Mobile phone photography shouldn’t be limited to the daytime, and luckily, smartphone manufacturers recognize that fact.
In the past, taking photos after dark with your phone has probably resulted in noisy, underexposed photos.
However, fear the dark no more! Here are some of the best smartphones on the market for night photographers.
Our Top Choices for Phones for Night Photography
Chances are that when you’re in need of a new phone, you go to Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. You do phone buying the old fashioned way – in a brick and mortar location.
Well, it’s 2020 now, and we’re here to tell you that in the long run buying your phone via Amazon might be the less expensive option.
We’ve gone ahead and provided an example to prove our point:
- Verizon purchase Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max straight out= $1,099.99
- Verizon lease Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max = $45.83 x 24 months ($1,099.99)
- Amazon purchase Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max straight out = $989.87
Now, it’s important to note that these prices fluctuate and are subject to change. At the same time, savings of $110 would allow you to purchase a phone and Moment lens from Amazon for the same price as purchasing from Verizon.
So, keep this idea in mind when browsing 2020’s best phones for night photography.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Although Samsung’s history as a less than stellar night photography phone, the Samsun Galaxy Note 10 is quickly becoming one of the more popular mobile phones for night photography. It has three cameras that are ideal for a variety of different types of photos. In addition to the primary 26mm lens, a 13mm ultra-wide lens, and a 52mm telephoto lens, the Galaxy Note 10 also has a Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor, which aids the camera in-depth estimation while taking portraits.
To compete among the best smartphones for night photography, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 also features a dedicated Night Mode. While some experts claim that this phone takes the best night photos with the flash on, photos taken without flash are still better than most. Regardless of flash, images that were captured in Night Mode achieve better exposure than the default settings with a marked improvement in detail.
Because photos taken with the Note 10’s Night Mode activated are higher in quality, you will need to be patient. Night Mode works by taking a burst of photos at different exposures and processes them into a single photo to reduce image noise and improve detail. As a result, it does take a few seconds for the camera to capture the scene fully. The results are worth waiting for, though.
Huawei Mate P20 Pro
Known as one of the best phones for mobile phone photography, the Huawei Mate P20 Pro features an incredible trio of camera lenses with one of the widest ranges of focal lengths available. Featuring a 27mm f/1.8 main lens, a 16mm f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens, and an 80mm f/2.4 telephoto lens, you’ll be prepared to shoot anything.
As smartphone manufacturers recognize user’s need for improved night photography abilities, more and more mobile phones are coming out with dedicated Night Modes. Although Huawei has done an excellent job developing Night Mode, the Mate P20 Pro actually takes great nighttime photos without it.
Some smartphone experts recommend using the Mate P20 Pro’s Night Mode with the flash off, as the flash sometimes creates a darker background than necessary and limits the dynamic range of the photo. However, depending on the situation, the flash may help illuminate your subject’s face, for example.
Google Pixel 4
Unlike many of the other popular smartphones used for night photography, the Google Pixel 4 features only two camera lenses: a main 27mm f/1.7 lens featuring optical image stabilization and a 50mm telephoto lens featuring 2x optical zoom. Although this mobile phone is lacking an ultra-wide lens, it’s still an excellent option for any mobile phone photographer.
As with the other phones on this list, the Pixel 4 has a dedicated setting for night photography called Night Sight. This setting produces dramatically better photos in low-light situations than the standard mode. Exposure is excellent, as is the color rendering. Details are also maintained on both the subject and in the background.
It’s generally recommended to use flash when shooting in Night Sight with the Pixel 4. Experienced mobile phone photographers have noticed that the photos can be a bit noisier than necessary without it. Despite this, the Google Pixel 4 is a strong contender among the best smartphones for night photography.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
With its trio of rear cameras, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro is the best iPhone yet in terms of night photography. The main 26mm f/1.8 lens features an upgraded sensor and optical image stabilization. The 52mm f/2.0 telephoto lens, boasts a 2x optical zoom, while the ultra-wide 13mm f/2.4 gives you a 120 degrees field of view. With three lenses to choose from, you may not even need to use clip-on lenses to achieve your desired results.
In addition to a few tweaks to the camera app software, Apple has introduced Night Mode. When you open the camera app, it measures the available light to determine whether Night Mode should be engaged automatically. Since the camera decides this on its own, there is no way to manually turn this feature on at this time.
