Use the Mobile Phone to Create a Dramatic Night Lighting

If you’re looking for a creative way to make a picture in extremely dark conditions, your cell phone’s flashlight can be a surprisingly capable lighting tool and adaptable. Here are some tips from photographer Frank Myrland to take advantage of this feature:


You may be asking yourself: “Why worry about it? My camera has a pop-up flash. If it’s dark outside, my flash can provide all the light I need “.

It is true that you can use your camera’s flash to brighten an image even in almost complete darkness. However, the light that comes from a pop-up flash is straightforward. A directional light provides shading and depth more pleasant, while the on-camera flash erase shadows and textures.

Another problem with the on-camera flash is that often he kills the ambient light in a scene. If you want to save the soft glow of the city lights at the bottom of your picture, you often find that your on-camera flash is too strong and unnatural.

The direction of light is often what makes a photograph good or bad. This is not just for photographers who use the flash. Natural light photographers can spend years learning how to properly position their models in relation to the Sun and natural reflectors in order to create a more pleasant lighting.

The use of a flashlight cell phone lets you take the lamp until your model in different angles, which can be used to add depth, texture and create a sense of drama.


The main advantage of using a flashlight cell phone is the accessibility. Most people carry your phone wherever you go, so it shouldn’t be too hard to obtain quickly two or more light sources to use to in a photo.


Of course there are also some disadvantages that you need to be aware of when taking pictures with this technique. First, most of the lanterns of the mobile phone are not very powerful. Fortunately, there are three ways to make the light more effective:

  1. Use your widest aperture. With a wider aperture, the camera will collect more light – including your lantern light. Keep in mind that this also makes the whole scene brighter, so it needs to be a balance.
  2. Increase your ISO. A higher ISO means that your camera sensor registers more light. Again, this effectively makes your cell phone stronger flashlight. Just as in the previous point, it also will make the background brighter.
  3. Move the torch closer. Saving the most practical method for the latter – if you are not getting enough light on the subject, try closing the light. Of course, you might not want to have a hand holding a cell phone in your image, but get as close as you can, will add the greatest possible light.

The second drawback with the use of a mobile phone lanterns that light color may not be consistent or balanced carefully, as you would find in a typical camera flash. This means that using more than a flashlight in a picture may result in slight differences of color.

The last disadvantage is that a phone is a small lantern light source and consequently produces harsh light. If you want an exceptionally soft light that leaves shadows too weak, you would need to use a big softbox or umbrella. But we’re not waiting for the light from the Studio when we use our phone-this is a quick solution to the light.


But even with these disadvantages, use a flashlight to phone enables you to create a directional light that results in more interesting images. Consider the following two examples:

This image was taken in automatic mode. In the dark, the camera decided to use the pop-up flash. Once again, all the shadows and textures have disappeared from the face of the subject and the nightly surroundings pleasant of the city in the background was lost.

When using a cell phone just lantern to illuminate the side of the face of the subject, it was possible to add depth and drama to an image in the dark style as in a film noir.


A picture lit with a flashlight cell phone always benefit from some work on editing. It’s a good idea to shoot in RAW instead of JPG to have the greatest possible flexibility with their edits.

The good news is that if you place your lights appropriately during the photo, you should have a pretty decent image directly from the camera.

The first step is to make some corrections in color of illumination. You may need to play with the White Balance or even selectively reduce the saturation in a specific color to obtain natural skin tones. For example, some cell phone lanterns can produce an excessively light green. Decrease saturation of Greens in your editing program will help fix that.

You may also have to correct a few hot spots in the post-processing phase. A hot spot is when the center of the light is significantly brighter than the edges. This can be corrected using a brush to “paint” the hot spot a little darker.

This is the final edition of the photo shown above. Convert to black and white was a way to add a climate at the same time it helped to remove some color problems that accompany the use of a cell phone as main light. This picture was taken in 1/100, f/1.4, ISO 1000.

Of course, if you need high quality lighting for a picture, don’t expect your cell phone flashlight produces the same results as a softbox. But if you are tight and need to improvise some lighting in a hurry, remember that you have a light source in your Pocket.