Bring a Bottle of Water For Reflections and 8 Other Hacks For Great Night-Time Photos

Vivid Sydney

Anyone who’s ever taken a photo on their phone at night would know how tricky it is. Somehow, the photo never seems to accurately show what you’re seeing in real life.

If that’s the case for you and you’re keen to learn how to better capture photos in the dark, ahead we’re sharing a few tips. While these hacks are for iPhones specifically, and mostly for the most recent iPhone 13 and 14, some can work for other phones, too.

Learn these, and you’ll be taking shareable, even, dare I say it, Instagram grid-worthy, night-time photos in no time.

iPhone night photography
Image: Apple

Get Creative With Reflections

Shooting at night gives you the opportunity to incorporate reflections. If you’ve got a bottle of water, pour it on the ground to reflect back what you want to capture. Or consider turning your phone upside down so it’s closer to the ground.

Tap to Focus

This tip sounds simple, but it’s surprising how few people know it. The camera will focus and adjust exposure automatically, based on what you’re pointing it towards. But did you know you can change the focus of the photo by tapping a different area, then moving the slider up and down to adjust the exposure?

If you want to keep the focus and exposure in the same spot, press and hold on the screen until you see AE/AF Lock.

Pick Your Lens

Instead of zooming the photo on your screen, which immediately reduces the quality, choose a different lens. Lens 1x on iPhone is standard, while 0.5x is Ultra Wide and will give you a zoomed-out look. If your phone is a Pro model, you might have a 2x portrait-style lens and a 3x Telephoto lens, which will get you close to all the action.

Night Mode Apple
Image: Apple

Use Live Photos for Long Exposure

For beautiful long-exposure shots at night, use Live Photo. After you’ve taken the photo, tap on the Live Photos menu in the top right and select Long Exposure. This will give you light trails or creative effects with people and movement.

Use Portrait Mode

Portrait Mode creates a depth-of-field effect that will keep your subject sharp while blurring the background. To access it, open the Camera app and swipe to Portrait Mode. When the Depth Effect box turns yellow, take the picture.

Make your Portrait Mode pics even more captivating with studio-quality lighting effects. After you’ve taken your photo, tap Edit and choose from Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, or Stage Light Mono. And on iPhone XS and later iPhone models, create a beautiful, classic look with High-Key Light Mono.

Take Videos and Stills Simultaneously

When you go to any Video Mode, the shutter button turns from white to red. Tap the shutter once to start recording, then tap it again to stop. While you’re recording your video, you can press the white shutter button to take a still photo.

Use Timelapse at Night

Timelapse can be used to set the scene or show passing time, and it often results in even more beautiful videos at night. How Timelapse works, it captures footage at selected intervals over an extended period to create a video.

When you go to Timelapse Mode and tap the shutter button, your camera will periodically take photos until you tap the shutter button again. On all iPhone 13 and 14 models, it works at night, though you’ll need to stead your iPhone on a tripod or something else so that it stays in place.

Shoot Silhouettes Instead of Full Pics 

The iPhone automatically tries to show everything in a shot, but if you turn off Night mode, you can lose the details in dark areas and create stunning silhouettes.

When Night Mode is active, tap the slider at the top of the screen (or side if horizontal), then tap the Night Mode button and slide to off. Next, tap where you want to focuse and pull the exposure down to isolate the silhouette.

Night Writing

Write something in a light so it shows up as a word in a shot. Turn on Night Mode (drag it to the maximum) and put your iPhone on a tripod. Then, take a pic so it’s long-exposure and paint your word using light, like a glow stick.

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