Shooting with your smartphone in bad light gives you bad photos. At least if you believe many smartphone photographers. Fortunately, the reality is different. Discover how to take beautiful photos with less beautiful light and make the most of your smartphone photography.

Shooting with your smartphone in poor light

Let’s debunk a common misconception right off the bat. There’s no such thing as “poor” or “bad” light. However, finding the perfect light is a challenge we all face. Despite our best efforts, the elusive ideal light has remained elusive in recent years. But fear not, as we delve into the realm of photography, we’ll explore how to make the most of any lighting situation and create stunning images that defy limitations.

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When a front lit scene is accompanied by a substantial presence of clouds, it results in a gentle and diffused lighting effect.

This front lit scene refers to a lighting situation where the primary source of light is positioned in front of the subject, illuminating it directly. This results in the subject being well-lit and casting minimal shadows behind it. Front lighting often provides even illumination, revealing details and reducing contrast in the scene. It is commonly used in landscape, cityscape and portrait photography or when capturing subjects that require a clear and unobstructed view, minimizing any dramatic or moody effects caused by shadows.

All kinds of light

The types of light that fall into the category of bad light are hard light and the situations in which it is dark. We explain both types of light.

Harsh light

Harsh light is a common occurrence when the sun is shining brightly or when dealing with intense artificial lighting indoors. This creates a high contrast situation, causing parts of the photo to appear either overexposed (white) or underexposed (black). To overcome this challenge and capture more visually pleasing images, two simple solutions can be used to deal with harsh light:

Solution 1: Shoot with filters

This may be a bit more work, but it is the best solution. We don’t mean that you use some kind of app. You actually use a physical filter that you place in front of the camera of your smartphone.

You will have to get used to this way of taking photo’s. We have been doing it for years and with great results.

NiSi filter Kit Voor Smartphone

Solution 2: Shoot in a different direction

This solution is the simplest but is not our preferred manner of creating photos: shoot in a different direction. If the contrast is – a bit – smaller, your photo becomes more beautiful to look at.

A small piece of the coastline in the north of France
The photo was taken with the sunlight from behind.

Low light

When there is little light, every camera has trouble taking a good picture. Even the Hubble telescope. Smartphones compensate low light conditions with a high ISO value. And let that be the big disadvantage of a smartphone. They are not so good preserving image quality when the ISO goes up.

The contrast is to big, Fort Vauban, north of France
Photographed against the light. The subject is very dark. There is no detail and color in it.

Smartphones generally offer the capability to capture photos of decent quality. However, when the ISO value is increased, the overall image quality tends to decrease. To understand this phenomenon, let’s delve into a bit of technicality, yet keeping it concise and straightforward. Smartphones are equipped with small sensors and an increasing number of pixels. In low-light conditions, the ISO value needs to be raised, resulting in the introduction of noise and a reduction in visible details within the photos.

This doesn’t have to be an immediate problem. Here too, we have two solutions for you:

Solution 1: Don’t enlarge the photo

As long as you view the captured photo on your mobile phone’s screen, there’s little to worry about. If you enlarge the photo or make a print, you will soon see the loss of quality.

Solution 2: Intervene manually

This manual intervention requires some technical knowledge about photography. And for many smartphones, you also need an extra app.

You can increase the aperture and / or increase the shutter speed. The ISO value will then remain low. The disadvantage of solution is that the larger aperture reduces the depth of field. And that your captured image becomes blurry due to the slower shutter speed.

You can also see this positively: your creative possibilities are increasing enormously.

Sunset at Lake Markiezaat, Netherlands
Exposure adjusted to avoid shadows that are too dark.

Conclusion about photographing with your smartphone in poor light

In summary, we have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as “bad” or “poor” light in photography. However, certain photos may require compromises in terms of quality. Nevertheless, these compromises open up a realm of creative possibilities, allowing photographers to explore new avenues and push the boundaries of their artistic vision. Embracing the limitations can lead to unique and innovative results that showcase the true essence of photography as a form of creative expression.

We’re here to help! If you have any questions about the blog, feel free to leave a reply below and we’ll get back to you. And if you’re curious about mobile photography, ask us anything! We’d love to chat with you. Get in touch through this page.


About Better smartphone Photography

Better Smartphone Photography is a new company aimed at improving your smartphone photography skills. Our aim is to provide helpful advice, tricks and tutorials to help smartphone photographers like you, regardless of your experience level. Meet Frank and Yvonne, the founders of Better Smartphone Photography with over 22 years of experience as professional photographers. With our guidance, discover how to create and capture exceptional photos with your smartphone.

Get ready for your next steps in smartphone photography


Better Smartphone Photography is official dealer of Ulanzi, VIJIM and MOJOGEAR.

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That is possible. Companies are also welcome. Check out this info.

Better Smartphone Photography is a part of Betere Landschapsfoto (website in Dutch).

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