1. Leanna Lofte's Avatar
    I was thinking of picking up a small flashlight or something to keep in my purse for those times I want I take a photo in low light.

    Doesn't anyone do this? If so, what do you use?
    Last edited by Leanna Lofte; 03-30-2012 at 02:01 PM. Reason: Updated title to specify iPhone photography
    03-29-2012 09:43 PM
  2. Rocktapus's Avatar
    i've used one for videoshoots at night. but it was a videoshoot, and not practical to carry around everywhere.

    i have a 12-bulb LED ring light designed for reading books, but actually works similar to this:

    it only illuminates nearby subjects. maybe 2-3 feet away.

    i also have a 6-bulb LED light that i got at a 99cent store. i have yet to see it anywhere else, but the bulbs are arranged accordingly:
    [ o ][ o ][ o ]
    [ o ][ o ][ o ]
    and is about the same size as an iphone screen. it's only good for close up shots..such as for lighting documents i'm scanning via iphone, or illuminating objects i'm going to sell on craigslist.



    i've heard about people altering camp lights[pictured] to fit their DSLRs. i think for the lens of an iphone, you might be able to use one without having to cut/re-wire anything. i've seen them in 24 and 48-bulb varieties.


    i think its really unexplored territory, and nobody [as far as i know] has really studied or experimented with it much. all i know is anything is better than the built-in iphone flash. :]
    03-30-2012 03:15 AM
  3. BradM73's Avatar
    Hey Leanna!

    Light photography can consist of many things and/or combinations of different elements. Some clarification on what you're trying to achieve may help the discussion further. Are you light painting, or maybe photographing small objects up close? Or maybe you want something to help further illuminate your scene?

    In many cases, there are a wide variety of lights that can be used for light painting for long exposures. In light painting, you keep the shutter of your camera open for a long period of time, and literally paint the scene or subject with light from your flashlight. This often gives a somewhat dramatic effect to your composition. You do need to be careful what kind of light you use in these situations, otherwise you might end up needing to do a lot of color or white balance correction, if the results are usable. I'm sure there are topics regarding this subject at a variety of photography logs and forums, so research this further.

    For close up objects, or small/macro subjects, just about any light will do, and many cameras can color correct by themselves with small objects that are brightly lit. I've used several LED lights to illuminate small objects with both my iPhones and DSLR over the years with great success. Results can still vary, and you need to make sure your flashlight produces a natural or otherwise workable color tone.

    If I'm taking pictures of a wider angle, or a scene of an open area, I've often found that flashlights tend to produce a more focused beam of light, and often don't put out enough light to be usable, especially with an iPhone where you don't really have direct control over the shutter speed and exposure. For these kinds of shots, I'd probably stick with my DSLR and a couple of remote flashes, instead of a flashlight or other uncontrolled light source.

    Considering the limited functionality of the iPhone's camera, and lets say the iPhone 4 and 4S (with emphasis on the 4S), I don't really rely on it for nighttime or low-light photography at all. For my own personal use, I would only use my 4S when there were literally no other alternatives at all.

    One example of this would be when I had to take some pictures behind an oil tank in the basement of one of my rental properties. I had some water coming in slowly through the foundation, and couldn't quite get my head behind the oil tank to see where the water was leaking in from. So I took out my 4S, enable the flash, and then stuck my arm back in there (into spider and demon infested territory), and started snapping away, hoping that I'd get shots of what I needed. The results turned out fine for what I was needing to see at the time.

    More artistically though, I would probably never rely on my iPhone. Especially not for low light because I tend to like to do longer exposures where I'm trying to capture the natural light in a scene. Using a flashlight in these types of compositions often leads to undesirable results. When considering using my iPhone, I would probably only do so if I was going for a specific look that I couldn't really replicate with my DSLR. Without the ability to manually control ISO and shutter speed, specifically the inability to do long exposures, the iPhone loses its utility for low light photos to a large degree.

    As far as bringing along a flash light with the DSLR? I always do. You do, however, want to experiment with different kinds of flashlights to see what kind of color they add to the image. I've found that many of the new LED flashlights will add a blue tone to your scene. You might want to find a flashlight that you can attach filters to, or ones that advertise "natural" light (not that many do). I've seen several articles on this topic of several photog blogs that discuss this topic in more detail.

