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Shooting Stars: How To Photograph The Night Sky With Your Smartphone

starry night

For both amateur and professional photographers, there seems to be one area of smartphone photography that you do not tread: night sky photography. 

That is to say, if you’re standing out in your backyard at night, and you notice a sky full of stars, you know that no photograph will actually capture the beauty of that sky. If you take a picture, you’ll end up posting a black canvas on social media, with the caption: Look how beautiful this is! And your friends might end up thinking you’re a little crazy.

But what if we were to tell you that you can take a picture of a starry night, and it can come out just as beautiful as it looks in real life? And what if we told you that you don’t need a high-tech camera to do this? That you can instead achieve a great image with your smartphone alone? 

Well, you’d think we’re crazy too. And that’s understandable. But stick around for a second, because we’re going to explain ourselves.

There are actually several ways that you can photograph a starry night sky, to the point where you’re not going to want to post one photograph on social media, you’re going to want to post dozens. Heck, you would want to fill a whole photo book full of them! All you need is a bit of know-how, and that's what we're here for! 

First Off, Adjust Your Exposure

While you may be able to create a night sky photo book in 2 clicks, it’s not going to be as easy to actually take those night sky pictures! As every photographer will know, you will have to start by adjusting the exposure – typically between 8 to 10 seconds. You can do this by opening your phone’s settings, enabling “night mode”, then selecting the moon icon at the top and sliding the exposure to the level that you want. 

Change The ISO Levels

You will also have to change the ISO levels of your phone to capture the right light. To do this, we recommend downloading the app Adobe Lightroom CC Mobile, which has several modes that you can manually change – including exposure, depth capture, brightness levels, aperture, and more. If you use this app, then it will automatically adjust your ISO levels to match the scene in front of you – typical ISO levels for night photography are 400-800.

Reject The Moon!

Next, we’ll move on to some tips. The first of which is: reject the moon! We wrote a whole blog a while ago on how to photograph the moon, but if you want to take a photograph of a starry sky, then you should ignore the moon completely. This is because the light emanating from the moon will disrupt the light balance that you have tried so hard to create, which will ultimately leave you with a flawed photograph. 

With this in mind, you should also choose to photograph in a location where there is no extra light, and always avoid using flash, as it will cancel out the light that the stars are reflecting. For instance, if you are in your garden, go back into the house to turn all of the lights off. Even if they aren’t particularly noticeable to you, they will still affect your camera’s sensors.

Download The Best Apps

We mentioned before about downloading the Adobe Lightroom CC Mobile app, but there are many more that can help you out. When it comes to Android, the best apps include SkySafari Plus, Pro Camera, and HD Pro Camera, all of which are highly accessible, and offer you several different settings, including ways to adjust brightness, shadow levels, and even color. In terms of iPhone, great apps include PhotoPills, NightCap Camera, and NeuralCam. 

You shouldn’t be afraid of using editing apps, either. Here at MySocialBook, photoshopping is never a dirty word, so long as it is used carefully. If you’re going to be uploading these photos to Instagram or a photo book maker, then you want them to look as good as possible. If editing apps help you achieve that, then all the better!

Become An Astronomer!

Lastly, it’s not just photography and photograph editing apps that can help you achieve your goal of the perfect night sky picture. Apps like Revolutionary can help you to locate specific constellations, and then assist you in taking photographs with professional settings. If you’re really serious about taking these pictures, or you simply want to find the best places to go stargazing, then apps like Stellarium can also tell you about the best spots in and outside of your area to see the stars, along with information on what planets will be visible and where you can spot them. 

So you see, nothing is impossible when it comes to photography. All you need is a bit of determination, and a bright, clear sky.


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