Thanks to the latest advances in technology, astrophotography is now possible to do with a smartphone camera. The catch? It needs to have a manual mode or pro mode that will allow you to dial in your own settings.
You’ll get the best results with the latest smartphone models like the iPhone 11, 12, Google Pixel 5 or the Huawei P30 and P40 Pro models. If you have any of these smartphones, go ahead and watch the video above to learn some great smartphone astrophotography tips from UK-based photographer and videographer Mike Smith.
Before we get to his tips, take note first that a smartphone camera will not have the same image quality and result as an actual camera. But, with patience and the help of the tips above, it’s actually possible to get some surprisingly good results. Now, on to the video!
Done watching? Now, let’s break that down with a quick recap below.
Stabilize your camera using a tripod
As with any camera, you’ll need to use a reliable tripod with a sturdy holder when shooting astrophotography using your smartphone. You’ll essentially be shooting long exposures, so stabilizing your smartphone is key to getting as sharp photos as possible.
Use a light pollution map
Next, you’ll need to find a suitable location to shoot. Of course, it has to be far away from the light pollution of the city. Otherwise, you just won’t be able to capture much of the starry night sky. To find the best locations nearest to you, use a light pollution map like lightpollutionmap.info and look for areas with darker colors. This will ensure that you have completely dark skies necessary for beautiful astrophotography.
Shoot during a clear, new moon night
Once you’ve chosen a location and worked out how to get there, the next thing to figure out is when to shoot. This is also crucial because you’ll want to time your shoot during a new moon night with clear skies. If you shoot with the moon up, its light will wash out the light of stars you’re trying to capture.
Aside from consulting your trusted weather apps, search for the new moon time in your area to narrow down the time of the month to shoot. Want to get a shot of the Milky Way? Best use an app like PhotoPills to let you know what time of the night the Milky Way will be in the sky at your location.
Tweak your smartphone camera settings
Next comes the hard part: Tweaking your camera settings. As you would usually do with a dedicated camera, you’ll need to look for the Manual mode or Pro mode of your smartphone camera. This will allow you to set the ISO, focus and shutter speed as required by your shots.
Set the ISO to as high as possible (ISO 6400 is often good enough), the focus to infinity and the shutter speed to around 30 seconds. If you get an overexposed shot, either lower your ISO or increase your shutter speed. Do the opposite for underexposed shots.
Experiment with composition
Ready to shoot? Don’t forget to mind your composition and experiment with your surroundings. See if you can do light painting and add an object of interest in the foreground. Make some further tweaks in Lightroom as needed and you’re all set!
Found these tips helpful? Go ahead and check out Mike Smith’s YouTube channel for more of his photography tips and tricks.
Screenshot images from the video