Night Mode on iPhone 11: Everything You Need to Know

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Apple's newest iPhones, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, are equipped with a new feature called Night mode, which is designed to take crisp, clear photos even when lighting conditions are poor, such as at night.

Night mode, as the name suggests, lets you take photos in the evening, with lighting that has never before been possible on an iPhone thanks to new hardware and new machine learning algorithms. Though Night mode brightens photos, it also preserves the night time feeling, balancing the light and dark elements of an image.


Android smartphone makers like Google and Samsung have had special modes for brightening up evening shots for a while now, and with the 2019 iPhones, Apple is on equal footing with these other smartphone cameras.

What is Night Mode?

Night mode is an automatic setting which takes advantage of the new wide-angle camera that's in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models. It's equipped with a larger sensor that is able to let in more light, allowing for brighter photos when the light is low.

Night mode uses the new sensor along with machine learning and the Neural Engine in the A13 processor to create Night mode shots.

When Night mode is engaged, the cameras in the iPhone analyze the available amount of light and then the iPhone chooses the number of frames needed to create a suitable image. The camera then takes a series of images for a set amount of time, such as one second, three seconds, five seconds, or in some situations, even longer.


The images are taken at different exposures, some with longer exposures and some with shorter exposures, similar to what's done when the iPhone composes an HDR image. This lets the iPhone pull out the best parts of the scene, highlighting what's important.

You'll need to hold the camera steady when using Night mode, and optical image stabilization also works to reduce shake as you take the photos. After the set amount of time, the A13 chip in the iPhone analyzes each photo that was taken, aligns them to account for movement, tosses out the images that are too blurry, and then fuses all the sharpest images of the bunch.


The resulting photo is the end image that you get when using Night mode, with Apple's software algorithms adjusting color, eliminating noise, and enhancing details to create a night time shot that preserves an impressive amount of detail.

Taking and combining several images allows Night mode to pick up more light than would be available in a single shot, which is why you can see so much more detail than the lighting conditions would normally allow for.

All of the Night mode calculations are done behind the scenes -- you'll only see the final shot, rather than being able to choose from a series of images as you can do in Burst mode even though it's a similar concept.

In a nutshell, Night mode is the result of a better camera sensor and some behind the scenes magic from Apple's A13 processor.

How to Turn on Night Mode

Night mode turns on automatically when the lighting conditions call for it, so there's no need to enable it. Tapping the moon icon at the top of the Camera app will let you access the Night mode settings, though, allowing for the time length of photos to be adjusted in some situations.


How to Turn Off Night Mode

To turn off Night mode, tap on the moon icon at the top of the Camera app interface to open up the Night mode slider and then slide it all the way to the left to turn the feature off entirely for a photo.

Night mode will need to be turned off on a photo by photo basis, as it is meant to come on automatically. There is no setting to disable it permanently.

Night Mode Lenses

On the iPhone 11, Night mode is limited to the wide-angle camera as it is the only camera with optical image stabilization and because Night mode requires a camera with 100 percent focus pixels to analyze and align images.

On the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, Night mode can be used with either the wide-angle camera or the telephoto camera because both of these lenses support optical image stabilization and the other necessary features for Night mode to work.

Night mode images look best with the wide-angle camera as it is the better lens, but the telephoto is an option when needed. The ultra wide-angle camera in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models doesn't work with Night mode.

Using Night Mode's Time Intervals

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are able to analyze the lighting in a situation and will provide a recommended interval for Night mode, which is usually somewhere between one and five seconds, though it can vary based on how much ambient lighting is available.

You can tap on the moon icon at the top of the Camera interface to get to the Night mode settings, where you can change the interval from the recommended level to a longer level if desired, which can alter the look of the photo that you're capturing.


The darker the photo subject, the longer time period options your iPhone will offer up. At sunset where there's still a decent amount of light, your exposure options might max out at around 3 to 5 seconds.