Once automatically activated, Night Mode works to brighten low-light photos and reduce image noise. As anyone with an older iPhone can attest, Apple hasn’t done well in terms of low-light photography in the past, but Night Mode changes the game. Photos taken at night are dramatically brighter with more visible detail and less distracting noise.
3 Smartphone Night Photography Tips
Night Photography on a Smartphone Tip #1 – Be Steady
To achieve high-quality nighttime photos, you’ll need to ensure that you keep your phone steady. A tripod, such as one of these, will help limit camera shake, allowing your phone to make the most out of low-light situations.
Using a tripod to steady your camera won’t do you any good if you shake the camera every time you tap on the shutter button, so you’ll also need a remote. With these two tools in hand, your night photography will be better than ever.
Night Photography on a Smartphone Tip #2 – Don’t be afraid of investing in gear
It’s okay for you to learn the basics of phone photography without equipment. But, once you get to a certain point, it’s to your benefit to fork over some cash.
This guide for Smartphone Street Photography will cover all the gear you’ll need.
What you should spend your money on depends on the type of photographer that you want to be.
Night Photography on a Smartphone Tip #3 – Ditch that native camera app
You might also want to consider using a third-party camera app, rather than the one that comes on your phone. Although the built-in apps will take great photos, they don’t usually allow you to adjust your settings as much as some of the other apps out there, such as these. Using a different camera app will give you more flexibility in your settings, similar to a DSLR camera. Longer exposures, for example, aren’t usually an option on most smartphone’s built-in camera apps.
Some of these apps may also allow you to edit the photo, but you may also want to download a photo editing app like one of the ones mentioned here. With your incredible night photography skills, you’re probably taking great photos anyway. Still, editing will allow you to add those subtle enhancements that will take your images to the next level.
Moment Pro Camera App
What does Moment claim their app does? Make your photos, “Sharper. Smoother. Crispier.” that’s what!
They’ve got shortcuts and presets, anamorphic-de-squeeze looks, and complete manual controls standard in both the Android and IOS versions.
The only drawback worth mentioning with the app is the cost. While it doesn’t break the bank at $5.99 on IOS and $3.99 for Android, other options are free. Yes, the free options like Snapseed and VSCO don’t provide anywhere near the control.
At the same time, unless you’re serious about your phone photography having the full monty of what the app offers, it might not be worth it.
You don’t want paralysis by analysis, and sometimes too many options and not enough know-how can lead to it.
If you’re serious about your phone photography, though, you should invest in the Moment Pro Camera app.
Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop Express
If you know anything about photography, then you know something about Adobe Suite – at least Photoshop and/or Lightroom.
Because phone photography has come a long way in recent years, Adobe decided to add some offerings to their suite to keep up. We’re going to introduce you to Adobe Photoshop Express and Lightroom CC.
We’ll start with Photoshop Express – where Abode claims they’ve developed vantage-point-adjusters and a whole suite of quick-fix tools. After using the app for a while, I can assure you the entire toolbelt works exceptionally well and is super easy to use.
If for some reason you can’t figure it out, there are loads of tutorials on the app to help you.
As for Lightroom CC, it’s the perfect pair with Photoshop – either fir desktop for mobile. If you have an existing Adobe account, then you can seamlessly move your photos across all the platforms. Adobe Suite is like a one-stop-shop for all things photo-editing, and their mobile offerings do not disappoint in the slightest.
2 thoughts on “Best Mobile Phones for Night Photography in 2020”
Totally meaningless choices since you only compare iPhone, Samsung and Google in general. For instance Vivo X50 pro plus is around 40% better on night pictures than any Apple 11 or Samsung S20. Realme, Xiaomi have plenty of phones matching both Samsung and Apple when it comes to photography.
Arne, I agree with you to an extent. Xiaomi and Huawei make unbelievably good phone cameras – better than Samsung and Apple. The majority of our readership, however, comes from the US where these phones a. aren’t widely available and b. are not usable with our networks. We decided that providing the majority of our readers with the best options available to them was the best path forward for us. If you have any questions about the specifics of other phones though, don’t hesitate to ask. We can get the answers for you!
Our goal is to eventually grow our audience worldwide to the point where we can review all mobile phones!