How to optimize iPhone’s Action Mode for low-light video recording

Action Mode, the iPhone’s video stabilization feature, works great as long as there’s plenty of light available. Here’s how to optimize Action Mode for low-light shooting.

Using the iPhone's Action Mode to capture kids running
Action Mode maxes out at 2.8K | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB

Available on the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro lineups, Action Mode uses heavy cropping and other techniques to stabilize shakiness when shooting video while running. Even though Action Mode limits your maximum capture resolution to 2.8K, the feature delivers very impressive stabilization.

Action Mode is an incredibly effective way to stabilize zoomed-in videos when shooting with your iPhone’s telephoto camera.

Apple says Action Mode works best “with lots of  light.” So to use this feature in dimly-lit environments, you’re advised to enable a setting that’ll boost Action Mode’s performance in lower light at the expense of some stabilization.

How to shoot low-light Action Mode videos with an iPhone

Visit the camera settings on your iPhone to enable a dedicated setting that will permit Action Mode to perform better under lower light.

The Action Mode Lower Light setting for the iPhone's Camera app
Action Mode depends on good lighting conditions | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB
  1. Open the Settings app on an iPhone 14 or later.
  2. Select Camera in the main list.
  3. Choose Record Video.
  4. Turn on the Action Mode Lower Light switch to the ON position.

This setting is turned off by default to maximize the stabilization. “Action Mode will decrease the stabilization to optimize for less bright scenes,” reads the feature’s description. You’ll know things are too dark if a “More light required” message appears when using Action Mode in the Camera app.

Capture smooth-looking video

Camera man suspended on cables, using iPhone 15 Pro Max with Hollywood gymbal
Or suspend yourself on cables and use a pro gimbal | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB

Image stabilization is crucial in the era of smartphone video. No one wants to watch handheld footage that violently shakes, but that’s exactly what we were subjected to in the early days of the iPhone when video stabilization wasn’t available.

Apple has since heavily invested in improving its imaging stack, boosting the iPhone’s imaging quality with techniques like computational photography and sensor-shift stabilization to counter shakiness and help take steady handheld video.

Most of us don’t won’t walk around with a tripod or an optical stabilizer. But thanks to the Action Mode Lower Light setting, anyone can use the camera in their pocket to capture remarkably stabilized footage even in poor lighting conditions.

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