In full darkness, when taking a photo of the night sky, as an example, you might see longer time intervals available, and selecting a longer time interval in this situation may allow you to see more of the night sky in the resulting image than you might have been able to capture with a shorter exposure. For maximum time, a tripod is required.


The different time intervals are worth experimenting with to get the specific look that you want for a particular image, but Apple's default shot length is calculated using a multitude of factors and almost always results in a nice looking low light shot.

How to Get the Best Night Mode Shots

Night mode takes a series of shots and is similar to a long exposure photo, so techniques used for long exposures can also be useful for Night mode.

Apple uses optical image stabilization and software to cut down on blur, but for the absolute best Night mode shots, it's a good idea to use a tripod. A tripod means there won't be any shake when capturing the multiple images that are used for a Night mode shot.


A tripod isn't needed, but when the iPhone is stable and detects that it's being held steady, it will offer longer exposure times than you can get when holding the iPhone yourself. If you want a 30 second Night mode shot of the night sky, for example, you're going to need a tripod to do it. Night mode works in 1 to 30 second intervals depending on conditions like steadiness and ambient lighting.

Even with shorter time intervals, Night mode can result in blur, so if you don't have a tripod, do your best to hold the iPhone as steady as possible. Stabilizing your arms can help.

Night mode shots work best on images where there aren't moving people, pets, or objects. Since the iPhone is taking multiple shots of a subject and stitching them together, there needs to be minimal movement. A pet that's running around or an active child isn't going to make for a good night mode shot, but you can get good night time portraits of people and pets if your subject can stay still.

Night mode image via Austin Mann

Night mode isn't going to work for every photo because it can result in dramatic colors, high contrast (especially in situations where the ambient lighting is an odd color like the yellow of a street light), excessive shadows, and issues with light reflection, but more often than not, it produces incredible images and allows iPhone users to capture scenes that simply couldn't be captured with an older iPhone.

What Devices is Night Mode Available On?

Night mode is a feature on the new 2019 iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. It isn't available on earlier iPhones, but like other camera additions, will continue to be a feature for future iPhones and is likely to see improvements over the years.

Night Mode vs. Earlier iPhones

Night mode is a feature that's unmatched by earlier iPhones, as can be seen in comparison photos between the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone 11 models can get a whole new level of detail in lower lighting conditions that just wasn't possible before. It's a major step forward in camera technology and is going to result in much better photos than were possible with the iPhone XS line and earlier.

Comparisons With Android Smartphones

Night mode isn't new -- and in fact, it's something that Google popularized last year with its Pixel 3 smartphones. Google introduced a feature called Night Sight in the Pixel 3 that blew people away.

Night mode vs. Night Sight on Google Pixel 3, image via TechCrunch

Other Android smartphone manufacturers have also added similar features to their smartphones too, so this isn't a feature that originated with Apple. Below, we've shared some comparison videos and photos between Night mode in the iPhone and other Android phones with a similar feature.





Pixel 3 XL (right) vs iPhone (left), image via PCWorld


iPhone 11 (left), Pixel 3 XL (center), Galaxy S10+ (right), via PCWorld


Pixel 3 (left), iPhone 11 Pro (right), via The Verge

Apple's technology isn't too far off from the technology used by other smartphone makers, and as with any camera setup, image preference is going to vary from person to person.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about Night mode, know of a feature we left out, or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Article Link: Night Mode on iPhone 11: Everything You Need to Know
 
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vaxes

macrumors member
Sep 21, 2012
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Why is it I can’t seem to find any night sight photos of people at a dark bar or restaurant?
I’d love to know how well it works on spur of the moment photos

-AE
 
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jclo

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Dec 7, 2012
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View attachment 864244
I went to Disneyland last night to try night mode. It is kind of ridiculous, but hard to tell without a direct comparison. Trust me it looked nothing like this lol it was super dark.
This is great. I'm going to Universal Studios and Disneyland next week and I'm super excited about being able to try the iPhone 11 Pro there. Lots of opportunity for nice shots in areas that have lots of lights.
 
