Well, no—not quite.
While it is a little trickier, you can still take good photos with your smartphone in low-light conditions. This article will provide tips on doing so.
1. Use a Tripod
When you take photos in low-light conditions, you’ll often need to fiddle with your camera settings. But beyond that, you’ll also need to stabilize your smartphone. While you can use a flat surface, you’ll need to find a way to keep your phone upright. As such, a tripod is a great option.
Many camera tripods will make it possible for you to mount a mobile device. However, you can also use smartphone-specific tripods.
When buying a tripod for your smartphone, you’re better off choosing one based on quality rather than pricing. While you can find affordable mounts that do the job, you will have a trade-off in longevity beyond a certain point.
2. Consider Using Flash
When taking photos in low-light conditions, many people will turn to their smartphone camera’s flash feature. And while using flash can sometimes cause more harm than good, it is a good starting point for capturing better images.
If you use the flash tool on your smartphone, you’ll automatically generate more light. As a result, you will improve your chances of capturing the image you want.
It’s worth noting that flash will typically work if you’re trying to photograph an object close to you. If you aim to capture a landscape, you might not have the same amount of luck.
3. Utilize External Lighting
If you look at your favorite photos taken at night, you’ll notice that most of them use some kind of external lighting. Photographing cityscapes is perhaps the best example; photographers will often use lights from buildings to get the images they desire.
Photographing with your smartphone in low-light conditions becomes much simpler when you find external lighting. You will often not have as much grain, and it’s easier for the viewer to draw their eye to something—which will make your picture more memorable.
You can seek external lighting for your pictures in several ways, but it needs to be pretty strong. For example, you could look for neon signs that you’ll often see outside bars, restaurants, and stores. Alternatively, you can consider using the light from streetlamps. Another possible solution is to utilize the lighting from vehicles.
4. Don’t Wait Until It’s Completely Dark
We aren’t strictly speaking about nighttime when we talk about low-light conditions. Low lighting can also include blue hour, for example. Some weather conditions, such as storms and rain, can also result in needing to deal with less light than usual. Similarly, the lighting might naturally be lower during the winter where you live—because the sun isn’t as high above the horizon.
If you want to maximize your smartphone photography skills in low lighting, not waiting until it’s completely dark is a good idea. While you won’t have as much light as you would at midday, you do—at the very least—have something to work with.
When photographing in low-light conditions that don’t include nighttime, you’ll still need to consider several factors. First, you must still be careful to minimize the amount of grain in your pictures.
Similarly, you should also think about raising the brightness of your camera. For example, if you have an iPhone, you can hold the screen and move the dial up when it appears.
5. Use a Longer Shutter Speed
When photographing in low-light conditions with your smartphone, many of the practices you’d use for a DSLR or mirrorless camera still apply. With those cameras, you would typically need to keep the exposure triangle in check—which often requires using a longer shutter speed.
Regardless of your smartphone, you should be able to alter your shutter speed at least a little—if you don’t have this option, get a good camera app. Using a longer shutter speed will allow more light into your camera, making capturing better photos at night easier.
When photographing in low lighting, you’ll need to remember that your smartphone camera is even more susceptible to shaking. If you don’t deal with this, you will get blurry images, so putting your device on a tripod is a good idea.
6. Use a Filter
Many images you see online these days are edited, and smartphones have several capabilities in this respect. For daytime photography, the normal camera is more than good enough. But when the lighting levels drop, things become a little more complicated.
You might find it easier to take photos at night if you use a filter on your phone. Each one has different effects, and your options will differ depending on the device you have.
If you’re unsure of which ones will work for you, experiment and pick the best option.
7. Consider Downloading a Third-Party App
Some forms of nighttime photography are incredibly difficult without a bit of assistance. Photographing the stars is one example, and you’ll also have challenges when trying to capture natural phenomena such as the Northern Lights. But fortunately, you can use third-party apps to help you get the results you want.
Depending on the type of photography you want to do, you can run a search on your device’s app store. Some will require you to pay, but the investment is worthwhile. You can also read reviews online before committing to a purchase.
Take Better Low-Light Photos on Your Phone
While you might feel like you need a proper camera to take photos in low lighting, that isn’t always the case. If you’re willing to adapt a little, smartphone photography is an excellent way to capture great pictures when you don’t have much natural light to work with.
For some forms of low-light smartphone photography, you’ll need to invest in alternative items and apps. However, you can do quite a lot with your device’s standard suite of features.