iPhone Photos in Low Light: Practical Tips and Brilliant Hacks

iPhone Photos in Low Light: Practical Tips and Brilliant Hacks

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Galaxy landscape with pink and blue light. Long exposure night photo with trees un the dark
Low light photography is challenging given how photography relies on light.

Are you having a hard time taking good photos in low light with your iPhone? Do you always end up with low-quality, grainy, and blurred photos?

Taking photos in low light is not as easy as it sounds. Chances are, you are not doing it right with low light photography. 

Your iPhone’s native camera actually does a great job of taking photos at low light. But that does not mean that it features all the things that you need to come up with amazing low light photos.

Your iPhone is not some kind of psyche to read what is on your mind and capture exactly what you want when there is not enough light in the scene. 

Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to improve your low light photography skills. In this article, you will find out how you can take stunning low light photos with your iPhone.

Read on and discover low-light tips and tricks and then capture sharp and beautiful low light photos afterwards. 

1. Keep Your iPhone Steady

Smartphone on small tripod takes pictures of the mountain range and the clouds above the snowy peaks. Blurred background, focus on display. Photo travel around the world.
Keeping your camera steady is important to avoid any camera shake or motion blur.

One of the most common problems with low-light photography is that the photos come out blurred. But actually, you do not have to go through this struggle.

Before anything else, here is the reason why you always end up with blurry photos when shooting in low light. 

The lack of enough light on the scene makes your iPhone camera use slow shutter speed. The shutter speed refers to the length of time your camera shutter remains open, so the light can reach the lens and capture a photo. 

That means that when you are taking photos in low light scenes, the shutter stays open for a longer time to get enough light and capture enough details on your photos. The thing is, slow shutter speed can cause motion blur even with a very small movement of your camera or anything else in the scene. 

To prevent such a thing from happening, keep your camera as steady as possible.

How to keep your camera steady. 

  1. First, you can use a tripod. Your tripod does not have to be expensive; a lot of tripods are not expensive but are of good quality. But if you can’t afford to buy a tripod right now, you can improvise and make one. Just make sure it’s sturdy and won’t fall easily to avoid any damage with your iPhone. 
  2. Second, make your iPhone lean on somewhere steady like a rock, wall, or a tree. When doing so, make sure your iPhone won’t fall or else you will end up with a broken screen. 
  3. Third, lean into something solid like a tree, lamppost, or wall in order to keep your body steady while shooting. It is crucial to keep your elbows are close to your body to keep your arms steady.

2. Reduce the Exposure

black silhouettes of tall African palm trees against a bright orange-red sunset sky
Reducing the exposure will drastically make your photos better.

Do you always end up with grainy and too bright photos when taking photos in low light scenes? This happens because your camera tries to capture as much detail as it can as it makes your photos brighter to bring out the details in the dark areas. 

For sure, you don’t want a grainy or too bright photo, right? Perhaps, what you want is a grain-free photo where the blacks appear black and the whites remain white. 

But, how will you achieve such beautiful photos?

Good news! You do not have to download or purchase anything to do so. You don’t even need any special iPhone night mode camera settings at all. Just do one simple thing: reduce your exposure before you start shooting. 

Exposure refers to how bright your photos are. Reducing the exposure of your camera will make your image darker. And, that is exactly what you are looking for in order to come up with a great low light photo. 

How to lower the exposure of your camera

To reduce your camera’s exposure, tap on your camera screen to set the focus. Once you have tapped the screen, a yellow box will appear. Next to the yellow box is a slider. Swipe the slider down to reduce your camera’s exposure. 

Reducing your exposure will result in a faster shutter speed since your camera does not actually need too much light in order to capture your photos. When your shutter speed is fast, you will reduce the chance of capturing blurry photos. This also means that there is a lesser chance for motion blur to occur in case you need to photograph subjects in motion. 

3. Shoot in Bright Areas

Beautiful blond woman in raincoat walking alone outdoors at night
If possible, choose a place that is well-lit in order for your subject to appear sharper.

A good photo has good lighting. So, no matter how sophisticated your camera is, if you shoot in a very dark area, your photos won’t come out as what you have expected. Even when you are shooting in a low light scene, you have at least to choose the area with the best possible light source available. 

How to maximize the brightness in a low light area

  1. Go somewhere with a streetlight, look out for illuminated buildings, billboards, or storefronts at that. If you can’t find any of these, your next best options are your car headlights.
  2. You can also use lanterns or candles as your light source. Basically, you have to find a place with light. 
  3. Since you are shooting in a low light scene, you have to position your subject in such a way that the light will illuminate it. In case your subject is a person, what you can do is to light him up by making him face the light source. 
  4. But, if you want to add some dramatic effects to your photos, you can position your subject side-on to your light source. This will result in the illumination of the half of your subject’s face and the underexposure of the other half.
  5. Another option for you when shooting in low light scenes is to surround the well-lit areas with darker negative spaces. The concept here is to make the dark empty spaces act as a frame to capture the attention of your viewers towards your subject that is being illuminated. 
  6. If you want to create long shadows or silhouettes, what works well for your aims is street lighting. To create a silhouette, simply position your light source behind your subject. After that, reduce your exposure as mentioned above.

4. Use HDR

Dominican Republic Samana HDR picture
Shooting in HDR will give you details that normal photos can’t give.

