Multiple Nova Flash Capability Improves Night & Low Light iPhone Photography

Rob DePaolo | Sat, 30 May 2015 07:30:39 +0000 | iPhone Photography School

The Nova flash unit is a popular and extremely beneficial iPhone photography accessory. It provides you with a powerful artificial light source to expand your shooting options when taking photos at night and in low light. Now, the developers of Nova flash have made it possible for you to control up to ten Nova flash units with a single iPhone, which opens up a world of lighting possibilities. In this article we’ll take a look at how you can take advantage of multiple Nova flashes for improving your iPhone photography.

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What Is A Nova Flash?

First, let’s cover a little background on the Nova flash for those of you who may not already be familiar with them. Originally released in 2014, the Nova was the first wireless flash created for iPhones. It connects to your iPhone via its built-in Bluetooth connectivity.

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Additionally, the Nova contains more LEDs than most other off-camera flash units. The light provided by the Nova is richer and far more flattering (especially for portrait photography) than the iPhone’s built-in flash. This makes the Nova one of the most effective flash units available today.

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How It Works

To use the Nova, you first need to charge it via the USB cable. Charging is fast and with the included USB connector, you can charge it via your computer, USB wall charger, portable battery pack, or even a USB car charger.

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Once the Nova is charged, simply open the Nova camera app (FREE to download from the App Store) on your iPhone. The app should automatically connect to the Nova as long as your Bluetooth connection is enabled in your iPhone’s Settings.

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By tapping the flash icon in the lower right corner of the app, you can change settings of the Nova to adjust the quality of the light emitted. There are a handful of useful presets including Gentle, Warm, Neutral and Bright, or you can manually adjust the light quality through the Custom settings.

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There’s also a handy Test button to check on the quality of the light before you actually put the unit to work. Once you have the light set the way you like, the Nova camera app functions very intuitively, allowing for stress-free flash photography.

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The Nova is so small and light (about the size of a credit card, albeit a bit thicker), that you can easily hold it in one hand while holding the iPhone in your other hand to take a photo.

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This allows you to reposition your light source until you achieve the desired lighting effect. No longer are you limited to the straight-on, harsher light of the iPhone’s built-in flash.

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The Nova makes it easy to experiment with different angles for a wide range of lighting effects, from the subtle to the more dramatic.

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You can easily mount the Nova to a tripod using the same grip mounts that you might use to attach your iPhone to a tripod. Above you can see a Nova flash unit attached to a Joby GorillaPod.

Even in bright sunlight, the Nova can be used as a source of “fill” light to help remove harsh shadows that might fall across your subject’s face.

Use With Other Camera Apps

In addition to the free Nova camera app, other developers have started adding support for Nova flash units to their apps. One of the most popular is PureShot (as well as its big brother 645 Pro).

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All you need to do is go into the app’s settings (Menu > Advanced > External Hardware > Nova Support) and change the setting to “Enabled” in order to begin using the Nova with PureShot.

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You only need to set this up once and it will automatically detect and connect to your Nova unit(s) each time you activate the app. PureShot also allows you to choose from the same four presets as the Nova camera app.

What it doesn’t offer (at least not at this time) is the ability to customize the light quality like the Nova app does. However, I’ve found the four presets to be more than adequate for the vast majority of lighting scenarios.

Creative Possibilities With Multiple Flash Units

And now for the really exciting news! Just this week, the developer announced that the latest version of the Nova camera app can now control up to ten Nova flash units simultaneously. While few photographers will likely ever have a need for ten separate Novas, multiple flash support is a huge leap forward in off-camera lighting for iPhone photography.

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Without getting into a technical discussion about studio lighting (a subject for another day), you should be aware that most studio photographers use an average of three light sources most of the time in order to achieve a wide variety of lighting options.

That same potential is now available for iPhone photography when using multiple Nova flashes. By changing the angle and distance of each light, you can achieve an almost limitless range of lighting options.

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Even with as few as two Novas, you can light your subject more evenly from two angles, thereby removing harsh shadows. This results in a more professional looking photo than if you’d only used your iPhone’s built-in flash or a single Nova flash unit.

In fact, “professional” is the term that keeps coming to mind whenever I work with my Nova units. While Novas are not quite as powerful as professional studio lights, they’re just as flexible (if not more flexible due to their portability and accessibility).

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I used two Nova units to illuminate this portrait photo of my son. If you’re shooting portraits you can ask your subject to hold the Novas for you. You could include the lights in the picture if you want, or a better option in most cases would be to get close to your subject so that they appear out of shot.

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The positioning and angle of the two lights has allowed me to illuminate both sides of his face, creating subtle highlights and shadows that add to the mood of the photo. This is much more flattering than what you could achieve with a single light source or the iPhone’s built-in flash, and it gives the impression that it’s been shot using studio lighting.

With an iPhone and two or more Nova flash units (and possibly some tripods or other stands to hold the Novas), you’ll essentially have a portable photography studio at your disposal.


Even if you prefer shooting in natural light and aren’t interested in “studio” photography, carrying a couple of Nova units with you when you’re out on a photo walk or other outdoor photography adventure will help to ensure that you always have enough quality light to capture the best possible images.

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“We wanted to put iPhone owners in the driver’s seat so they can create and capture their vision anytime and anywhere by using more than one lighting source,” said Jaimie Walnes, Founder of Nova. “iPhone owners can now create outdoor lighting studios whether they’re at the top of a skyscraper or out on the street. It will be very exciting to see the creativity that will emerge from using this new capability.”

Each Nova unit retails for $59 and can be purchased from a number of online merchants including Amazon, Apple and direct from the Nova website.

The developer has even started selling “Mint” Novas, which are brand new units that have been inspected and repackaged after their original boxes were scuffed during transit. These cost $49, and they’re just as effective and reliable as the full-priced versions.

They also offer a “Mint Nova Studio Pack” consisting of four units available at a package price of $177, which is a great deal for anyone looking to build a small, yet effective portable lighting kit. The Mint Novas and Mint Nova Studio Packs are only available for purchase via the Mint page on the Nova website.

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I highly recommend picking up a Nova or two (or three, or four… you get the idea!) and experimenting with them to see just how far they’ll help you take your iPhone photography.

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