How to take better night photos with any smartphone

We hope you'll agree with us when we say that night photos can be pretty impressive. There's something unique about the warm glow of lights and scenery against the black, contrasting sky. The thing about night photos, however, is that most smartphones aren't very good at taking them, which is why we though we'd give a few tips on night-time photography with a smartphone.

Hold your phone as still as possible

Here's something that inexperienced photographers rarely take into consideration. The key to taking an immaculate night photo with a smartphone is to hold the device as still as possible. You see, there's this thing called exposure time – the time during which light is captured by the camera to produce a photo. In daytime, exposures are short, usually under a thousandth of a second, but at night, when light is scarce, the camera software needs to set a much longer exposure time. Even a slight movement of your hand during this brief period may produce a blurry photo. Phones with image stabilization are less vulnerable, but not immune to this effect.

A way to eliminate the chance of ending up with a shaky photo is to find support of some kind – hold your phone against something still and solid, like a table, a bench, or whatever is around. It should make a difference. And if you're really serious about the quality of your photos, consider getting a tripod made especially for smartphones. 

A timer might help

As we already stressed, shaky hands and night-time photography don't fit. But even if you're blessed with rock-steady hands, there's still a chance of introducing some blur to the image when pressing the shutter button. Today's phones are really quick at taking photos and exhibit little to no shutter lag whatsoever. Because of this, the act of pressing the button itself might result in a slight movement of the phone being used. A way to solve this is to enable your camera app's inbuilt timer. A 2-second delay should do.

Try using your phone's Night Mode

Most modern smartphones have a night mode built into their camera apps, and those phones that don't may take advantage of a third-party camera app. Enabling the mode isn't a silver bullet – it might produce better night photos, it might make them worse, or it might make no difference at all – but nevertheless, giving it a try won't hurt. Give it a go and see how your phone behaves with and without the Night Mode enabled. 

Don't use your flash from too far

Most of today's phones come with a built-in flash consisting of one or two LED lights. Some camera-centric models, such as the Nokia Lumia 1020 or the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom have xenon flashes, which are even better because they output more light. But even the brightest, most powerful flash ever put on a smartphone is useless if it is fired from too far. In fact, a 2-fold increase in the distance between the camera and the subject results in a 4-fold decrease in the amount of light that hits it. The opposite is also true – if you're too close to the subject and the flash is on, the amount of light in your photo will probably be overwhelming. The optimal distance for flash use varies from one phone to another, but you should be okay if you're within 2 to 7 feet (0.6 to ~2 meters) from whatever or whoever you're taking a photo of. Needless to say, using your flash at distant objects and scenery shots is pointless.

So there you have it! If you follow these simple guidelines, you should be able to take better photos at night and low-light situations. Have any tips of yours that you'd like to share? The comments section below is all yours! Also, here's a selection of night photos that we've taken recently using smartphones acclaimed for their cameras.

Like this post? Here's a few more of our camera-related articles



16. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Nice. I especially like Smart Stabilization on Note 3 onwards. Makes the shot less blurry while really bright. Thanks for the advice nonetheless.

13. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

Zeiss optics. Lumia smartphone. Yes.

11. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

Helpful tips, PA, thanks. :)

7. gurjashan

Posts: 7; Member since: May 09, 2014

nice tips :D

6. surethom

Posts: 1780; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

The problem with most camera phone, is you need to take 5 or 6 to get one that is not awful. We need Bigger camera sensors (like Nokia) NOT bigger megapixels.

4. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

Or simply just have a htc one. They might not take the best night shots but they capture more light with the ultrapixel cam

5. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

If you care about pictures you buy a dlsr.

12. hurrycanger

Posts: 1778; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

No, not everybody wants to carry a big chunk around all the time, and not everybody wants to carry a big chunk around all the time... to take night shots.

8. fatexo

Posts: 221; Member since: May 21, 2010

M7's camera was rubbish. I was frustrated by seeing the results when compared to any other phone.

15. Nick_T

Posts: 187; Member since: May 27, 2011

I love the HTC One and I wanted to include a good night photo that I have taken with it, but I just couldn't find a single one that was good enough for showing off.

2. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Those are very awesome night pics.

10. fatexo

Posts: 221; Member since: May 21, 2010

Taken using some best camera phones available today.

1. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

Useless article, who the hell dont know this things !! Give us some tricks with iso, exposure, meetring and this stuffs.. Hold your phone steady --'..

3. frankg

Posts: 174; Member since: May 14, 2014

It's meant for people who don't know the basics....If you want more, go follow a class on photograpy!

9. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

I mean seriously... This is meant for the "average" & beginner. If you really want some tricks with iso & exposure, you might want to use Google. Trust me it REALLY works. smh... -_-

14. Nick_T

Posts: 187; Member since: May 27, 2011

I was thinking of mentioning these too, but at the same time, I wanted the article to be as universal as possible. Very few smartphones let you fine-tune the ISO and exposure time. Besides, people who do know how these affect an image probably know how to use them to their advantage. Personally, I like to set the ISO low for less noise and go for a very long exposure, but in that case, a tripod or support is a must.

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