Another helpful tip that you can do when shooting in low light scenes with your iPhone is to make use of HDR. HDR or High Dynamic Range is one of the most technologically-advanced features of your iPhone. HDR works by taking three different photos in three different exposure – regular exposure, underexposed, overexposed – and then combine it into one sharp and crisp image. 

Using the HDR feature will help you bring out the details in your subject that a normal camera can’t include. It allows you to capture shadows and highlights that regular exposure can not do This will help you will come up with stunning low light photos that detail the exposures way better than a normal photo. 

Activating the HDR will make capturing an image a little longer since it captures three exposures in one go as mentioned above. Having this in mind, it would be very helpful that you used any stabilizing device to avoid any camera shake which can blur out your images.

The HDR feature also uses a larger space since the HDR photo has a larger file size. This could make your iPhone slow down a little bit. 

5. Experiment with Long Exposure

Light trails in the downtown district of London. Long exposure
Shooting in long exposure makes your subject appear like light trails.

Low light scenes are indeed one of the best times to come up with some long exposure photos. What does a long exposure photo mean?

Basically, a long exposure photo means that any movement in the scene that is captured will come out blurry. Long exposure uses a much longer shutter speed. It is a technique that is used by photographers who are trying to achieve a specific result. 

Why use long exposure?

Using low exposure is an incredible way to convey a sense of motion to the photos you will take. And with low light scenes, you can actually take advantage of it to shoot incredible long exposure light trail photos.

Some of the best subjects that you can capture with long exposure are moving cars and trains. This is because they’ll look like a beautiful light trail in your camera as they move to the area where you ware shooting. 

How to create long exposure photos

To create stunning long exposure shots, the first thing that you have to do is to look for an app that will allow you to use slow shutter speed. There are actually a lot of apps that you can download. Some of them are free while others have a fee. 

Some of these apps include the Slow Shutter Cam. With the Slow Shutter Cam, you have to choose first the type of long exposure photo that you are aiming for. Your choices are (Motion Blur, Light Trail, or Low Light). After choosing the type of long exposure photo, what you will do next is to create your desired long exposure effect by adjusting the Shutter Speed and Blur Strength. 

Once you start shooting, the Slow Shutter Cam will take a few images in quick succession. These images will then be blended together to come up with a long exposure shot that displays every single movement of your subject. 

What to remember when shooting with long exposure

With long exposure shots, it is very important that your camera is steady. A simple movement will make the stationary objects in the scene appear blurry. It is therefore recommended that you use a stabilizing device to keep away from any movement that could ruin your shot. 

In all honesty, long exposure photography can be a little bit restraining. It could even consume a lot of your time before you can actually master it. Usually, you have to go through and play with the different shutter speeds and settings before you can come up with a truly amazing result. 

6. Convert to Black and White

Beautiful reflections of Southern Alps at Lake Matheson, New Zealand, in the early morning mist, in black and white.
Black and white images display an aura of mystery.

Your role as a low light photographer does not end once you are done shooting the images. You still can do something to improve the photos you take in low light, especially when everything you have tried doesn’t work for you. 

There are low light photos that look better in color. The thing is, not all photos that are taken in low light scenes have beautiful colors. There are photos that lack impact in color. This makes converting these photos into black and white a sound option. You can either use the camera app’s own edit tools or download a third-party app when converting your images into black and white.

Why use black and white filter for low light photos?

To be more particular, low light photos really goes well with black and white. This is because black and white photos actually look better in high contrast scenes. In other terms, bright highlights and dark shadows are required in the images you shoot. 

More often than not, low light photos look great in black and white since they have higher contrast with bright highlights and dark shadows. Furthermore, the features of your photos will be further highlighted and the illuminated parts of the scene will be more emphasized. 

Other benefits of converting your low light photos into black and white include giving your photos a sense of intrigue and mystery, solves warm color cast problems, and adds a classic, timeless feels in your photos. 

7. Do Not Zoom

Woman hand taking photo of the city with a smartphone. Close up of woman's hands. Cell phone. Telephone. Mobility and modern lifestyle concept. Beautiful sky. Young Girl Taking Photos Of Landscape

It is not advised that you zoom in when shooting in low light scenes since the built-in camera of your iPhone comes with a “worthless” zoom feature. Using the zoom feature will just make your images look blurry and grainy, In short, you will end up with low-quality photos. The resolution of your image will even be reduced. 

Instead of zooming in, try getting a few steps closer to your subject. But if you really can’t go a little bit nearer, the best thing that you can do is to just shoot from where you are and then crop it afterward. 

Cropping the image is way better than zooming it in since it keeps the resolution of your image intact. This means that the quality of the images that you have taken is not affected even when you crop it. 

8. Edit Your Low Light Photos

In connection with converting your low light photos into black and white, you can also do some minor edits to improve your shots.

Your iPhone does not give you the guarantee that all will work out well. You still have to be ready for what the outcome is. 

There are cases where post-processing or editing is very necessary. Editing your low light photos mean you can do some minor changes in your images to enhance them. Your iPhone alone already offers you a vast range of editing options. 

For example, you can adjust the contrast and brightness of your images. If you really want to enhance your photos better, you can download apps such as Lightroom or VSCO. With these apps, you can adjust the sharpness, saturation, and shadows of your photos. 

Conclusion

Shooting in low light scenes has its very own offsets. But if you know exactly what to do and how things work, this is not actually a problem and you could even come up with pretty amazing images.

If you don’t succeed the first time you try it, you can always keep doing it until you have mastered the art of taking low light photos.

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