Take better low-light photos on Android
BANISH GRAINY, BLURRY PHOTOS WITH THESE TECHNIQUES AND SETTINGS TO GET BETTER LOW-LIGHT RESULTS.
THOSE PARTY AND celebration photos — why are so many blurry, out of focus or look like they were taken in a cloud of volcanic ash? Most Android smartphones have numerous settings that you can adjust and tweak, but you need to learn the ins and outs before that perfect photo opportunity comes along.
To improve your smartphone snaps, we’ve put together this guide to taking better low-light photos on your Android device.
It may seem overly simple, but half the battle with taking top notch low light photos comes down to making sure the little things are not overlooked.
* Clean the lens: Accumulated fingerprints and dust on the camera glass reduce light going into the lens. Use a microfibre cloth from an optical shop, it does a better job than a tissue or t-shirt. Make cleaning the first step before taking low-light photos.
* Go steady: Photos taken in low light have longer exposure times, so small movements of the camera or subject can blur them. Rest the phone against a solid surface like a door frame or window to reduce shake. When the only option is hand-held, use both hands for a steadier grip.
* Tripod: If you’re really keen, carry a pocket tripod, and even a Bluetooth remote control. You can buy tripods and remotes from camera stores, or through ebay.com.au (search for “smartphone mini tripod” and “Bluetooth smartphone camera remote”).
* Get closer: Getting close to your subject will let the camera pick up more light where you want it, plus it will usually result in a more interesting photo.
* Don’t use digital zoom: Most phone cameras ‘zoom in’ by cropping off the outer portion of the image. In strong light, this works reasonably well, but in low light, you’re starting with an image of limited quality, and zooming further reduces it. Moving closer to your subject is much more effective. If you can’t get close enough, take unzoomed photos and crop to size later.
* Shoot portraits from above: Every serious selfie taker knows to hold the phone up high. The lighting is usually better, plus tilting your head up produces a more flattering look. And it works even better in low light. * Take lots of shots: Regardless of whether you set up carefully or snap on the spur of the moment, take multiple shots. It’s tough for cameras to get the focus and exposure right in low-light conditions, plus even
small movements of the camera or subject blur the photo. Take several and choose the best later. That’s what the professionals do.
Tell the camera where to look: On most phone cameras, you can tap on the screen to indicate your key subject area. This helps set appropriate focus and exposure levels. Tap on an area with distinct details that the camera can focus on, fuzzy dark areas won’t work. Bright fuzzy things like fireworks are also a problem. Again, tap to focus on something stationary and far enough away, or with manual focus go for ‘landscape’ distance. Avoid flash, use natural light: Flash is great for filling in shadows and backlit shots at a medium distance — say 3–6 metres. But close up, flash overexposes the subject and loses background details. Use light coming from the front or side of your subject — lighting from directly above or below creates weird shadows. Avoid lights shining towards you: They cause bright flares, and make everything else darker. Your subject should be in the best lit part of your photo. Many phone cameras set flash to Auto. Tap on the flash icon, usually a lightning bolt, select Off, and see how you go.
MINOR SETTING CHANGES
There are other options you can change directly on your phone’s camera screen, or in Settings — usually a round cog icon. Every phone is different, but try these for low light:
Grid lines: A common issue at night is tilted images, it’s difficult to align photos in the dark. Tap ‘Settings > Grid’ or the grid icon to display grid lines on your screen. These help line things up — they’re like car reversing camera guide lines.
Resolution: If your camera gives you a choice of resolution or size of image, select the largest. Low-light photographs need the highest resolution to catch every detail. Many give you the option of saving in RAW unprocessed format, preserving maximum detail. But RAW files need to be manually processed in a photo app to turn them into final images.
USE MANUAL SETTINGS
Most phones give you a fully manual option, and if you get the setting perfect, your photo will be the best possible. But it takes practice and luck, here are some tips:
ISO: The ISO setting determines sensitivity to light. ‘Standard’ is 100, although ISO might range from 50 to 2,000+. Cameras on Auto increase ISO to compensate for low light, but higher sensitivity leads to more visual noise, resulting in grainy or snowy images. Try manually setting ISO to different levels and compare low-light results — 200 is often optimal.
Shutter speed: A slow shutter speed lets more light in, compensating for lower ISO, but you must eliminate movement. Use a tripod and remote if you manually set speeds over half a second. If you don’t have a remote on hand, set some delay between shutter press and activation to let the camera settle.
Focus: Camera autofocus systems struggle in low light. Manually setting the focus distance to your subject can result in a clearer image, but the setting may change for each new subject.