6 iPhone Tips For Capturing Your Best Photos in Low Light
It’s hard not to be impressed by what the latest iPhone cameras can do. Ultrawide landscape shots, intricate macros, artistic portraits and even 100x zoom: we’re starting to run out of excuses to use the digital camera that’s gathering dust in our cupboard. That said, we all know there’s one thing many phones struggle with and that’s low light photography. It’s true that Apple is making massive improvements to night photography with phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but it can still be hard to nail the perfect shot when light is hard to come by.
To help you nail your next shoot, we’ve put together a bunch of cool tips and tricks to get better iPhone photos in low light, whether it’s after sunset or in a dimly lit room.
1. Hold it steady
Your iPhone is pretty smart. When you try out low light photography, it will automatically adjust the aperture and shutter speed to let more light into the lens and capture a brighter photo. It works like a charm, but there’s just one wrinkle: photos can turn out blurry if the phone moves around too much. To keep everything as sharp and bright as possible, try your best to keep the phone steady whenever you take pictures in low light. A tripod is your best bet, but you can get pretty good results just by leaning the phone on a flat surface or holding it closer to your body.
2. Make use of shadows and silhouettes
One way to improve your low light photography with an iPhone is by embracing the conditions. Rather than trying your hardest to brighten up every feature or discover how to take photos at night with perfect exposure, play around with shadows and silhouettes to create stark contrasts between areas of the photo. For example, the dark silhouette of a tree can look great against colorful sunset in the background.
3. Turn on Smart HDR
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a clever way for cameras to brighten up your photos. It’s the tech world’s answer to those times when either the foreground is too dark or the background is too bright – sunsets being the perfect example. With Smart HDR, your iPhone rapidly takes several photos at different exposures and stitches them together for a more balanced image. Head to Settings > Camera to toggle Smart HDR on or off.
4. Use Night Mode (iPhone 11 and later)
If you have any of the iPhone 11 or 12 models, you belong to an exclusive club that has access to the new Night Mode. Your iPhone will automatically detect low-light environments and switch Night Mode on for you, shown with a yellow icon at the top of the display. This mode extends the shutter speed to let in enough light for brighter, sharper photos. Just be sure to keep the phone as steady as possible for longer exposures. To get more control, tap the number next to the Night Mode icon and use the slider to adjust the exposure to your liking.
5. Avoid zoom
iPhone cameras are getting better and better at zooming in close to the subject without losing too much quality, so it’s now possible to take awesome zoom shots where there is plenty of light. But in low light, your iPhone will bump up the ISO to help brighten up the image at the cost of adding some grain – by zooming, you make the grain even worse and end up with a pixelated mess.
6. Edit your photos
You don’t need to be an expert in Photoshop to weave a bit of editing magic into your photos. Social apps like Instagram put extensive editing tools at your disposal, but there are also some built-in editing tools that you can access straight from your gallery. Choose a photo, tap Edit and adjust any range of sliders from exposure, brilliance and highlights to contrast, shadows and black points to strike the perfect balance in low-light scenes. Just try to keep a light touch with your edits, as being too heavy-handed can cause a major loss of quality.
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Carrie is a problem-solving adventurer at Circles.Life. While she’s off-duty, she wears many other hats: does photography that #SparkTheOrdinary at @carriesimitaiji, writes on her lifestyle blog carriesim.com, and spread body positivity on her Instagram account @carriesim.