Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Better low-light and night photos, part of Mobile Photography Weekly.
- [Narrator] Making photographs at night can lead to a lot of really cool and interesting possibilities for photographs, but it also comes with its own set of challenges as well simply because the light levels are so much lower than during the daytime. Hi, I'm Sean Duggan and this week, we're going to take a look at some shooting techniques and also some special apps for getting better night and low-light photos with your camera phone. So the first thing to keep in mind is that in low-light situations, the camera has to use a longer shutter speed to make the shot. And so if you're hand holding the phone, that could lead to an unsharp shot just because you're shaking the phone during the exposure.
So what you need to do is stabilize the camera by any means possible. Now the most ideal way is obviously by using a tripod such as I have here but if you don't have a tripod or it's not feasible in the situation where you're at, find some way to stabilize the camera. You can brace it on a ledge or against a door or a table or something, anything you can do to stabilize that camera during the shot is going to lead to a better photograph. The next thing you want to do is pay attention to exposure compensation. You usually invoke that by tapping on the screen and then you can slide up and down to lighten or darken the shot.
In really dark situations, you're not going to be able to lighten up a shot too much, but what's interesting as you can see here is that it's actually fairly bright out here on the screen but I can use exposure compensation to make it appear even darker than it really is so that's more the look that I'm going for there. We'll just take a quick shot of that. So the other thing to pay attention to is look for the light so cities, towns, urban areas all can have a lot of really interesting ambient light that are going to fill in detail in the shots. Camera phones don't really do well at all in situations where it's totally dark.
If you're out in the country and there's just no light at all and it's really late at night, you're not going to get a good shot without some other light in the shot. So cities and towns are really good places for night photography with your camera phone. The next thing is you can use specialized apps that help you get a better shot. Now if you're taking a shot with the normal camera app in your Samsung phone, your LG phone or your iPhone, typically that's not going to do a great job with noise and you're not going to have much noisier images, but there are apps that help with that and I actually have one keyed up right here.
Let's go and take a look at it. We'll go into my camera apps folder and this is an app for IOS and it's called Average Cam Pro and what Average Cam Pro does is it lets you determine a range of pictures to take. It's a little bit like HDR on steroids. HDR means High Dynamic Range. So I'm going to open my settings menu here and on the top row here, I can choose the number of pictures I want to take. I've got everything all the way up to 128 pictures and what it'll do is it'll take all these pictures and then average them together to remove the noise from the shot.
So it doesn't do very good obviously if there's motion in the scene because there could be ghosting, but in some instances, the motion actually gets averaged out and you don't really see it in the shot. So I think for this one here I'm going to use 16 exposures. I've got this nice lamp showing up here. There's also a shooting interval I can set, that's the space of time between the shots and a pre-start timer so after I press the button on the camera, it'll delay by a number of seconds so that any vibration I may have introduced to the camera by actually tapping the button will be dissipated. All right, I'm going to leave this set here for 16 exposures at a one-second interval.
I'm going to tap settings to come out of there and I'm going to just tap on here to choose a couple different places. That looks good. This is going to give me a nice deep blue sky here. I'll tap the camera button so now it's doing the four-second delay and now it's going to countdown and take 16 shots. Because we still have some light in the sky, I didn't feel the need to go all the way up to 128 shots. All right, so it's done. Now I can adjust the gain here. I have a little slider here so if I really wanted to get a little bit more information in there, I could.
I'm going to leave this set dark like that and I'll just tap save to save that. Let's save that out to my photo library. Now, another cool thing here is that I could basically save several versions of this. I could lighten it if I wanted to see a little bit more detail in the shadows and then save that one out as well and then maybe later I could run them through a separate HDR app if I wanted to, but I'm not going to do that with this one here. I'm just going to leave that set the way it is. And the cool thing about this is if I go out and look at these pictures here, now let me actually just take one more with the regular camera app so we can compare.
And let's put this down, that looks good right there. So let's take a look at the side by side so we can inspect the differences in how the two apps have rendered the noise in the scene. The first one here with the native camera app on the iPhone, if I zoom in really close, you can see how there's this noticeable noise in grain texture there. But on the other shot made with Average Cam Pro, again that's an average of 16 different shots, it's a much smoother texture. There's really hardly any perceptible noise at all.
So Average Cam Pro, if you're shooting the shot where you can be on a tripod and there's not a lot of motion in the scene, it really is a great way to take shots at night. So photographing at night does have its challenges, but if you know what the pitfalls are, you can prepare for those and still come away with a good shot.