    Hope I've brought up some interesting points that are worth discussing further!
    03-30-2012 12:58 PM
  4. Leanna Lofte's Avatar
    Oh wow! As much as I love all the info for DSLRs, and will further look into, I was specifically referring to iPhone photography Sorry I wasn't clear!

    The problem that comes up with me, and many iMore readers, is that as soon as there isn't ideal light, the iPhone photos suck. Yes, I have a DSLR, but it doesn't go everywhere with me, and more importantly, most of our iMore readers don't even have a DSLR. I'm looking for a way to improve our low light photos while still using an iPhone.

    It's no secret that the flash on the iPhone sucks. Flash on any camera sucks, really. I avoid using (on camera) flash at all costs, even with my DSLR.

    Some may say to just not use the iPhone in low light. Well, that's easy to say, but not practical. Even in my own house, there are times I want to get a quick snapshot of my daughter, but due to poor lighting, even the slightest movement makes the photo blurry. Same thing if I'm at a restaurant. Or at someone's house and we want to get a quick group shot. These are the times I wish I had a portable light source.

    That's why I was thinking of a flashlight of sorts. Something that's small, yet powerful enough to illuminate a small scene.

    Do you have any links for the "natural light" flashlights? My guess is that they're expensive?
    03-30-2012 01:59 PM
  5. BradM73's Avatar
    Oh wow! As much as I love all the info for DSLRs, and will further look into, I was specifically referring to iPhone photography Sorry I wasn't clear!
    Do you have any links for the "natural light" flashlights? My guess is that they're expensive?
    LoL Leanna, I kind of suspected you might be referring solely to iPhone photography, but since I know you're also a DSLR shooter, I thought I'd spread around some more info.

    As far as "natural light" flashlights, I guess the more proper term you'll want to look for is "High CRI" flashlights. CRI stands for "Color Rendering Index", and is a measurement of how well a light source can produce the best color when compared to "natural" or otherwise ideal lighting situations. Basically, you want to look for flashlights that have a high CRI. The only problem is that not many flashlight makers actually advertise this. There are, however, plenty of resources online. Using your favorite search engine, just search for "high CRI flashlight" or "high CRI LED flashlight", or something along those lines. I was able to find all kinds of things by doing this.

    One of the problems in doing night time photography with newer LED flashlights is that many of them, especially cheaper ones, often cast a somewhat bluish or greenish hue, which is exaggerated in the final image during a long exposure. This could also be an issue with iPhone photography as well, but I suspect it would be to a smaller degree. These types of lights probably don't qualify as high CRI lights, though they do come in handy for setting up equipment and other normal flashlight uses. I have a small Nebo LED light that I carry with me almost all the time. I recently used it for doing some long exposure night shooting and the results were pretty bad, and the pictures had a strong blue tone that wasn't able to be color corrected in post. I have another light from Inova that does much better, though Inova lights can get pricey, especially for ones with a high Lumen output.

    Speaking of output, the next problem you're likely to encounter is the actual light output of the light itself. I have to admit, Apple has made an amazing LED flash on the iPhone. It is adequate for snapshots out to about 8 feet, and still usable to about 12-15 feet, but not much beyond that. But, for what it is, it's got great light output. It's definitely nothing like having a SpeedLight on a DSLR though. You'll probably want a light that puts out at least 80 Lumens, but 150+ is going to be best. LED lights usually have a narrowly focused beam, so you're probably not going to get a nice "fill" light that you might desire. This is definitely something to consider.

    Another thing that I just thought of Since you're planning to use your iPhone are the widely available LED Video light kits for DSLR and other cameras. They're usually a square panel of LEDs designed to fit into a flash shoe on your camera, but they can be easily hand-held by you or an assistant. The video versions usually are ones you can turn on or off and have a good area of fill coverage. Make sure if you go this route to stay away from the LED flash panels, as they'll only flash in coordination with a DSLR. You can also find some cheaper ones that do a great job too. When going this route, pay attention to the Kelvin levels of the lights. I can't really give you a specific Kelvin range to recommend, since that can vary depending on the conditions in which you shoot. But you might want to take a few shots with your iPhone using the on-board flash, and then use Photoshop to determine the color range of the photo, and base your purchase on that. Many LED video light kits include a 3200 Kelvin filter for Tungsten lights (like for shooting in an area with streetlights) or a 4200 Kelvin "soft white" filter, which is probably good for indoors and most other situations. The iPhone will probably be somewhere in the range of 4000 to 6000 Kelvin for soft to warm lighting conditions.

