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As the late Van Gogh said, “I often think that the night is more alive and richly colored than the day.” Truly, there’s more to capture in the night, other than the moon or the stars. Got an iPhone and free time at night? Great. In this post, we listed eight tips on how you can take stunning night photos on iPhone.
How to take stunning night photos on iPhone
With the recent addition of Night Mode to iPhone 11 cameras and later models, users are more than ecstatic to capture night photos on iPhone. But what if you don’t have the super-expensive iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max? No worries because 7 out of these 8 tips don’t involve using the Night Mode.
Take pictures right after sunset.
If the golden hours are great for taking selfies, then the blue hours are awesome for taking night photos. The blue hours are the first few minutes or hours after the sunset and the first hour before the sunrise. So, basically, it’s the opposite of the golden hours.
Why are the blue hours great for night photos on iPhone, though? Well, the blue hours just give you plenty to work with. For example, if you live in the city, you can take photos of the skyscraper outlines just a few minutes after sunset. The beautiful, seamless blending of the sunset light and building lights will complement the indigo blanket of the sky.
Another thing is, if you don’t want the buildings to appear as a silhouette because the sunlight is behind them, you can use your HDR. Your iPhone’s HDR will expose the dark areas of your photo. As a result, the buildings’ details will become clearer. Later, we’ll delve deeper into using HDR for night photos on iPhone.
Meanwhile, if you want to keep track of the sunset and sunrise in your area, use the Sunrise Sunset Times app. It shows the times of sunrise and sunset in your exact location, which other apps don’t do well, apparently. This app can also show other information such as twilight, dawn, length of daylight, and many more.
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Invest in the best gadgets for night photography.
iPhone photography is just like cooking—your dish will taste better if you have a complete set of ingredients. So, if you really want stunning night photos on iPhone, you should invest in these accessories.
A wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens
While you can take portraits at night, we believe that landscape photos are more alluring subjects to capture in the evenings. So, if you don’t have them yet, invest in a few wide-angle lenses so that you can take rich and detailed landscape night photos.
If you want a set of lenses and not just a two-in-one lens, we recommend the CoPedvic universal lens kit, which comes with a 4K HD 0.67X Super Wide Angle Lens and a 22X Telephoto Lens.
For us, those two lenses are already more than enough if you want to capture interesting outdoor photos at night. The super wide-angle lens will help you include more elements in your camera’s field of view. Meanwhile, the telephoto lens lets you zoom in optically and not *shudder* digitally.
Check out our roundup of the best iPhone lenses you can buy today.
Your iPhone may have an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) that helps you avoid blurry photos and videos when the camera shakes. However, you should still consider investing in a gimbal.
Sure, this tool may sound expensive, especially if you are not taking videos every day; but a gimbal is a universal tool. It will also last up to five years or more if you take care of it. Plus, you will never know when your OIS will break down in the future; so, it’s better if you have a backup in the form of a gimbal.
So, if you are interested in getting a reliable gimbal, get the Hohem 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer. Besides having a time-lapse mode, it has a pretty long-lasting battery life of up to 12 hours.
Last but not least is a good ol’ tripod. We know, we know. Having an iPhone tripod is essential for every iPhonetographer. However, it’s especially necessary if you are taking Night Mode photos.
Remember the Night Mode requires your hands to be steady since it takes a few seconds to capture a photo, compared to using normal mode. So, you will definitely need a tripod if you don’t trust your hands enough.
If you are getting a tripod for the first time, we suggest you get the 51-inch UBeeSize phone tripod. Build- and size-wise, this tripod never falls short. It looks and feels expensive for its price, plus it’s compact enough to fit inside a backpack. So, it’s definitely ideal for quiet night photo walks.
On the other hand, if you are the more adventurous type and want something more adjustable, go for the UBeeSize tripod with flexible legs.
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Use the Night Mode on your camera.
The Night Mode is a relatively new feature in iPhones, which is why it’s not present in older models, even though you can update them to iOS 14. The Night Mode is exclusive to iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
What’s so great about the Night Mode? This new camera feature helps you capture more vivid details and vibrant colors in a low-light photo. But how does this magic happen?
Here’s how it works. The wide camera collects as much light as possible from the scene it sees. The software also takes a batch of photos and chooses the ones with the sharpest details. After that, it combines those “chosen ones” into one great photo. And all that stuff happens in seconds. Phew.
Anyhow, to use your iPhone’s Night Mode effectively, just follow these practices:
- Keep your hands steady when taking a photo. Or, better yet, use a tripod or a gimbal. Your iPhone needs a few seconds to capture multiple images, choose the best ones out of that set, and combine them into one stunning photo.
- Your subject shouldn’t move too much or else they will cause a motion blur effect on the photo. Same reasons as above.
- If you have a selfie ring light, you can use it to expose your subject. We suggest getting the Tomanwai selfie ring light if you don’t own one yet. It has a battery life of up to 70 minutes, which will already do fine in a night photo walk if you ask us.
How to turn on Night Mode on iPhone
- Tap the moon-shaped icon at the top left of your screen.
- The Night Mode icon will show how long the camera will take in capturing your photo. To make the time longer, tap the icon. A few more seconds will be added to the time of capturing.
- Tap the shutter button and wait for the camera to finish capturing.
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Turn on High Dynamic Range (HDR.)
If you don’t like how the elements in your photo are exposed, use the HDR to balance their highlights and shadows. Through this balancing, you can show more interesting details and elements in your photo.
That is why using HDR works well in night photos, especially outdoor environments such as mountainsides, forests, gardens, etc. If you have a full moon or nearby artificial light sources such as street lamps, you can even use HDR to expose the elements in which their light falls.
