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Low light mobile photography – tips and tricks

These tips will help you get the best shots from your smartphone camera in low light.

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It was still dark when I got up and left my warm and cozy hotel room in Copenhagen to hunt for some early morning light to capture through my lens. But there was a difference, I was out without a backpack, or a tripod but with just a shiny little device in my pocket – my brand new Apple iPhone 8 Plus.

The idea was to take great shots, yet also enjoy the city without the extra burden of my DSLR bag which was enjoying the warmth of my room. The morning went perfectly and despite the cold, I was fairly satisfied as I sipped dark Danish coffee and flipped through my duck shots on the phone.

Now I have been an early adopter of mobile photography, from the time I was a student in US, and iPhone 4 was launched. Ever since I have grappled with loads of devices, across countries with different light and weather conditions, and am truly amazed by the limitless possibilities with the small camera that can easily travel with you in your pocket.

Let me share a few tips on low-light mobile photography that I have tried and tested myself over the past few years. Mobile photography is fairly simple, yet if you want to take your game up a few notches, there is some more work needed.

Get control over your settings: Most native cameras don’t allow manual adjustments to the camera settings, and in most cases it works just fine. However, if you can control these settings, the possibilities are limitless – think long exposure shots, light streaks and so on. The app I recommend is ProCamera – it’s not free, but worth the investment.

Shoot in RAW: This goes hand in hand with the first tip. Many cameras, including all the latest iPhones, allow you to shoot in RAW now though you may have to use other apps for the same. A RAW image is fairly large in size, but also captures far more data which can be accessed later on.

Edit with a professional software: There are many excellent mobile apps (yes you don’t need to edit mobile shots on your laptop) which allow you do edit RAW, images and give excellent results. Some are free like Snapseed, while other like Enlight are paid.

Invest in some simple equipment: Actually the only equipment you need is a mobile tripod. With the best mobile device, it’s a good idea to buy the best tripod as well and I recommend the one from Manfrotto – these are often available in all Apple stores.

Pick the right time to shoot: This is probably the most important tip. Shoot when there is some light in the sky, not only will it make your subject glow, the sky will also show beautiful patterns which are often gone within minutes. I would recommend reaching your location just before sunrise, and before sunset to get the prefect low light. All the pictures shared here are simply hand-held and with the aid of an excellent low light sensor in my device, they come perfect.

Catching the reflections of the rising sun in Copenhagen

Catching the reflections of the rising sun in Copenhagen

At Nyhavn - the most popular part of Copenhagen

At Nyhavn – the most popular part of Copenhagen

Looking up at the sky at the iconic modern building… Copenhagen

Looking up at the sky at the iconic modern building… Copenhagen

A seagull looking for early morning breakfast

A seagull looking for early morning breakfast

Sunset at Rani Mahal in Tijara Fort, Rajasthan

Sunset at Rani Mahal in Tijara Fort, Rajasthan

Mumbai meri jaan

Mumbai meri jaan

Watching the sun do down at Bandra Fort

Watching the sun go down at Bandra Fort

These are some really simple tips that I use for improving the quality of my pictures, and I can promise it will do wonders to your work too. As always with photography, the most important thing is to get out there and shoot – great results will certainly follow. You have the best possible opportunity coming your way with the upcoming festival of lights – ‘Diwali’.

Siddhartha Joshi is one of India’s leading travel blogger and photographer, and loves to share tips and tricks on photography. He blogs regularly at The Wanderer, and you can see his daily photo-gallery on Instagram.

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  • Published Date: October 16, 2017 5:13 PM IST
  • Updated Date: October 18, 2017 4:06 PM IST