"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Phone cameras can pick up more light than the human eye – which is why low-light events just like the Northern Lights are sometimes higher seen through your phone camera.

Smartphone cameras have improved significantly in recent times. Computational photography and AI allow these devices to capture stunning images which are far beyond what we see with the naked eye. Photos of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, provide a very striking example.

If you saw the Northern Lights during Geomagnetic storm in May 2024you could have noticed that your smartphone has made the photographs look sharper than they are surely.

Auroras, generally known as the northern lights (aurora borealis) or southern lights (aurora australis), occur when the solar wind disrupts the Earth's magnetic field. They appear as streaks of color within the sky.

The left side shows the aurora as seen by the naked eye. The right side shows how a smartphone camera can capture brighter and more colourful lights.
Douglas Goodwin

What makes the photographs of those events much more impressive than they seem to the attention? Like Professor of Computational PhotographyI even have seen how the newest smartphone features overcome the constraints of human vision.

Your eyes in the dead of night

Human eyes are remarkable. They will let you see footprints and piloted vehicles speeding across the sun-drenched desert. However, your eyes perform less impressively in low light.

Human eyes are of two types. Cells that respond to light. – Rods and cones. Bars are quite a few and more Sensitive to light. Cones handle color but need more light to operate. As a result, our night vision relies heavily on rods and color is missed.

A diagram of a human eye, with a zoomed-in panel showing the rod and cone receptors.  Rods are cylindrical, while cones are conical.
Your eyes have rod and cone photoreceptors that process black and white in addition to color.
Blume, C., Garbazza, C. & Spitschan, M., CC BY-SA

The result's like wearing dark sunglasses to look at a movie. At night, colours look washed out and muted. Likewise, under a starry sky, the colourful colours of the aurora are present but often too dim on your eyes to see clearly.

In low light, your brain takes precedence. Motion detection and shape recognition To make it easier to navigate. This trade-off implies that the ethereal colours of the aurora are sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Technology is the one method to increase their brilliance.

Taking the proper picture

Smartphones have revolutionized how people perceive the world. These compact devices use multiple cameras and advanced sensors to gather more light than the human eye can, even in low-light conditions. They achieve this through long exposure times – how long The camera takes in the light – Larger apertures and increased ISO, Amount of light Let your camera in.

But smartphones do greater than adjust these settings. They also profit. Computational photography Using digital techniques and algorithms to reinforce your images. Image stabilization Reduces camera shake, and exposure settings optimize the quantity of sunshine captured by the camera.

Multi-image processing Stacks multiple images together to create the proper image. is known as a sequence. Night mode Can balance colours in low light. LiDAR capabilities. Keep your photos in deal with some phones.

A diagram showing a stack of grainy images superimposed on a clear image.
Image stacking involves aligning and mixing several noisy images to reinforce the standard of the ultimate image. Averaging these images together suppresses random sensor noise. This leads to a clearer and more detailed picture than any photograph alone.
Douglas Goodwin

LiDAR stands for light detection and ranging, and phones with this configuration emit laser pulses to calculate the space of objects within the scene in any type of light. LiDAR creates a depth map of the environment to enhance focus and highlight objects in your photos.

Two images, labeled 'optical' on the left and 'depth' on the right, show a person dancing.  The 'optical' image shows how the person in the photo would normally look, while the 'depth' image shows their silhouette in white against a black background.
Smartphone cameras don't just take flat photos — additionally they collect depth information. The left shows a daily image, while the precise shows a depth map, with lighter pixels closer to the camera and darker ones further away. Normally hidden, this depth data enables smartphones to use effects resembling artificial background blur to mimic the looks of the northern lights against the night sky.
Douglas Goodwin

Artificial Intelligence Tools in your smartphone camera By tweaking the settings, using bursts of sunshine and may make your photos even higher. Using super-resolution techniques To get really fantastic detail. They can too. Identify faces In your photos

AI processing in your smartphone camera

While there's quite a bit you may do with a smartphone camera, regular cameras have larger sensors and superior optics, providing you with more control over your photos. Camera manufacturers like Nikon, Sony and Canon Avoid tampering with the image in general.Instead of letting the photographer take creative control.

These cameras offer flexibility to photographers. Shooting in raw formwhich permits you to keep more of every image's data for editing and infrequently produces higher-quality results.

In contrast to Dedicated camerasmodern smartphone cameras Use AI on time and later. You take photos to reinforce the standard of your photos. When you're taking a photograph, AI tools will analyze the scene you're pointing the camera at and adjust settings resembling exposure, white balance and ISO, whilst you deal with the topic. will recognize it while shooting and stabilize the image. These be sure that you get an ideal picture if you press the button.

You can often find features that use AI resembling High dynamic range, Night mode And Fashion portraitenabled by default or accessible in your camera settings.

AI algorithms further enhance your photos by enhancing details, reducing blur and applying effects like color correction after taking the photo.

All these features help your camera take pictures in low-light conditions and contribute to the stunning aurora photos you capture together with your phone's camera.

While the human eye struggles to totally appreciate the otherworldly colours of the northern lights at night, modern smartphone cameras overcome this limitation. By leveraging AI and computational photography techniques, your devices will let you see the intense colours of solar storms within the atmosphere, enhance colours and capture otherwise hidden details that the keen eye would miss. .