Christmas is nearing and most of you must have started decking up your doors and windows with lights and bells. The lights, wreaths and ornaments that add a festive flair do enthrall those present. But when most of us try to capture and share the best out of this nighttime decor, our smartphone camera ends up ruining the moment.
To avoid such scenarios in the future, you can try some of these tricks to capture beautiful images even in low light condition. These tricks may even help you to click good and sometimes even surreal images in dark and make night photography more interesting than usual.
1. Use shutter and ISO to balance exposure
A good exposure is determined by three setting points in the camera- aperture, ISO and shutter. The aperture can be modified on DSLR but that is barely the case when it comes to a smartphone. However, ISO and shutter can be controlled in the manual mode, more commonly referred to as ‘Pro mode’, that gives the option to tweak both the settings. The aperture and shutter speed basically determine the length of time the image sensor is exposed to light. A longer shutter speed will allow more light to get into the sensor and make the image appear bright.
You can also increase the ISO to capture better images in dark condition, but we would suggest avoiding this as it results in extra noise on the elements in the frame. The higher ISO might be helpful when you are trying to shoot a fast-moving object in low light, but it will degrade the quality to an extent. Additionally, you can also tweak the exposure value that is available on many smartphone camera apps these days.
2. Use exposure correctly
Often you might have captured an image where the background has retained sharpness but the object that you were trying to shoot appears blurred. To save your picture from getting blurred, ensure that you have tapped on the subject on your device screen to get the correct exposure and focus as well. In most instances, locking focus on the subject makes background appear a bit dark but it helps in retaining sharpness and brightening the subject.
Image shot with Nokia 8 Carl Zeiss dual lens in low light
3. Keep the device stable
The lenses in DSLR usually incorporate VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilisation) to stabilize images and capture much sharper images in dim light situation. Smartphones meanwhile offer optical image stabilisation (OIS) and electronic image stabilisation (EIS) or sometimes both to avoid shaky images. These image stabilisers are not that powerful if you compare with VR or IS lenses. The consequence can be observed while recording videos in dark environment with the phone handheld.
Gorillapod is comfortable to use and easily fits in your bag. Besides, longer shutter speed, which does give clearer shots at given exposure, requires stabilisation as well. To skirt your shaky hand interference and snap a sharp photo during a prolonged exposure, you can use a small mobile tripod, a Gorillapod or a glif stand which easily fits in your small bag and can be used on the go.
4. Avoid using flash, rather use environmental light
For illuminating images, we often end up switching on the LED flash on our phone to work around limitations. The image does look bright but the colours on the subject tend to get washed off. Of course, some of the smartphones now accommodate LED flash modules to adjust light colour with environmental lighting, but it is not a sweeter deal. Further, it eliminates shadow and makes the image look flat.
In order to circumvent this, try to move the subject to a brighter corner and then click it. For example, if you are capturing a person, ensure that the light is pointing towards their face (though not directly) and avoid direct fall of lighting on the subject as it will cause heavy shadowing on the face.
5. Add an array grey shade to make the image look artistic
Sometimes images captured in black & white mode portray the artistry of a subject. An image with some portion of the black and some portion of white makes your photo visually appealing, and at times depicts your say more clearly. In addition, it also removes the harshness of colour noise and saves skin tone from getting blemished and produces a classy photograph.
Besides these tips, you can also enhance your low-light images by tweaking the white balance and adjusting the ISO sensitivity manually. For those who are addicted to photo editing, they can switch the JPEG mode capture to RAW mode since it saves the image data from being compressed.
Backlighting can also be a blessing at night time to catch silhouettes. Longer shutter speed cannot only embrace clear pictures but also help to create motion blur and capture amazing night trail, cityscapes in such challenging light condition. By virtue of smaller aperture (fixed) in modern smartphone cameras, it gives you an added option to illuminate your photographs in low light.
You can check some of the low light photographs we tried to snap with a few smartphone review units by scrolling below: