Taking pictures in low light with your mobile (article 2 of 2)

This is the second and last article to what to think about when you are taking pictures with your mobile in low light. Read the article with the first five tips here

6) Don’t zoom

Street photographers have a saying: “zoom with your feet.” If you need to get a better look at your subject, move closer. Besides being a quintessential artistic tip, it’s the better option as the digital zoom on smartphones is virtually useless.

With rare exceptions, all your camera is doing is cropping the image before the shot is taken. Though you might get by in the daytime, in little light, this is triply problematic – digital zooming exacerbates any shakiness in your hands, amplifies noise and lowers resolution.
Of course, you can’t always move closer to your subject, but in that case, it’s almost certainly better to just crop later. After all, you can’t uncrop a shot that’s been taken.

7) Use your native aspect ratio and resolution

Another apparent no-brainer: the higher the resolution, the more detail in your images. However, many people don’t realise that switching your aspect ratio could mean you’re cropping your images and lowering the effective resolution.

For example, many phones shoot with 16:9 aspect ratio by default to match the phone’s display, even though their sensors are 4:3. It’s not a negligible either crop either; you’re effectively making the sensor 25% smaller. The popular square crop yields the same loss.

Most Android phones and all iOS devices have a 4:3 sensor, but some devices like the G4 switch it up. You can find the native aspect ratio by looking at which setting shows the most environment in the preview. It will also have the highest final resolution.

7) Shoot Raw on Android and Windows

Apple cameras may have great image processing by default, but several Android and Windows devices now come with a huge advantage for tinkerers: Raw photography.

Unlike jpegs, Raw files are uncompressed and unprocessed. This means they can be modified a lot more, including setting your sharpening, recovering crushed shadows, saving blown highlights and finding the perfect white balance.

Because there’s no noise reduction or sharpening applied to them automatically, Raw photos typically look worse out of the box, but you can then tune them to your exact preferences.

8) Use filters and edit wisely

Professional photographers may scoff at image filters, but they can help mitigate noisy images.

In particular, using the ‘Fade’ tool in many apps lessens the contrast in noisy shadows of the image, giving the illusion of cleaner final shot.

Some photographers also like to use a technique called exposing to the right, where they take a brighter-than-necessary photo and darken it later to reduce shadow noise.

In any case, keep the edits subtle, and they can enhance your images rather than degrade them.
9) Convert to black and white

More than just being melodramatically artsy, black and white photos eliminate the harshness of digital colour noise and make it look more like film grain.

It also removes worries about white balance or skin tones, and you can mess with exposure a good deal more before an image degrades past being acceptable.

Even if you don’t go full black and white, de-saturating your images slightly can also help them approximate how our eyes see in low light when our eyes are less sensitive to colour.

10) Know thy camera

Last but not least, every smartphone camera is different, so learn your gear’s strengths and weaknesses.

Some cameras have a tendency to under expose; others apply too much sharpening. Some apps give you control over everything including noise reduction levels; others are bare-bones.

Experiment to find what looks you prefer and feel free to look into party apps if the default ones don’t meet your needs.