Mac O’Clock
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Mac O’Clock

Mitsun Soni: The Indian photographer who won the Apple night-mode challenge

Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models have been acclaimed for the low-light performance of the camera. For many, including me, the iPhone 11 models were the best all-around camera phones. One of the headlining features of the iPhone 11 is a new “NIGHT MODE” which Apple released in response to similar features on phones like the Google Pixel. To push low-light photography more on the iPhone, Apple had a “night mode” challenge ongoing for the last couple of months whose winners it announced yesterday. Of the 6 winners, Mitsun Soni is an Indian hailing from Mumbai. His photo, which arguably is the most psychedelic and out worldly of the lot, was clicked in Dubai last December using an iPhone 11 Pro.

How did he click the photo

  • Soni clicked a tree in Dubai which was blanketed in red light giving it a space-age look. By Soni’s own admission, he was in awe of the tree, the moment he saw it. It felt like something out of Mars, something was echoed by Apple’s jury Tyler Mitchell who said “ I have no idea where that deep rich red light is coming from on the tree. It almost feels like a UFO sighting above the tree, just out of frame. Absolutely beautiful composition as well.”
  • The photo was, of course, clicked from an iPhone 11 Pro in the night-mode. Soni says that he used a 3-second shutter on the night mode which can be manually configured after the phone automatically triggers the night-mode option.
  • In addition to using the stock camera app, Soni did some colour correction in Lightroom and Snapseed on the phone and further blended a tone by mildly implementing a VSCOCam filter. Soni felt that if he had used a third-party camera app to shoot the photo in RAW, he might have managed a better photo, though this was one of his favourite compositions.

When I first saw the image, after editing it I had so many thoughts about this picture. You know, it could look like something from Mars or from some other planet altogether.

More on Mitsun the photographer

  • The 28-year-old Mitsun Soni has been clicking pictures since the ripe age of 16. He started clicking on old Nokia phones. He used to own a Nokia N95 which was one of the first major camera focussed smartphones in the mid-2000s with a Carl Zeiss lens and a 5-megapixel sensor.
  • Since the Nokia N95, he graduated to the iPhone and ever since he has always used an iPhone. His first iPhone was an iPhone 3G.
  • As he is a concert photographer by day, he uses Canon’s EOS-R full-frame mirrorless cameras with a bunch of professional lenses and lighting equipment.
  • Usually, on Instagram, most of his clicks are from the iPhone. He rarely uses third-party camera apps for Instagram, unless there is something he feels he can print.

Career highlights

  • He has been in and around the Indian music scene for over 10 years. In fact, while clicking the award-winning photo, he was in Dubai for a festival. If you go through his Instagram, you’ll mostly find photos of places where he has travelled for work.
  • His career spans some major concerts which include the Sunburn festival, DeadMau5, Avicci and more recently the OnePlus festival in Mumbai featuring Katy Perry and Dua Lipa.
  • While he has graduated to bigger festivals, he has an avid liking for the underground and more recently he was commissioned to shoot at the Cercle pop-up party in Gwalior which featured acts like H.O.S.H and BLOT!.

The jury featured award-winning photographers like Malin Fezehai, Tyler Mitchell, Sarah Lee, Alexvi Li, and Darren Soh and Apple’s marketing team like Kaiann Drance, Brooks Kraft, Jon McCormack, Arem Duplessis and its senior VP Phil Schiller.

The other photographers who were featured include Konstantin Chalabovn, Rustam Shagimordanov and Andrei Manuilov, from Russia, Rubén P. Bescós, from Spain, and Yu “Eric” Zhang from China. You can see all the photos here.

Soni is the second major Indian photographer to be recognised by Apple after the late Ashish Parmar’s whose portrait of his wife from an iPhone 6S was used to promote the #ShotOniPhone campaign. He passed away last December due to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Expect to see this stunning photo on billboards all around the world.

Words by Sahil Mohan Gupta

Originally published at on March 4, 2020.



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