Updated: Jan 13, 2021
The handy thing about having a smartphone is you always have a camera with you.
Having used a DSLR cameras for decades, I was very excited to have a way of capturing a low-light scene, like the full moon, when the big camera was sitting at home. But after purchasing my big buck, iPhone 11 with its awesome camera and multiple lenses, it seemed I had been cheated!
Expecting easy to understand settings, awesome versatility, and more control, I felt quite dismayed when the camera app fought me on every low light exposure I attempted. Looking for the app to recognize low-light, and automatically offer the blackest blacks without graininess, I knew I had to find a way to force this camera to do as I wished because the shots were coming out like garbage!
Without knowing how the camera settings work, attempting to capture a low-light scene can be pretty frustrating. Maybe you have experienced one or more of these problems…
The camera automatically brightens the scene when you want it to look dark.
The shutter stays open for several seconds rather than takes a quick photo.
The camera app denies you a photo despite how many times you stab at the capture button.
The camera has difficulty focusing, or the photos turn out blurry.
Finally, I moved past ‘experimenting’ with the app and did some real research about capturing low-light scenes. In 6 easy steps, you too will command complete control of low-lit photography using your iPhone.
1. Choose a Lens
The iPhone 11 Pro offers 3 lenses to choose from – the 0.5x ultra wide, the 1x wide, and the 2x telephoto lens. You can choose your lens by touching whichever one you desire just above the capture button.
Flash is set to automatically come on when you need it, but there are times when you don’t want it on. A low-light capture maybe one of those times.
Turn the flash OFF by touching the yellow, lightning bolt icon in the top left corner. The icon will turn white and have a diagonal line through it when it’s off.
3. Night Mode
Night Mode is a handy setting for automatic lighting of low-light scenes… especially in times when you want to capture vivid colors and crisp edges of your subject without the dull, graininess you usually end up with. It’s a pretty cool feature to be sure.
When capturing the full moon, night mode absolutely must be turned off. Otherwise, it will look like a daytime shot.
Night Mode is set to automatically come on in a low-light setting while using either the 1x wide lens or 2x telephoto lens (it doesn’t work with the 0.5x ultra wide lens). You will know it is ON when the yellow moon icon to the right of the flash icon is yellow.
To turn Night Mode off, touch the Night Mode icon to reveal a scale just above the capture button at the bottom of the screen. Drag the slider to the left and line up the marker to the OFF position.
4. Reduce Exposure
Next, you will want to ensure the blacks in your photograph are truly black rather than that ugly, grainy-gray that occurs when the camera tries to gather enough light into the scene.
To do this, you will need to reduce the camera’s exposure setting.
After setting up the scene in the viewfinder, touch the focal point in your scene so a box appears around the subject. Then swipe the slider bar down to adjust your exposure for a darker image.
5. Hold it Steady
Have you ever noticed that your low-light scenes come out blurry more times than most? That’s because the shutter speed tends to be a little slower when there isn’t as much light. The slightest movement will cause your photo to blur. That includes shivering when it’s cold outside, or even breathing!
If you’re like me, you want the elements in your photo to be as sharp as possible. To accomplish this, it’s important to always use some sort of rest to steady the camera. If you don’t have a tripod for your iPhone, try resting it on a flat surface (like a handrail) or against a solid structure (like a tree). Just make sure you’re not covering the lens!
If you don’t have anything to rest it against, tuck your elbows tight against your body and hold your breath while taking the shot.
6. Capture the Scene
After you get the settings as you like them, hold your breath and carefully depress the capture button.
I hope these photo tips helped. Of course, the best photos come after lots of practice, so experiment with the settings and practice until you become proficient. It won’t be long until you will be taking fantastic, low-light photos using your iPhone.
The wolf moon at the end of January will be the perfect time for practice.
Thanks so much for reading!
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Appleinsider, How to master the Camera App on IPhone 11 & iPhone 11 Pro, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2g8kC3PQBU
Henry, Nic, May 6, 2020, How to take a good supermoon photo, https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-take-epic-moon-photos/
Mostyn, Shayne, How to photograph the moon with iPhone 11 pro, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqCXLRkyzRY
Wesson, Kate, 10 Essential Tips For Amazing iPhone Night Photography, https://iphonephotographyschool.com/shoot-at-night/