I ditched my DSLR in favor of an iPhone back in 2012, well aware of what I was giving up. But I love to travel light, and by using the iPhone as my only camera, I could get rid if the heavy and bulky backpack with all the lenses and stuff.
Everyone knows the iPhone takes excellent photos in good light; my biggest struggle since switching has been getting decent night shots. I’ve tried various approaches to improve the quality of my night photography using an iPhone—here are the three ways you can try.
Take Long Exposures with Slow Shutter Cam
Slow Shutter Cam is an iPhone camera app that allows you to take long exposures during both day and night.
Back in my DSLR days, I carried a number of ND filters for different lenses to lengthen the shutter speed to capture motion of waterfalls and ferris wheels. With Slow Shutter Cam, I don’t need to do that any more. I can even adjust the motion blur after I take the shot.
Here’s a 40 second long exposure of the London Eye I took with Slow Shutter Cam. It still required a bit of post-processing—I increased the blacks to get rid of noise in the sky and applied decent de-noising using Enlight—but it turned out pretty well:
In a recent update, Slow Shutter Cam added manual ISO control that should result in lower noise photos in the first place. Using Slow Shutter cam at night works well for scenes with a bright main subject and not too many other distractions like the above, or capturing car lights.
Use an App with Manual ISO and Shutter Speed Control
When I was using a DSLR, I would lower ISO and increase shutter speed to get decent low-noise shots; the same principle, sort of, works with an iPhone. Using a camera app that supports manual controls like ProCamera, I can use ISO priority mode to turn down ISO and let the app chose the proper shutter speed.
This works quite well for nightly cityscapes, e.g. a brightly illuminated building. However, you’ll still get some noise in darker areas of the photo.
This method also works great for low light scenes, like indoor or at dawn. For this shot of the victory square in Minsk, I turned down ISO to 40 and let the camera app chose and exposure of 1/11
Use ProCamera’s Low Light Modes
In really challenging night scenes, my favorite way to shoot is to use ProCamera app and its Low Light Modes. The Low Light Modes basically work by taking up to 64 shots and then layering them to improve exposure and reduce noise without sacrificing detail.
I took this shot from the Shard in London:
ProCamera has basically two low light modes: one is simply called Low Light+ and you can add an exposure boost by enabling Lux+. This will turn night into day without sacrificing detail. Though LowLight+ works handheld, I strongly encourage you to use a tripod. The results are simply breathtaking for an iPhone.
About the author: Chris Feichtner is Vienna, Austria-based photographer with 20 years of experience shooting events and concerts… until 2012, when he ditched his big cameras and switched to travel and iPhone only photography. You can see more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.