Handling iPhone XS Max Night Photography Limitations

Noise, unwanted light, blurring, lack of detail – oh my! Measures for those who aren't Photoshop gurus.

Handling iPhone XS Max Night Photography Limitations

It's well known that the iPhone is lagging behind Google's latest Pixel and other flagship smartphones in terms of being able to take clear night shots. Here's what I've been doing to compensate so far.

Set I

First, here's the original photo (the version above was cropped to serve as this post's thumbnail):

Topaz Labs' De-Noise AI helped a lot, but you can see there is still a lot of noise caused by the light flares from the signage and street lights. I should learn how to deal with this, but for now, this photo is a big improvement on the original.

The guy in the foreground wearing black pants was very noisy (as in visual noise), so was the woman in black and any other darker parts of the photo. Big improvements.

However, we lost a fair amount of detail. The guy in the foreground has a striped shirt that had more detail before the tool was applied. De-Noise AI does have a setting for adding in detail, but I haven't yet discovered how it helps. It seems just to re-introduce noise, which seems to be defeating the purpose of using the tool. Better to just dial down the denoising instead.

I wanted to use a Polarr filter, but for some reason, it's hasn't been working well with Photos for macOS lately. Not sure why, but it gets stuck trying to open the image. So, I've been using the filters by Photos for macOS, which are limited, but sometimes hit the spot just right. Also, for these symmetrical photos, I add a slight vignette.

Below are some artsy versions made using Prisma AI. I'm looking forward to the next macOS update offering improvements to the Photos app and allowing me to use apps such as Prisma on my MacBook Pro!

Set II

This next one was tough because the darkness meant there was little to work with in terms of details. I used the same approach above with a little touch of Photolemur to add light.

And, the artsy versions follow:


Set IV

The entrance to a recently completed apartment tower next to Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan.

Set V