After the sun has set and the city’s lights come to life, you have a choice: put your camera aside ’til the daylight returns or take on the challenge of shooting at night. Getting night pictures with your smartphone can be daunting – you face low-light, extreme light and shadows and camera noise to name a few. You can gain all those lost shooting hours back by taking those speed bumps head on! Here are 12 tips for shooting at night with your phone.
And once you’ve taken your night shots, enter them to our Learn & Shoot: After Dark mission!
1. Use apps for long exposures
When shooting in low light with a film camera or DSLR, your answer to getting the right exposure is a long shutter speed. The smartphone’s answer to controlling shutter speed (or simulating it)? Apps! Try Slow Shutter Cam or Average Cam Pro, apps that simulate long shutter speed by layering multiple shots. Try this guide to long shutter speed on the iPhone.
2. Capture motion with light trails
One thing that comes out to play at night: car lights. With technique #1, set your phone to capture a long exposure and frame a road busy with cars. More ideas – boats on a bay, cars crossing a bridge or even planes flying overhead. Here’s a great project by Kevin Cooley that captures the light trails of airplanes overhead and Tsuneaki Hiramatsu’s photos of the firefly flight paths. Check out this tutorial on photographing firefly light trails.
3. Make it stable
Rule number one of preventing motion blur and getting a tack-sharp photo during a long exposure is to keep your camera stable. In this case, you’ll want to use a mobile tripod or a portable alternative like the Glif stand.
4. Get to know exposure on your phone
Want to understand your phone’s autoexposure better? Get tapping. Tap the darkest area in your frame and then the lightest – you’ll see your exposure adjust in your camera’s live view. Depending on the kind of phone you have, you can even lock in your exposure.
5. Get the best from your phone’s flash
When it’s dark, you can always use extra light on what you’re shooting. Your phone’s flash is convenient, so why not put it to use? Since the flash will be somewhat harsh and flat, as it shoots straight on, there are a couple of ways to adapt it. Try placing tissue or paper over the flash to soften the light and color filters or gels to get a different colored flash.
6. Or use an outside light source
These days, there are all kinds of amazing mobile accessories, in particular those that will allow you control the lighting in your night photos better than your phone’s built-in flash. See The Pocket Spotlight and the Smartphone Ring Light. Don’t limit yourself there, flashlights, lamps, bike lights are all handy ways to get extra lighting into your photo. Find some DIY photography lighting ideas in our guide.
7. Edit with a photo-editing app
When shooting in low-light, exposure and contrast are your friends in the photo editing toolbox. Try the editing tools in the EyeEm app (iOS and Android) – you’ll find everything you need in there.
8. Stylize your photo with grain and black & white
Low light can sometimes lead to noise in your photo, but just because your photo is noisy doesn’t mean it’s a throw away. Edits to your photo can take its flaws and turn them around. For example, noise can create a grain effect, and you can even enhance it with a grain editing tool. You can also add a black and white filter to play into the grain and even set a mood in your image.
9. Take advantage of backlighting
Night can be a time to find extreme lighting situations, and backlighting is just one way to get a creative visual effect. Catch silhouettes in front of store windows, street lights, or wherever lights conveniently shine behind your subject.
10. Embrace night lights
City lights, store fronts, neon signs and interesting lighting in a venue. These are all the kinds of lighting you simply can’t get during the day, so take the time to see what kind of images you can make of them for creative light photography.
This article was first published on EyeEm Blog and is reposted here with permission.