Also, if you are thinking of using regular exposure instead of HDR, you might get unfavorable results. That’s because iPhone cameras tend to brighten a photo distastefully to compensate for the lack of light.
How to turn on HDR on iPhone
- First, make sure to disable your Camera app’s Smart HDR. Go to Settings > Camera > Toggle the slide for Smart HDR. The slider should turn white.
- Exit your Settings app.
- Next, secure your iPhone on a tripod. Your camera should be steady. That way, it can capture the multiple pictures it needs to take and then combine them into an ultra-sharp photo.
- Open your Camera app. You should see the HDR symbol at the top left of your screen.
Lower your exposure.
While we advised against using the exposure control on your camera, you can still use it if you want to; but use it with moderation. More particularly, lower the exposure when you’re taking night photos on iPhone.
Because of the lack of light, your iPhone camera will try to make the image brighter to show as many details as possible. So, keeping a normal or high amount of exposure will result in a grainy appearance in your photo. That’s why you should lower the exposure to avoid grains.
Lowering the exposure will also make the lights more vivid and bright, giving the photo a clear contrast between dark and light elements. You can also reduce the exposure to improve the composition of your photo.
How to reduce and lock exposure on iPhone camera
- Tap on the area you want to keep sharp in the photo.
- Dial down the sun icon to lower the exposure.
- Wait until you see the AE/AF icon on your viewfinder. This means your exposure and focus are now locked.
- Tap the shutter button to capture your photo.
Note: On iPhone 11 and later models, you can lock the exposure for the next photo sessions. Tap the arrow facing upwards icon and then tap the plus-and-minus icon. Move the slider up or down to save your exposure settings.
Use Live Photos and apply the long exposure effect.
Wonder how night photos on iPhone can become more magical? You can use the Live Photos feature to take them. Besides saving a photo and mini film in one file, you can also apply a Long Exposure effect to a Live Photo, which you can only get on a DSLR camera.
Any moving objects in a Live Photo will appear as a smooth blur or a streak of light if you apply the Long Exposure effect. So, the Live Photo works well for capturing fireworks, concert or party lights, or racing fast cars at night.
How to turn on Live Photo
- Open your camera app.
- Turn on your Live Photo icon at the top right part of your screen.
- Tap the shutter button to take a photo. Make sure your phone is steady while your camera is capturing it.
How to turn normal photos into long exposure pics on iPhone
Now, it’s time to make the magic happen.
- Open your Photos app.
- Tap the Albums tab and scroll down to the Media Type section.
- Tap on Live Photos.
- Choose the Live Photo you want to edit.
- Swipe up to see the effects.
- Swipe again to the left and tap Long Exposure.
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Choose the right filters for night photos on iPhone.
When choosing the right filter, remember that it should enhance your night photo and not change it by making it too bright. Assuming you lowered the exposure setting when you captured it, all you have to do now with a filter is to boost the effect. That means you should choose a filter that deepens the shadows or makes the colors more vibrant.
Best apps for adding filters
Cut Paste Photos Pro is not only reliable for adding filters and effects—you can also resize, rotate, or flip your picture. You can remove the background using a freehand tool or a background eraser tool as well. If you have an iOS device, you can download Cut Paste Photos Pro on the App Store. If you are an Android user, we suggest you get zShot app.
Besides having fun and essential filters for iPhone photos, zShot also lets you edit videos, scan documents, create slideshows, and make collages. If you’re into night videography as well, zShot will come in handy as it will let you adjust a video’s speed, cut the middle part of a video, and merge clips. This all-in-one app by Mafooly Apps is available on iOS and Android for free.
Your stock iPhone camera
Your iPhone camera has a solid stack of photo filters. Don’t underestimate it! We recommend using any of the Dramatic filters on your camera (Dramatic, Dramatic Warm, or Dramatic Cool). These filters lower the intensity of the highlights while deepening the dark areas in your photo. The result is a sultry look that will remind you of a hotel bar at night.
VSCO is an undisputed app when it comes to camera filters. Both the free and paid sets of filters on the app are worth the hype. One of the best filters you could try on your photos is P5, which is dark and edgy. This is a filter for giving off a mysterious vibe in street night photos on iPhone.
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Use your camera flash to take night photos on iPhone.
Yep, that’s right. Don’t be scared of your camera flash unless you are taking a mirror selfie. The camera flash is a beast you can tame using the right subjects, distance, and post-processing techniques.
Using your camera flash at night will work best with subjects that have vibrant colors and intricate details. For example, take photos of an abandoned carnival or arcade or a rich rose garden at night. If you are focusing on a single subject like a tree, a toy, or a flower, it’s better to take a close-up photo. Don’t worry about the focus as your iPhone can handle it.
After capturing a photo, you can lower its contrast enough to add that thin layer of haze. Don’t overdo it! If you are editing on Instagram, make it fade. Add a little glitch and grain, and you will have a 90s analog camera effect.
Don’t be pressured to follow all these tips. To take stunning night photos on iPhone, we suggest you start with one or two of our tips above. And, from there, let your artistic gut lead the way. Experiment as much as you can. Make mistakes. Most importantly, have fun with the night!
What’s the best night camera app on iPhone?
If you want to take great night photos on iPhone, use iOS camera apps like zShot, Adobe Photoshop Express, Lightroom, Snapseed, Halide, or VSCO.
How do you take pictures of the night sky with an iPhone?
You can use Live Photos mode to take pictures of the night sky. After that, you can edit it on the Photos app and apply the Long Exposure effect.
Photo Video Lounge is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc.