How to take Low Light pictures via Pixel Night Sight

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Smartphone cameras are getting better with each passing generation. So much so that even if you buy a flagship smartphone with the best camera today, after 5 years a mid-range model will probably be able to give it a run for its money in terms of photo quality, while the new flagships will be conquering new plateaus.

Now, while smartphone cameras have come to a point where every one of them pretty much nails day time photography, low light situations are where you can really distinguish which one is the best. The more recent flagships since last year have been coming with what’s called a Night Mode in their respective camera apps.

What that does is, through software image processing, optimize the scene to make it look bright, clear and noise-free. Among all flagships, Google Pixel phones have nailed this with their Night Sight as it is unanimously believed to be the best out there. However, in case you don’t have a Pixel phone, don’t be bummed out, there’s a way you can get Night Sight on your Android smartphone.

Thankfully, some developers figured out a way to “port” the Google Pixel’s camera app and make it usable on other smartphones. And the difference is unreal, below you can see two pictures taken in the same conditions. The one on the left is from the Nightscape Mode in the OnePlus 6 camera app, while the one on the right is taken on the same phone but through Night Sight in the ported app. Do note that in real life, I could barely see a thing, which just goes to show how effective Night Sight is in capturing low light details.

You can download it and use it to get amazing results. Here’s how:

Step 1: Download the .apk file from XDA Developers

Go to this link, and try to find your phone on the list. All of the latest (and even some older) models of popular brands are listed here and each one has its own optimized version of this app. Also, do keep in mind if you have a Samsung phone do keep in mind which processor you are running. Both the Snapdragon and Exynos variants have separate files so download accordingly.

Step 2: Allow installation from Unknown Sources (optional)

In case you haven’t already done it before, you need to allow your phone to install applications from sources other than the Play Store. For this, you need to navigate to Settings > Security and then activate Install from Unknown Sources. This will allow you to manually install the .apk file that you’ve just downloaded in the last step.

Step 3: Install the app

After everything is done, go to where the .apk file is downloaded. It can be easy to navigate if you use a File Explorer app which has a separate potion for downloaded .apk files. From there, click on the one you need to download, press install and it will be installed in a few seconds.

Step 4: Using the Night Sight

Now that you’ve installed the app, it’s finally time to use it. Open it and you’ll be greeted with the viewfinder with different modes below it. Night Sight won’t be listed there, so you’ll have to press on More on the far right. Once you do that, you’ll be greeted with some additional modes and that’s where you’ll find the Night Sight mode. Press on it and you’re ready to take a picture. Once in Night Sight, you can take pictures normally as you would in a regular mode, except that you have to hold it steady for a few seconds.

Astro Mode

In case do you have a Pixel phone, you don’t need to go through all this as everything you need is already in your camera app. However, in case you have the Pixel 4/4XL, then there something extra that others don’t have yet. It’s called the Astro Mode and it’s exactly what you think it is. This self-activating mode allows you to take pictures of the stars in the most simple ways possible. I did a tutorial on Astrophotography and this just renders that obsolete.Here’s what an Astro Mode shot looks like.

In order to use the new Astro Mode, you need to:

  • Switch to the Night Sight mode, that we talked about earlier, and face your camera towards the night sky. The software will automatically detect the sky and Astro Mode will be enabled.
  • Make sure your phone is mounted on a tripod or any other stand which holds it absolutely still, this cannot be done handheld.
  • Once in position, just press the shutter button, it will take a while, possibly several minutes, to capture and process the whole image. Once that’s done, you have the completed image ready with all the stars in the sky.

Note: In case you have any other Pixel smartphone other than Pixel 4/4XL then good news for you. You can also get your hands on the Astro Mode if you download the ported app from the above link and by following those steps.


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