Night sky photography with an iPhone 15 Pro – Photofocus

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I’m a relatively late adopter of iPhone photography. I have a camera with lenses and processing skills as a professional photographer over 25 years. Why would I use a smartphone? Here’s why. I’m finding more and more that the capabilities working their way into these devices make it harder to not add it to my toolbox.
While out with my students under the Milky Way-laden sky in Sedona, Arizona, it was time to try out the relatively new phone. As part of a Platypod Pro project showing how the new Platypod Grip works I upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro. I created some images for that project and started to realize the capabilities of these capture devices.
The challenge was to see how this kit worked in making a Milky Way image. I have to say, pretty amazing! You need to make the camera be perfectly steady. Then, when invoking the “Night Mode” you can extend the time which the shutter is open, which, of course, opens new possibilities of subject capture.
With the camera steady and Night Mode selected, the settings for these captures was 10 sec at ISO 5000 with an aperture of f/1.8. I was pretty taken aback with the quality of the image appearing magically on the scene. Make sure you do some research as you play with this technique. You’ll want to make sure the flash is turned off and you are capturing in the RAW format. This will give you a bit more latitude for post processing to bring out the best of the image. I found I needed to open the shadows a little along with massaging the highlights.
Obviously, the smartphone is a big part of this story. But the smartphone needs to be supported. Larry Tiefenbrunn from Platypod designed the Grip phone support. There are a number of phone holders on the market but Larry made this one specifically for photographers. It holds even the largest phone, a single twist of a lever enables easy positioning. It also folds down to a small form when not in use. I added a Platypod eXtreme base and a couple Platypod Handles. This is a support package that is light and packs into a very small form. And, I can’t not mention the iPhone 15 Pro. I often use this same support set up using a ball head for my camera. This is when I want a secondary camera support or don’t wish to haul a tripod at all.
Would I replace my OM 1 camera with a phone? Oh, heck no! BUT, the quote “The best camera is the one you have with you” has been attributed to several photographers. It’s not far off the mark. My phone is in a holster by my side almost all the time. This means I now have a pretty capable camera with me. And, I’m learning to use and trust it. Makes grabbing those serendipitous images that might have escaped me in the past much more likely.
Interested in learning more about night sky photography? I do workshops in the beautiful red rock country of Sedona, Arizona. You can learn more here.

Yours in Creative Photography,
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Bob is a lens-based artist and has had the honor and privilege to author books and articles on photography and has presented seminars and programs from Hawaii to the Caribbean. As a former Panasonic Lumix Ambassador, he has been able to stay up with the latest technology in the micro four-thirds cameras and now uses Olympus cameras as well. Coates is a successful commercial and fine art photographer based in Sedona, AZ with his wonderful wife who makes it possible for him to do all he does in the photography industry. Join Bob in Sedona, Arizona, a Dark Sky Community for Milky Way and Night Sky Photography Workshops. Need a speaker in your area? Get in touch.
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