    Like I said in my previous post, the lack of ISO and shutter speed control is the one thing that has always bothered me about the iPhone's camera, and I can't say it's specific to any model of iPhone. There are camera apps for the iPhone that supposedly give you more control, but I've found these to be all too limiting. I'd really love to have the ability in future iPhones to be able to take long exposures, at least up to 30 seconds, but longer would be great too! Long exposures isn't going to help freeze the motion of your daughter, since children tend not to sit still for more than a nanosecond, but it's always a desire I've wanted in the iPhone. Maybe it will come in the coming years, but I've learned to work within the limits of the iPhones camera for what it can do. It is what it is. That said, I still don't know of any other mobile phone cameras that come close to the dynamic range of the iPhone's camera, especially the 4S, thought the new Nokia 900 might take the cake in the near future. Only time and testing will tell for sure.

    Again, I hope this information and insight helps and gets you pointed in the right direction. Let me know if you have additional questions and I'll be happy to share what knowledge I have!
    03-31-2012 07:28 AM
  6. Rocktapus's Avatar
    i'm reviving this topic because i feel it is relevant....but recently i downloaded an app called "NightCap" because it was free...what it is, is a "slow shutter" type camera app that allows you to take photos in low light settings.

    uploaded are two examples...one is a random street...i used a gorillapod to keep the shot steady. the other is my dog in my dark room...handheld shot [trying to keep as steady as possible], with only the light from my macbook.

    i think its worth a download, the shots come out surprisingly nice.
    04-18-2012 01:42 AM
  7. BradM73's Avatar
    @Rocktapus

    There is another app literally called "Slow Shutter" which may or may not be similar. Do you know how these apps actually work? From what I've read (so I don't know firsthand) is that these apps take multiple exposures and stack the images and somehow interpolates the data in order to brighten the images. Or, they somehow increase brightness while reducing induced noise.

    Apparently, the iPhones shutter can only remain "open" for a short period of time, or rather light is only captured for a set maximum amount of time since these cameras don't have a traditional shutter like a filmor DSLR would.

    I just like to her about these apps from people who are knowledgable about photography and the technology behind these cameras and their limitations. I always feel apprehensive about throwing away a dollar or two. LoL. I know it's not much, but I guess I'm a tightwad!!! Haha
    04-18-2012 08:39 AM
  8. Rocktapus's Avatar
    you should try reading lifeinlofe.com and iphoneography.com semi-regularly. they tell you exactly when apps go free/on sale. thats how i've gotten so many good free photography apps.

    anyway, i have slow shutter [for about 2 years, got it on 3GS originally] too...and have used it more than nightcap. i haven't used either extensively, but i'm preferring nightcap right now. i used slowshutter at disneyland, and the photo came out...but the image captured wasn't the same image the human eye captured. the test shots i posted of nightcap, look very similar to what i was seeing with my eye.

    i think the way slow shutter works is a mixture between video and photo, and you choose how long the "shutter" stays open. [you can keep it open for infinity minutes] i haven't used either too much...so i don't know how nightcap works yet, because i haven't even played with the settings. i just know that the photos come out nicer.
    04-18-2012 12:28 PM
  9. leobentes's Avatar
    That's why I was thinking of a flashlight of sorts. Something that's small, yet powerful enough to illuminate a small scene.

    Do you have any links for the "natural light" flashlights? My guess is that they're expensive?

    Right now I can't come up with any specific small flashlight or something to suggest. What I usually do in those low light situations is to count on anyone else with a phone that could keep the flash always on (usually by the help of an app) as a second light source. That's not the best solution but it's better than nothing.

    In fact, I used such "trick" in some pics I submited to the macro contest post (those ones with Statue of Liberty toy). I used the iPhone 4S from one of my kids to take the shot and a second iPhone 4 with a magnifier app (don't remember the name) that has an option to keep the flash always on. We carefully direct the light towards the statue toy in order to match the light of the "scenario" in the backgroung which is a picture, displayed on an iPad, from the new WTC taken from actual Statue of Lyberty site last January. In fact, we shot the whole scene in a dark bedroom so the only light sources are the iPad screen and the iPhone 4 flash. I would say that was a really iDevices only production (2 iPhones and 1 iPad)
    04-18-2012 02:24 PM
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