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hlfway2anywhere

macrumors 65816
Jul 15, 2006
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So far for me, I'm enjoying that I can even take photos at night, but the sky is horribly unnatural in all of my outdoor night photos.
 

nconnella

macrumors regular
Nov 1, 2008
184
24
A major “F You” Apple for not giving even a semblance of this feature to owners of last years $1000 phone. They officially lost me as a customer with this move. After seeing how Google handled this with Pixel, Apple is giving a clear as day middle finger to their customers by making this new phone exclusive. Next phone will be a Pixel for me.
 

GetSwole37

macrumors regular
Jun 23, 2010
124
69
Really boggles my mind that an iPhone can match or exceed my full-frame Sony camera, even with a very fast prime attached. The power of computational photography astounds me.
Dude. Really?? lol.
Really boggles my mind that an iPhone can match or exceed my full-frame Sony camera, even with a very fast prime attached. The power of computational photography astounds me.
you may need to learn how to use your Sony camera instead of setting it to automatic.

A major “F You” Apple for not giving even a semblance of this feature to owners of last years $1000 phone. They officially lost me as a customer with this move. After seeing how Google handled this with Pixel, Apple is giving a clear as day middle finger to their customers by making this new phone exclusive. Next phone will be a Pixel for me.
There are apps that do this. Now, Apple does a way better job and really does tons of work, but part of reason why yo decide to upgrade or not. I really want this option but I know next year will be revamped. I rather live with my X for another year and upgrade next year rather than pay for a phone 1/2 way, lose $500 just to upgrade in one year.
 

MisterSavage

macrumors 68000
Nov 10, 2018
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This is great. I'm going to Universal Studios and Disneyland next week and I'm super excited about being able to try the iPhone 11 Pro there. Lots of opportunity for nice shots in areas that have lots of lights.
I wish I would have had it when I went to Horror Nights. Night mode is by far my favorite thing about the new iPhones.
 

heov

macrumors regular
Aug 16, 2002
249
580
Thank God for that A13 chip with it's Neural Engine!!! Without it, who knows if Apple could have ever harnessed the processing power to pull off such a feat. /s

Does MacRumors really have to play like an Apple keynote? Where things are Magical, etc? The Pixel 3a with it's wimpy CPU can do a darn good night mode, too. Apple could do this on a. iPhone 6 if it had a decent sensor.
 

jhwalker

macrumors regular
May 31, 2011
236
185
I got a photo last night that literally boggled my mind. Won't post it here for privacy reasons, but it was taken in near darkness (my living room, with a single incandescent bulb in a lamp about 15 feet away) and is COMPLETELY grain-free, sharp and colorful - looks as if it were taken with well-placed studio lights!

I'm really excited for the future of computational photography.
 
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locovaca

macrumors regular
May 14, 2002
183
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Iowa
Are these photos artistic? Yes, for sure. Are they actually accurate? That’s what I’m not sure about. As someone with 4 kids it’s of limited use to me as well as most of my night photos are of subjects that won’t hold still for 3+ seconds :)
 

hugodrax

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2007
891
137
Why is it I can’t seem to find any night sight photos of people at a dark bar or restaurant?
I’d love to know how well it works on spur of the moment photos

-AE
you meed a dslr with fast primes then.
Are these photos artistic? Yes, for sure. Are they actually accurate? That’s what I’m not sure about. As someone with 4 kids it’s of limited use to me as well as most of my night photos are of subjects that won’t hold still for 3+ seconds :)
get a dslr with a fast prime. Sometimes a hammer is the best tool to use for a nail.
 

Relentless Power

macrumors Nehalem
Jul 12, 2016
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Paisley Park at night. Unfortunately I could only get the shot from across a busy highway. But it was completely dark out.

View attachment 864246
Nice night shot. Looks like an awesome tribute to Prince.

Relentless Power says:

‘Hey Siri’...

Siri: Go ahead....I’m listening

Me: Play Purple Rain by Prince on _repeat_.

Siri: Ok, Playing Purple rain by Prince and the Revolution.