Taking pictures in low light with your phone: 13 tips for shooting like a pro


With July 4th coming up, you’ll want to make sure you can eke the best out of your phone’s camera for those nighttime fireworks.

Though phones vary in quality and features significantly, there are still some general tricks – both technical and common sense – you can pick up on to maximize image quality in low light.

Technical primer: Understanding exposure

Before we begin, you should understand the two main variables affect exposure (how bright the image appears) on your phone: shutter speed and ISO.

The shutter controls how long light hits the sensor. The longer the shutter is open, the brighter an image will be. However, you run the risk of blurring the image due to movement.

The ISO value, on the other hand, determines the sensor’s electronic sensitivity to light. Higher ISOs allow you to brighten an image without changing the shutter speed, but always at the expense of a noisier image.

Note: There’s a third important exposure variable called aperture, but as this can very rarely be modified on phones, we’re leaving it out for now. For a thorough look at three faces of exposure, check out Cambridge in Color’s great guide  here.

Got that? Lets get started.

1) Expose correctly from the start

Make sure you actually tap on the subject on your phone’s screen so the camera sets the proper exposure (and focus).

If you need to, use the exposure compensation tools on your phone to get things just right; low light photos are less malleable for edits later, so make sure your subject is properly illuminated from the get-go.

2) Go manual

If you really want to get the most of your images, learn to manually adjust settings such as the aforementioned shutter speed and ISO.

 aforementioned shutter speed phone camera settings