How to take the right photos from your smartphone: a quick guide to manual settings


Want to take decent mobile photos to brag about? Then you should give up automatic shooting and finally understand the  Pro-mode. We will tell you how to use a smartphone as a camera and control everything at the same time. Exposure, photosensitivity, aperture – now we will explain everything.


Light sensitivity (ISO)

Many people know that this abbreviation hides light sensitivity (the higher the value, the higher it is), but only a few change it in the camera application. Too bad: skillfully playing with the parameters, you can get a bright, detailed image even in a dark room or in the evening. However, if you overdo it with ISO, the picture will be light, but “noisy”, that is, poor quality, with dots, spots and other defects.


It makes sense to change the light sensitivity in case of imperfect lighting – to make it smaller on a bright sunny day and increase it in the evening or in closed rooms where direct sunlight does not fall. By lowering the ISO value (and in automatic mode it is usually too high), you can get rid of overexposed areas in the photo and reproduce the natural color of objects.


It will not work to name the ideal ISO value – it simply does not exist. With practice, you will learn to feel what exactly needs to be exposed in specific conditions. Experiment.


Some people judge the quality of photos by looking at them on a smartphone. Want to know the truth about your pictures? Take a look at them on the big computer screen. There it will become obvious every case when you missed focus, when you did not cope with hand shake or lack of light.



The aperture value is responsible for the size of the hole through which light enters the sensor, thereby creating an image. This hole works like a human pupil: it narrows in bright light (so as not to “go blind”, that is, not to overexpose the pictures) and expands in the dark, in order, on the contrary, to let in more light inside. The size of the aperture also affects the sharpness of the image: the smaller the aperture, the sharper it is. That is why we squint when we want to examine some small details.


In optics, aperture is indicated by a decimal fraction, such as 2.0 or 4.5 (often as f / 1.7 or f / 2.0). A little confusion for beginners is that the lower the number, the more open the aperture and shallower the depth of field. Conversely, the larger the value, the smaller the aperture. Small apertures are good for portraits and subjects that require a separate selection in the frame. With a wide aperture (its smaller numerical value), multi-faceted compositions with elements located at different distances from the photographer come out better.


What if you need more sharpness (you need to close the aperture) and at the same time are interested in improving your low-light performance (you need to open the aperture)? Find a compromise by adjusting other photography parameters. For example, when the aperture is closed, increase the light sensitivity (ISO).


While on a real camera the user can change the aperture size, in the vast majority of smartphones its value is constant and ranges from 1.7 to 2.0. Changing the aperture value in the smartphone settings, most likely, will not work. However, if there is such an opportunity, treat it as a significant advantage. Pay attention to this parameter at the stage of choosing a mobile device.


All other things being equal, buy the camera with a wider aperture, that is, smaller than its numerical designation. Let’s say 1.7 is preferred over 2.0.



Exposure is the exposure time during which the camera shutter remains open and light enters the matrix. Most shots are taken at short exposures – hundredths and thousandths of a second. But you definitely saw pictures with a long exposure of 20 or 30 seconds: some objects in such photographs remain clear, while others are beautifully blurred. For example, a landscape of a city at night, in which the lights of cars merge into a single color stream.


A fast shutter speed can capture even a moving object in detail – for example, sparks flying from a fire. However, the more dynamic the subject, the slower the shutter speed is needed to fix it. In this case, the lower the shutter speed, the less light will have time to get into the camera and difficulties may arise with the illumination of the frame. That is why, when setting manual settings, it is worth remembering all the parameters that we are considering in this text: a change in one parameter can be compensated or enhanced by changes in others.


To change the shutter speed of your smartphone’s camera, in Pro or Manual mode, tap the shutter speed icon – usually the letter S or a circle with segments. The scale of values ​​starts with fractions of a second and ends with tens of seconds. If you intend to shoot with a long exposure, immediately take a tripod, without it a normal frame will still not work. At slow shutter speeds, handheld photography is a waste of time and frustration.


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