Home > Astrophotography, Equipment, Stargazing > iPhone Astrophotography: Night Modes

iPhone Astrophotography: Night Modes

As a follow-up to my previous post about astrophotography with an iPhone, I spent a few minutes tonight playing around with a new app called Night Modes, which claims to allow you to have real (hardware) shutter speeds of up to one second, a substantial improvement on previous apps which have used software tricks to try and mimic long exposures. These are next to useless for capturing star-scapes, photos of the night sky overhead. Even one second exposure is rather short, and will only let you catch the very brightest stars, but still more than enough to make out the constellation patterns.

Night modes allows you to set the exposure to 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or 1s, lets you deactivate the autofocus (which you’ll have to do – autofocus gets confused when you try and snap a picture of the night sky). The app also allows you to set a timer delay, to avoid hand-shake blurring your image as you push the button.

Another essential item to avoid camera shake is something you put your iPhone on when the exposure is being taken – ideally a tripod, but you can rest it on anything that won’t wobble too much. In the absence of a tripod adaptor for my iPhone I simply placed it on the table in my garden, propped against a book, pointing roughly towards Jupiter.

After setting a 5s delay (enough time, I reckoned, for me to place my iPhone gently on the table, and for any wobbles to die down), disabling auto-focus and auto-exposure, and setting the exposure to the maximum 1s, I sat the iPhone down and waited. And this is what I got:


Orion, Taurus and Jupiter, taken with an iPhone 5 using Night Modes app, 1s, 3200 ISO

Not the best image ever, but you can make out Orion with those phone lines running in front, and in the top right corner you can see the bright (and slightly over-exposed) Jupiter above the V-shape of the head of Taurus. The next step will be to take some images out of the city, somewhere with less light pollution, so I don’t get that horrible orange glow to the sky.

  1. January 13, 2013 at 14:32


    That’s a really cool app. & I’d love to see the results from a dark sky. I wonder if anyone knows of a similar Android app? It might just be the ultimate portable astrophotography tool!


    • January 13, 2013 at 14:47

      Hi Colin, I think it is available for android phones too.

  2. January 18, 2013 at 15:08

    Thanks for the tip! I gave you a shoutout on my blog – it’s a great app!

  3. Tim
    May 22, 2013 at 05:11

    Orion Telescopes and Binoculars sells an adapter that allows you to attach the iPhone to a telescope eyepiece for higher magnification photos of the moon and brighter planets. Pretty cool.

  4. mzschwartz88
    April 25, 2014 at 07:56

    Night Modes can be really helpful for taking astrophotos through a telescope with an iPhone. Thanks for the great info! I’ve used this to do some iAstrophotography with my small telescope setup. Here are some of the iAstrophotos I’ve taken. Thanks!

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