Person doing smart phone photography of night sky (photo by iStock)

How to Get Stunning Night-Sky Photos with Your Smartphone

A seasoned photographer shares his advice for getting the best results with a tool nearly all of us carry around all the time.

1. Find a Dark Location: Light pollution can spoil a night-sky photo. For best results, find a location that is as dark as possible, such as a park, beach or rural area.

2. Use a Tripod: To capture photos of a starry sky in low-light conditions, your camera needs a longer exposure to let in more light. Consequently, any movement can lead to blurry results. A tripod takes the shakiness out of the equation by stabilizing your phone. 

3. Install a Manual Camera App: Smartphones come with their own camera app, but settings can be limited. By installing a manual camera app such as Slow Shutter Cam or Night Camera, you can easily adjust the ISO, shutter speed and focus to have better control over your photos. 

4. Know Your Settings: The correct ISO, shutter speed and aperture are vital to capturing excellent night-sky photos. Aim to keep your ISO between 800 and 3200, with your aperture at the lowest setting (many smartphones can go down to f/1.8 or lower) and your shutter speed between 10 to 15 seconds.

5. Shoot in RAW: New smartphones can be set to shoot in this format that captures an uncompressed and unprocessed image. Shooting in RAW allows you to edit your photos later using software and gives you more control over the look of the final image. You may see it in your phone under DNG. (A DNG file is the same as RAW just in a smaller size.)