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Tips For Taking Decent Photos At Night

How to use your phone's specific settings.

07/06/2016 11:53 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Your Vivid pictures are about to get so much better.

Don't you hate it when you whip out your phone or camera to take a photo of an amazing firework display, beautiful sunset or group of your mates only to have the picture turn out to be a fuzzy mess?

Taking great shots at night can be tricky, but not impossible. They key is understanding the settings on your phone and how to use them when it's dark.

1. iPhone 6s, 6s Plus or SE

Use 'lock focus'

You can set and lock your focal point by tapping and holding the screen. A yellow square will pop up on the screen, indicating what you've focused on. This makes the area or object you've focused on sharper, meaning it's the hero of your shot.

Adjust the exposure

After you tap to focus, you may have seen a yellow sun symbol come up when you shoot photos. This is to help control the exposure. Slide the sun up and down to make the photo lighter or darker.

Turn on 'HDR'

HDR stands for 'high dynamic range' which is great when you have to expose both the foreground and the background and have complicated lighting situations. Essentially it takes a series of images, each shot with a different exposure from darkest to lightest. Simply turn it on and it does the hard work for you.

Try taking a picture while recording

If you can't decide between shooting video and still photography, you're in luck. When you start filming you will see a white shutter symbol to take photos near the record button. Tap that shutter for simultaneous photography and video.

Use 'Live Photos'

These came out with iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus last year, and they capture a few seconds around each photo, so they 'come to life', almost creating a very short video. You know you are taking a Live Photo if the round symbol in the iPhone camera is yellow.

Jason Reed / Reuters
Perhaps this photographer read our tips?

2. Samsung Galaxy

Enable 'Pro' mode

While the phone's default camera mode already takes decent photos in low light, engaging the 'Pro' mode gives you full control over elements like focus, ISO, and exposure. This enables you to adapt to the conditions and optimise your results for night shooting. Experiment with the setting and watch your pics improve.

Use a tripod

Night photography is all about using the little light available, and the slower your shutter speed, the more light your shot will capture. Unfortunately a slow shutter means you need the world's steadiest hands or your photos risk becoming a blurry mess. Avoid this by using a tripod -- or even just a flat surface to rest your phone on -- and that way you can leave your shutter open for seconds at a time.

Shoot in RAW

Even the best night photos can be improved with a little tweaking afterwards. RAW files contain considerably more data than JPEGs, so they're preferable when giving your pics the professional treatment. To shoot in RAW on a Galaxy S7, select 'Pro' mode, then go to the settings icon and choose 'Save as RAW file'. It is worth noting that RAW files are considerably larger than JPEGs so they will use more of your phone's storage.

Quick camera launch

While some photos require patience and preparation, others are about reacting quickly to capture that perfect moment. Make sure 'Quick Launch' is activated in your settings and you'll be able to activate your camera immediately. Just double tap the home button and you're ready to go.

Jason Reed / Reuters
That's gonna be a pretty special shot.

3. Canon EOS 80D

Work with Movement

Sometimes a long exposure can capture light trails of moving object such as ferries with lights in the harbour. Use a Tripod at 30 seconds, F8, 100 ISO to give it a go.

Try multiple exposures

Your camera is able to shoot multiple exposures. Set your camera up to multiple exposure, additive mode to build layers of light. Use a tripod and a cable release for best results. A camera setting of 30 seconds, F22, 100 ISO for 5 exposures would be a great starting place.

Try a lens twist

When shooting a long exposure on a tripod, why not add a creative twist by gently zooming forwards and backwards while the shutter is open. An exposure to start with might be 30 seconds, F22 at 800 ISO.

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So pretty!

4. General tips

Shoot from the hip

Try getting down low or shooting from the hip. If you are snapping people or portraits, try holding the camera at your chest level so you can make eye contact with your subject.

Clean your lens

So simple but so easy to forget. If your lens is grubby your photography will be blurry too. Give your lens a quick wipe clean with a dry cloth before you start.

Shoot with the light in mind

If you want to take a great picture of people, the light needs to be hitting their faces, not coming from behind. That's why it's often hard to get a good shot of people in front of a sunset. Swivel the subject matter around the other way and see if that's better.

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