I have been shooting with my iPhone much more often since being asked for tips on how to take better photos with the iPhone. One of the areas that I have not been particularly satisfied is low-light images. They get extremely grainy and the dynamic range is quite limited.
However, when I happened to see the sky do something cool the other day, I had a choice. I could run inside, grab my DSLR and tripod, run back out and hope I hadn’t missed it. Or, I could pull my iPhone out of my pocket and do the best I could. Call me lazy, but I went for the second option.
I used the Camera! app rather than the default Camera app (the only difference in the name is the “!”, but there are many feature differences). If I would have had a panoramic view from where I was standing, I might have tried the standard Camera app’s panoramic capability, but what was worth shooting fit into the frame, so shooting panoramic seemed unnecessary.
I chose the Camera! app because of its ability to separate the focusing point from the exposure point. You can tap the screen to select where you want to focus and then use a second figure to select a different area that you want to expose for. It’s slightly helpful in scenes like this with strong contrasts. However, slightly is the operative word. Using the dark areas for exposure blows out the sky. Using the sky clips the foreground. By picking something halfway in between, you can sometimes get something better, but in this case, I allowed the darker areas to be underexposed–they weren’t very interesting anyway.
The images right out of the camera didn’t have the brilliance of the actual scene. I was able to increase the saturation slightly to get it closer to reality, but the blue of the sky started to move to cyan. One of the challenges with iPhone photography (especially in low light) is that it needs post-processing, but because of the lower resolution, jpeg format, and graininess in low-light situations, adjustments can only be minimal before noise, pixellation, and general ickiness set it. Less is more.
That said, I’m still happy I pulled out my iPhone because the interesting streaks shooting skyward disappeared pretty quickly–I would still have been unzipping my tripod bag had I tried to run for the DSLR.
When I went back in to sit down and blog, I had a little trouble finding a place on the sofa. Tisen was occupying 50% of an 6’ long couch. Pat and I compressed ourselves into the other 3 feet. This isn’t a great shot (another iPhone grab), but you can just see my shoulder next to Pat who is leaning over Tisen in order to create enough room for me to type. We just couldn’t stand to wake Tisen to get him to make room–he was snoring quiet contentedly.