Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Become a photography pro by mastering your camera’s manual mode

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Smartphone cameras are shipping with better and better cameras each year, and there are a plethora of apps available to help you capture the best looking snaps too: from filters right through to camera apps with built-in manual controls. Even if your phone doesn’t ship with a built-in manual mode, there are plenty of apps on the market that can even bring better looking pictures to older handsets.

For the uninitiated, the sheer number of settings can be overwhelming at first, so this guide will help explain the most common settings and how you should use them.


We’ll start with one of, if not the most, important settings that you’ll find in any advanced camera app – ISO. Essentially this adjusts the image sensor’s sensitivity to light, making it an extremely powerful tool. The lower the number, the less sensitive the sensor is to light. Likewise, increasing the ISO, and therefore the sensitivity, can help capture brighter pictures in dark environments, but this comes at the expense of extra noise.

Keeping the sensor sensitivity low is the key to capturing clean looking images, but this is isn’t always practical or possible.

It’s also important to know that your camera’s ISO is also tied to how quickly it takes to capture light or an image. Additional light takes more time to capture, so a low ISO also means a longer time needed between opening and closing the shutter to capture the required amount of light. However, leaving the shutter open for longer periods of time increases the risk of blur. If you’re trying to capture a fast moving scene, a higher ISO can help to avoid motion blur at the expense of some quality. While shooting stationary images, using the lowest possible ISO will produce higher quality looking pictures. Only begin increasing the ISO if you can’t capture enough light or are taking an action shot, and even then use it sparingly to keep the noise low.

The example below shows a rather extreme case of the same picture taken with an ISO of 100 and the other at 12800 in good lighting conditions. Notice the large amount of noise, loss of detail, and off color tone in the latter compared with the former. Keeping the sensor sensitivity as low as possible is the key to capturing clean looking images, but this is very tough to achieve with limited smartphone sensors.

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