You can capture beautiful star trails with nothing more elaborate than a wide-angle lens, a tripod and a clear night away from urban light pollution. If you want to get more elaborate, you can combine multiple exposures, or use higher ISOs and shorter exposures to capture star fields without streaking.
The Northern Lights are truly spectacular, but using the right camera settings is only part of it – you also need to be in the right place at the right time, plus a good deal of luck to get the perfect conditions. There are no guarantees!
To get smooth panning shots you need a combination of the correct shutter speed (use S mode and start with a shutter speed of 1/60sec or 1/125sec) and a smooth panning motion. The camera settings are relatively straightforward; a smooth panning technique takes practice.
The flash duration of a speedlight is so short that it can freeze even the fastest motion, like water droplets hitting a surface. The shutter speed is not that important, as long as it's at or below the camera's flash sync speed – if you shoot in darkness, it's the ultra-short flash that captures the image, not the length of time the shutter is open.
Night shots can show the world in a whole new light (ahem), but very often the foreground is lost in dark shadow. All you need to do is take along an LED light or a flashlight, and 'paint' light over the objects or areas in a scene where it's needed.
Some more advanced flashguns can fire a series of flashes in quick succession for a 'strobe' effect. You can use this in darkness with a longer exposure to capture a 'multiple exposure' of a moving subject like a dancer.
The closer your subject, the less depth of field there is. To make the most of it, set your camera to A (aperture priority) mode, set the lens aperture to f/11 or f/16, and with focus not on the front of your subject, but on a mid-point half way between the front and back.
You CAN digitise your old photos using a flatbed or film scanner, but this can take time and, if you don't have one of these devices, you can use your camera! Your kit lens may focus close enough to capture prints, while for slides and negatives, consider investing in a macro lens and a lightbox to illuminate them from behind – or use your phone's screen.
If you do use a scanner to digitise your old photos, a regular flatbed scanner or multi-function device will be fine for your prints, but you'll need a proper 'film scanner' to get the best from slides and negatives. These are more expensive and slower to use, but worth it for the best quality.
Sensor spots are an annoying fact of life with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, so we recommend three-step approach. First, face the camera downwards and try a blower brush. If that doesn't work, try 'dry' cleaning with a specially designed sensor brush (not a regular brush!) or stick pad. If this doesn't work either, the third option is 'wet' cleaning with sensor swabs and sensor cleaning fluid.