Understanding low light photography with your smartphone

photo of people using their smartphones
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Taking pictures in low light with your smart phone will become easier and easier in time. We are discovering that the cell phone manufactures have found a way to take photos in the dark, or night photography, better than they ever have.

When taking photos with your smartphone, the question often comes up: “should I use the flash on my phone”? If you have tried that little tiny light, did you like the results? Most people are trying to use their phone now with just natural light. The results are so much better.

Look closely at the photo at the top. This is a very interesting photo because if you look closely, you will notice that most of the subjects are lit up by their phones. That is real amazing, because the light from a cell phone is not that bright. Good photo.

I have been experimenting with my phone and “night Photography”. I have found that my phone works better for me than my regular large camera (the result is different, but controlling the overall effect is still better with the bigger camera). The Samsung Note 20ultra has some incredible capability of shooting at night time. Check this out:

Photo by Lanny Cottrell – Smartphone – Smart Photographer

Hand holding the phone, it was like the camera saw what was happening and lit up the areas that needed to be brighter to compliment the rest of the photo. You can see the streetlight down the road, but, what amazes me is that I did not see the mountains on my screen, but the camera lit up the sky behind our mountains to give it an amazing twilight effect with the rest of the photo. But, this photo has amazing detail and is worth taking credit for.

Photo by Lanny Cottrell – Smartphone – Smart Photographer

Here is another example of what these newer cameras are doing with night photography. The photo above was taken last Halloween, at a farm-site that had bands playing, special haunted house area, and this area where they were selling their produce. It almost looks like daylight, but, it was dark as can be, roughly around 9pm. Photo was taken, hand held, in automatic night mode.

NOT ALL CELL PHONE CAMERAS WILL DO THIS

So yeah, I have probably one of the most expensive smartphones out there right now. I have found it can do amazing things. Your phone may not have these capabilities. So, how is the best way to take pictures at night time with my camera? So, here is some pointers of how to use your smart phone in low light or existing light.

1- TURN ON THE “HDR” MODE AT NIGHT TIME:

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it can tell you how different the darkest parts are from the brightest parts of the scene. Turn this option on when you’re taking pictures of landscapes, backlit/low-light scenes, and portraits with direct sunlight.

You should also turn on HDR Mode when you’re taking pictures in poorly-lit areas. With this feature your Android phone will take three pictures with distant exposures and show you the best one.

insect on person s hand
Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

2- USE THE SELF TIMER – AND A TRIPOD!

Using the self-timer at night or even during the day is always a good idea. Not only does it give you enough time to find the best angle, but it also helps to avoid blurry pictures. I recommend that you either use the five- or ten-second option. The more time you have to decide the better. And when it’s set up on a tripod, made for a cell phone camera, you can get the type of creative photos you want at night.

3- KNOW YOUR CAMERA’S CAPABILITY

Fact: Your smart phone does not use film. If you want to experiment and find out what your camera can do, you can always discard the bad photos you snapped, and learn from your experiment.

woman in pink long sleeves sitting near fence
Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

4- IF YOU HAVE AN ISO SETTING ON YOUR CAMERA, USE IT:

ISO is a camera setting that sets the sensitivity level to available light. The higher you set the ISO, the brighter your image will be. For those phones that support changing the ISO settings, you can set the ISO to 400 to get a fantastic picture without having to use your phone’s flash.

Higher isn’t always better. If it’s set too high, for example 3200, your picture will come out grainy and blurry. To adjust the ISO on your Android device, open the camera app -> Mode -> Pro. The ISO option should be in the middle. Use the slider to adjust the ISO.

Is the ISO option grayed out? If so, it’s because you have the Anti-Shake and the HDR Mode on. Turn these options off, and you should be good.

man wearing crew neck t shirt walking on gray pathway during nighttime
Photo by Ashutosh Jaiswal on Pexels.com

CONCLUSION:

If you are serious about taking photos in low light or night photography, then learn exactly what your smartphone camera is capable of doing. You should still be able to get great night shots, by using the tips we gave you today.

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Published by 123photogo

I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.

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