Stupid Photography Tricks: The Cell Phone Light

Today’s digital cameras are amazing in low light. You can even get good images in dark, candlelit restaurants! But photography is the art of light. Without it your photos are flat and ugly. You have a flash, but using it gets you the stink-eye from the maĆ®tre d’.

What do you do?

Luckily, I’m betting that you and most of your friends are carrying around one of those ubiquitous little toys; the Smartphone. Turn up the screen brightness, open up a blank web browser and you’ve got yourself a cool, blue light!

Click photos to enlarge them.

You’ll see that I don’t really light the scene. The camera is still doing the hard work of shooting in low light. But your cell phone can give your subjects’ face a nice cool highlight that looks pretty neat.

You’ll still need a high ISO, a low-temperature color balance, and a slow shutter speed. (Using a water glass as a monopod works great for that!) You’re probably going to be shooting at 1/8 of a second, so your subject needs to freeze. Pure candids these are not.

But with the right amount of practice (and luck) you can pick up some awesome shots in really dark places! This restaurant was so dark the menus were hard to read, but I got this photo anyway.

Yes, they are kind of an odd look and not right for every situation, but you’ve got the phone there with you. You might as well use it for something! Plus, you have to admit this is cooler than anything I could have done with a camera flash:

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