Most Android smartphones now offer a manual (or pro) mode for the camera. It allows you to take control of more settings than the automatic mode and, under certain circumstances, to make more beautiful photos since you are the one who configure all the parameters of the shooting. And the good news is that you do not need to have monstrous knowledge to master it.
Why use manual mode?
Most users are still satisfied with the automatic mode to take pictures with their smartphone. All the parameters are already preset according to the conditions of ambient brightness and most of the time, it does the trick. But since our Android smartphones have become photophones, the sensors found on the back are not only there to do the trick, they can also allow us to make beautiful photos. You still have to know how to use them.
By switching to the manual mode, you will then take control of all the settings authorized by your manufacturer (we will return to this point later) and you control all the parameters of your image, which allows you to exceed the limits of the automatic mode.
Control the exposure yourself
Before triggering the shot, the photo sensor on your smartphone will first calculate the ambient brightness. From there, it will decide whether to trigger the flash (if it is set to automatic mode) but will also decide to lower or increase the brightness of your shot. In automatic mode, most smartphones still tend to overexpose photos.
In low light, it can help get a better result but in full sun, it sometimes gives the effect of a burned photo or whites appear too white. It is therefore best to regulate the exhibition yourself. On the latest Samsung Galaxy, it’s very easy to do, just slide your finger up or down on other smartphones, it will open a small menu and select + or -.
Attention to flash
As with a “real” camera, the flash that is found on our smartphones is very practical since it allows to bring additional light on the photos taken in low light. Most of the time, it is set to automatic mode and therefore triggers only when the sensor decides that the brightness is too low. At night, it remains essential but, it can happen that your smartphone triggers it also in daylight, especially indoors.
In these conditions, as much, it may prove useful, as much it can literally spoil your photo by generating too much exposure and producing colors that will lack natural. If you have any doubt, the best is still to try with and without. But you will see that most of the time, the photo without flash will be the most successful.
ISO sensitivity, do not overdo it!
Most Android smartphones now offer very good ISO sensitivity. But again, in automatic mode, the sensor tends to overestimate the needs of your photo, sometimes opting for an ISO sensitivity too strong. However, in an enlightened environment, it is not necessary to climb above 200 ISO, a value from which noise is likely to appear on the photographs, making them less sharp.
If you really have a good light, the best is still to go down to 50 ISO, if your smartphone allows it, if not 100 ISO, your picture will be even sharper.
Choose the right white balance
The white balance (indicated by WB) is calculated automatically by your smartphone. Based on the ambient light, the sensor adjusts the colors of the photo to make it as close as possible to reality, but again, depending on the lighting conditions, the sensor has its limits. Fortunately, it is possible to set it manually.
This setting can sometimes seem complex as long as it is to be redone whenever the lighting conditions vary but it can nevertheless change everything to the final result.
The shutter speed
More and more smartphones now allow manual controls of the Google Camera2 API, you can adjust the shutter speed, in other words, the period of time that the shutter will let light into the sensor. You may notice, on sunny photos, this time is very short and at night it is longer since the light needs more time to cross the sensor.
But you can also play with to get different artistic effects on your snapshots. Unfortunately, at this time, all manufacturers do not yet allow this setting in their photo applications. To find out if your smartphone allows it, you can download the Manual Camera Compatibility application from the Google Play Store. Note that it is also this API that allows you to output your photos in uncompressed RAW format.
Do not be afraid of filters!
This trick is obviously to use in addition to a good use of the manual mode of your Android. Be aware that by using the filters wisely, you may be able to correct illumination or poor aesthetic exposure. Many applications offer their own filters, but a lambda user should be able to correct and optimize certain photographs that were not very successful in the past with the filters already available on his smartphone.
Imagine for example that you take a picture under a cloudy and gray sky. With some well-felt filters you will easily bring a little sunshine to your pictures! Before declaring the photo as totally unrecoverable, try also to improve it with some photo editing applications.