8 Tips to Take Better Photos at Night With Your Android Phone

Tips Night Photography Android Featured

There’s something special about capturing moments in the dark. Nighttime photos often have a different feel, a unique atmosphere that can be really cool. And you don’t even need to own fancy equipment anymore. Most modern Android phones can handle low-light situations, and some even have special night modes that help you with those dream shots. Check out these tips to improve your night mode Android photography skills.

Good to know: need to edit an image real quick? Check out the best online photo editors you can access on your browser.

1. Tap into Your Phone’s Night Mode

If you have a phone from one of the top Android manufacturers, including Google, Samsung, OnePlus, or Huawei, you have access to a nighttime photography functionality. On Pixel phones, the option is called Night Sight, while Samsung calls theirs Night mode. OnePlus devices have NightScape.

Night shot using OnePlus phone.
Nighttime photography using OnePlus’s NightScape mode

These modes can help you take stunning photos in low-light conditions without the need for a flash. Some, like the Pixel’s Night Sight, use AI and/or machine learning to boost brightness and minimize blur.

The modes work by capturing multiple images with different exposures, then merging them into a single, brighter image with reduced noise. It results in photos that look significantly brighter and more detailed than standard low-light shots. If they detect motion, night modes can also optimize the capture process to minimize blur caused by shaky hands or moving subjects.

Night shot using Pixel phone.
Nighttime photography using Pixel’s Night Sight mode

We should note that this feature is likely to be available on higher-end phone models, so you will probably not find it if you have a low-end device.

Tip: some photo editors use AI to enhance images.

2. Use Your Phone’s Manual Mode

If you want to have control over how your phone shoots nightscapes, you may want to consider using the manual mode on your Android camera. Most phone models that have a Night Mode also include a Manual or Pro mode that unlocks a creative control that’s not possible with automatic settings.

Night shot using OnePlus Pro mode.
Nighttime image shot with OnePlus’s Pro mode

Manual mode lets you balance light sensitivity (ISO) with shutter speed so that you can capture the scene how you envision it, preserving details and reducing noise. For instance, you can set the ISO to 400 to get a fantastic picture, without the use of your phone’s flash.

While automatic modes prioritize faster speeds, manual mode enables you to capture movement creatively by employing slow shutter speeds. Furthermore, with manual mode on some phones, you can control the aperture, affecting depth of field (also known as background blur). This lets you isolate subjects or create dreamier, bokeh-heavy effects impossible in automatic modes.

3. Try a Third-Party Camera App

Even if your phone doesn’t have a preinstalled Manual mode, you can still take advantage of manual controls with the help of a third-party app. Give the following apps a try and see what they can do for you, depending on the capabilities of your phone’s camera.

4. Take Advantage of the Available Light

Nighttime offers abundant artificial lighting for capturing shots. Landmarks, public spaces, streets, or murals are usually illuminated, creating favorable opportunities for capturing engaging photos.

Night shot using Pixel phone.

Heading to a dark spot in the park isn’t going to produce the best results. Instead, walk to the illuminated fountain, or any other area of interest that’s bathed in light, and take your photo there. If you’re in an area with very poor lighting, using the flash could work, but the photos definitely won’t be ideal.

Tip: you can easily remove unwanted objects from your images.

5. Use the Self-Timer

Using the self-timer at night – or even during the day – is always a good idea. Not only does it give you enough time to find the best angle, but it also helps to avoid blurry pictures, by allowing you to steady your hand before the shutter goes off.

Timer settings visible in Pixel's Camera app.

Keep in mind that while night modes don’t require the use of a tripod, you will still get the best results while using one. Or in the absence of one, have your phone rest against a steady object. If there’s nothing nearby, grip the phone with both hands. For stability, hold your phone close to your chest with your elbows tucked in to minimize handshakes.

6. Try Motion Modes (If Available)

Beyond night mode, phones like the Google Pixel offer extra features, like Long Exposure and Action Pan, unlocking even more creative possibilities for photographers. These modes can give you access to techniques that were previously attainable solely through the use of a tripod.

Image shot on the Pixel with Long Exposure mode.

While these modes can be used during daylight, they produce stunning night photos as well. Check out the features within your phone’s camera app and see whether there’s something comparable. If you find a similar option, it’s definitely worth giving it a try. For instance, Long Exposure mode on Pixel phones allows the camera to capture multiple frames and blur any moving objects within the frame. This mode can help you capture light trails from traffic or make spinning objects (such as bicycle wheels) appear as ethereal disks of light.

Tip: is Photoshop crashing and freezing on your Windows PC? Learn how to fix it.

7. Shoot in RAW

Many phones today offer the option to shoot in RAW, and it may be something to consider if you plan on editing your images afterwards. RAW files capture unprocessed sensor data, giving you much more latitude for adjusting things like white balance, exposure, shadows, and highlights, compared to regular JEPG files. And since RAWs hold more information, they can lead to sharper images with a wider range of light and dark tones.

RAW settings visible in Google Camera.

On the other hand, RAW files are significantly larger than JPEGs, taking up more storage space on your device. This can be a big drawback, especially on phones with limited storage. In addition, editing RAW files requires more processing power and can be slower than editing JPEGs. For casual photography, however, JPEGs often offer sufficient quality.

8. Edit Your Photos

Editing allows you to enhance and refine the captured images to achieve a certain aesthetic or correct imperfections. Achieve this by using a photo-editing app on your Android device, or if you’ve followed the earlier suggestion to shoot in RAW, you may need to edit with a program such as Photoshop.

Photo taken on the Pixel and edited later.

For instance, you may want to increase exposure slightly, without blowing out highlights. You can also use shadow adjustments to reveal details hidden in darkness without creating excessive noise. Alternatively, sharpen slightly or increase contrast to add definition, or opt for something as simple as applying a filter. In the image above, I’ve applied a B&W preset, which exposes some of the image’s hidden details.

Tip: learn how to use Lightroom presets to edit photos faster.

Keep these tips in mind when taking pictures the next time, and you’ll get the night pictures you’ve always wanted. Once you have the images, you may need to move them to a different device. It may come in handy to know how to remotely transfer pictures from Android to Windows. If you’re a Mac user instead, check out how to remove an image background in macOS.

Image credit: Pexels. All images by Alexandra Arici.

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Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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