can discuss about this image and the others. Please share any observations you might have, and let’s get a discussion going. I am just the photographer and I am very biased, so I value learning from you all as well!

PS: If you want to chat about another photo from this series which can be found in my portfolio, link the photo here and lets discuss it as well. If enough questions sprout up, I will create another one of these photo breakdowns for that photo :)