How to take good mobile pictures in poor light

Candles, Christmas trees and stars can make it difficult to take pictures.

When the family gather for Christmas, there will soon be many moments to be immortalized. With each our smartphone in your pocket, it is lightning easy to take pictures in a swipe.

What is not always easy is to take good pictures. Actually, it doesn’t take much to raise the quality of the mobile images. Here are some simple steps you can take when Christmas breaks are in place.

“Write” with the light

At Christmas, there are many light sources that affect your photos.

Imagine a home decorated for Christmas. A little dark, decorations in the windows, candles on the table and fire in the fireplace. All this light affects your photos.

According to Store Norske Leksikon , photography can be translated into “writing with light”. A great tip for taking good pictures, whether with the mobile or a traditional camera, is to hunt natural light. This is easier said than done in December, as the year is at its darkest.

True, modern smartphones have very bright camera lenses. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S9 + has a blender that extends to f / 1.5 . But the sensors that measure light on mobile cameras are smaller than those found on good compact cameras – a disadvantage in low light, writes PC Mag .

Therefore, look for situations and environments where lights are falling on your subject. Use natural light if possible, and be aware of how the light source colors affect your image. Regular fluorescent lamps and bulbs tend to give a yellowish light, while candles are flickering and unstable.

And for God’s sake …

… Do not use the flash – or use it properly

The LED flash of even the most modern mobile cameras is not particularly well suited to brighten a subject in dark surroundings.

You’ve probably seen it yourself. The image of the family around the table looks good in the viewfinder, but then the flash goes off and half looks like they have jaundice while the background is blown out.

Perhaps you think the opposite, but the flash should preferably not be used unless the subject is well lit. For example, if you are out in the ski track on a sunny day, the flash can remove some unwanted shadows that fall on their faces.

But indoors in the Christmas dark? Look for other sources to brighten up your photos.

Zoom with your feet

Here is another pitfall many of us walk in. The subject is a bit far away, but instead of moving closer, we zoom in.

The latest mobile phones have got better zoom and image stabilization compared to older phones. Here, Huaweis distinguishes Mate20 Pro and P20 Pro particularly well. Still, you run the risk of the images becoming grainy or blurred, especially in dimly lit environments.

There is a very simple solution to this: go closer. Then the details become sharper and the colors clearer.

If you want to zoom, it should be because you don’t physically get closer, but often you are just as well served by taking pictures without zooming and rather cropping it afterwards. According to Digital Trends , this is exactly what many mobile cameras do when shooting with zoom.

 While new mobiles like the Huawei P20 Pro have very good zoom and image stabilization, you should rather move closer to the subject to avoid image noise.

Turn on guides

According to the “third rule”, images become more exciting when important pixels are placed along the lines of the camera grid.

In the camera app settings, you will be able to turn on camera grids. This is very useful for avoiding skewed images, but it can also help you compose finer images.

The location of these lines is not accidental. The grid is similar to what you find in the applicants for SLR cameras and is based on the third rule . The idea is that placing important image elements along these lines makes the image more exciting, energetic and interesting.

In many cases, especially when many publish square images in social media, centering the subject can be just as effective. Still, it is worth trying out with the grid – perhaps it can lift a bit of a solid starting point.

Many mobile cameras allow you to adjust the settings manually. For example, you can play with the aperture to get detailed close-ups, with low depth of field.

Learn the features of your mobile

Now that you have several basic principles to work from, you can explore the settings of the mobile camera.

Many new mobiles have several manual settings you can play with. If you read a bit about how the aperture, shutter speed and ISO work, you have good prerequisites for taking the step further from the auto mode.

Briefly explained:

  • Blender controls how much light the camera releases. The lower the aperture, the more light emits into the optic. F / 1.5 provides brighter images, but lower depth of field than f / 16.
  • Shutter speed adjusts how long the image sensor is exposed to light. Long shutter speed produces brighter images as the sensor takes longer to collect light. Here, fractions of one second are used, and 1/60 is therefore longer than 1/800.
  • ISO indicates light sensitivity. A higher number gives brighter pictures.

Improve Photography has a nice and concise review of the various features, but note that lighter images also cause more noise.

Be a little patient and try yourself a bit. The Christmas holiday is after all an excellent opportunity to test out a good new mobile camera.

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