The biggest problem with mobile photography is the inability to shoot in the dark. That is, of course, you can do this, but the result is rarely what we expect after watching beautiful professional night photos. There are many reasons for this, from the poor quality of the camera to the fact that the shooting conditions are really difficult, because the darkness can also be different. Oddly enough, there is a solution to problems and you can take normal photographs in the dark, you just need to understand what you are doing, pay attention to it each time and use one or more tips that I will give in this article.
It is difficult to take such a night photo on a smartphone, but it is possible.
Why does the camera shoot badly in the dark
The biggest problem is that smartphone camera sensors are too small. Largely because of this, they do not get enough light at night and cannot take a good picture. There are also limitations that tiny lenses impose. Taken together, this leads to the fact that the camera does not give a bright enough image, or the fact that it does not get too much noise.
First of all, you need to understand that the camera sensor of a smartphone is not just small, but literally miniature compared to full-fledged cameras. Its area ranges from 15 to 30 square millimeters. A full-format camera has a sensor area of approximately 860 square millimeters. The difference is dozens of times too big to turn a blind eye to.
A visual comparison of the sensors of a smartphone and a full-format DSLR.
During the day, there is more than enough light for even the most “blind” camera, and pictures for almost all devices are normal. All problems begin exactly when it is dark around. Let's take a look at how you can deal with this.
Camera with night mode
About a couple of years ago, smartphones began to massively switch to new software in cameras, which allows you to take night photos with your hands of almost the same quality as if they were taken with a tripod.
This is achieved by combining long exposure, high light sensitivity, gyroscope and stabilizer operation, as well as software image gluing functions. As a result, you get pictures that may lose some details, but often even in complete darkness they are of sufficient quality for a smartphone. Some manufacturers even boast of ISO, which goes up to several hundred thousand units, but this is the equivalent that is achieved by software using longer shutter speeds.
I took this photo at night on the waterfront in Valencia.
If there is such an opportunity, then it is better to buy just such a smartphone. Now almost everyone is doing something like this, so it will be easy to choose. True, manufacturers reserve this feature for more expensive models.
A good way to shoot in the dark is a tripod, of which you can buy a lot anywhere. There are tall floor models or small tabletop models, and there are even monopods (selfie sticks) with a handle that folds out and can be placed on a table or other surface.
This design is simple and convenient to take with you. This is especially true when traveling, when you definitely want to take beautiful photos of an unfamiliar city at night. It will even be possible to use manual settings, which are available on almost any Android – smartphone.
A tripod like this won't take up much space in your pocket, but it will help you take beautiful pictures.
Manual settings for night shooting
Regardless of whether you've worked with ISO values before or not: you've surely come across this term at some point. To get a bright image in low light with a small sensor, you can simply boost the light sensitivity of the image sensor. The camera app does this on its own when shooting in automatic mode.
However, higher ISO sensitivities also lead to large decoding errors, which manifest as image noise, loss of detail, and washed out colors. In short, the pictures are really bright and mostly crisp, but in most cases they are not very presentable.
There are manual camera settings in almost every Android smartphone or third-party application.
You can also increase the shutter speed so that the camera has time to gain more light. To do this, simply increase the parameter in the “Camera” application settings in manual mode. Values are selected in fractions of a second, such as 1/200 or 1/40. When it comes to whole seconds, the number goes one and means the number of seconds. It is also not worth going too far here and you need to choose the minimum value from those that suit you. It should be understood that shutter speeds longer than 1/60 of a second are poorly compatible with handheld shooting and it is better to use a tripod.
Should I use flash for night photos?
I have a negative attitude towards the flash in the smartphone camera and try not to use it until the last moment. I always have it turned off, I turn it on only for photographing people in the dark. At distances over a couple of meters, it is almost ineffective.
Smartphone flash sometimes helps, but often gets in the way.
And you also need to understand that the outbreak is different. If you only have one LED light, it will ruin the skin tones very badly when photographing a person. If there are several LEDs, then such a flash has the right to life for shooting at close range. Especially in automatic mode, when she adjusts the brightness and light temperature herself.
The downside to using the flash is that it will eliminate all shadows. For example, when a person's face is lit worse on one side than on the other. In real life it looks beautiful, but in the photo it will be very two-dimensional. Better to use natural light sources. For example, a lantern, fitrina or the like.
How to take beautiful photos at night
Summarizing what has been said, we can once again note that for a good night shot, you need to fix the smartphone as tightly as possible and let in more light.
To fix it, you need a tripod or something that the phone can lean on. Even the most stable hands will still give an offset of a couple of millimeters in each direction. When shooting at a slow shutter speed, this will definitely ruin the frame.
For more light, you need the phone to have a slower shutter speed or high light sensitivity. But before turning these settings try to find the light source first.
If your phone has a full-fledged night mode, your problems are almost solved – it will do everything on its own. Only it should be exactly night mode, and not a gimmick that simply activates the flash. Personally, I do not know smartphones cheaper than 30,000 rubles with this function.