I experimented a little with night shots last week. I had no idea what settings to use, so it was pretty much all trial and error. Here's one that I think turned out okay.
It was taken with my 85mm at ISO 800, f/2.8, and 1/200 sec.
I think the colors of the neon lights are interesting, and I'm hoping the man's face is light enough to be noticed. I think it is.
Here's another with the 85mm, at ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/50 sec:
I like the colors in this one, too. The lamp post in the foreground looks neat to me with the yellow and red casing.
And here's the uncropped, unstraightened version of it, which I include because I like the dark figure on the far right of the frame, and I missed him when I had to straighten/crop:
I wish I knew of a way to sort of copy-paste him back into the straightened version. I might ask on the retouching forum if anyone has any ideas. I think he adds a lot to the photo.
But anyway, I was actually quite pleased with these two since I hadn't really tried to shoot outdoors in these kind of lighting conditions yet. It was pretty hard for me to get anything that wasn't blurry, and these two are two of the three best. I scrapped almost everything else. Nothing I took of people walking by came out -- too blurry. I know the shutter speed was to blame for that, but I already had the aperture as wide open as I thought reasonable, and I wasn't willing to boost ISO to 1600, but maybe I should have been.
But I think they're not bad at all for ISO 800 on the 350D. When I zoomed in while editing in Lightroom, I definitely saw noise, but when looking at the photos "normal" size, it doesn't bother me -- I don't even notice it.
I think night images like these two are all fine and good with my current set-up, but if I ever want to get keepers of people in these conditions who aren't standing still as statues, I think I'm going to have to invest the time/$ in learning flash. I keep avoiding it because I don't think I'll be willing to carry around flash equipment all the time. I like photography a lot, and I like taking the kinds of images I take, but I can't see myself ever becoming the kind of photographer who carries around tripods and bounce cards and three bags' worth of equipment. I like being mobile and last-minute and flexible.
I like being the kind of photographer who happens to have her camera with her when she sees something interesting. And even when I'm with friends, I want to be able to pull out my camera and take a few shots without holding everyone up or exasperating them while I set up a tripod and connect a flash. Maybe that means I'll always be an amateur, but that's definitely okay with me.
I'm also afraid that my enjoyment of images like these has sealed the deal for me -- my next camera body needs to be awesome at high ISOs. I think I would get a ton of use out of that ability.