Basic Guide to Manual Camera Settings

  1. Henaway
    Honeycomb Sep 14, 2016

    Henaway , Sep 14, 2016 :
    It comes up frequently (in many forums): "I don't use a dSLR camera, but want to see what is possible with this phone's camera in manual mode. What do the settings mean, and what happens when I change them?"

    There are entire books dedicated to the subject, and it can be wildly complicated - and intimidating - for those with no prior experience.

    The best thing to do, since you can see what is happening in real time as you adjust settings, is to plan some time in various lighting situations and just experiment. Get together with a couple of friends, and have some fun! But here are some basics as far as lighting and photography goes. (I'll leave out settings like manual focus, because that one really is self-explanatory.)

    In manual exposures, there are three things that affect the 'brightness' (and to a degree, sharpness) of the image - shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. There is also white balance - often referred to as colour temperature. (Color for the non-Canadians out there!)

    I'll start with white balance, since that one is pretty quick to explain. Our eyes naturally do this on their own - they compensate for the "colour temperature" of the light in a room to distinguish white as white instead of yellow or blue, depending on the light source. Think of headlights on cars at night - some are the old yellowish looking ones, some of the new LED and HID/Xenon lights fall into the "pure white" or "bluish" look. All light sources have their own colour cast, but camera sensors can't distinguish between them without some help. So adjusting the white balance to a warmer (lower K ... for degrees Kelvin) or cooler (higher K value) value will make your photo's colours more accurate, based one where white actually appears white when you look at it. (You can also use this setting to make sunrises/sunsets much warmer, more golden than they actually appear by using a lower K setting.)

    Okay. Now we have the dance that shutter speed, aperture, and ISO do with each other.

    I'll start with shutter speed. This is the length of time that the image sensor in your camera (or, the film back in the old days) is actually exposed to light. This can range from thousandths of a second, to many seconds. A fast shutter speed is great for capturing quick action without motion blur - and makes it harder to get blurry images from shaky hands. A slow shutter speed lets more light hit the sensor, but can introduce motion shake if you're not using a tripod. Long shutters are great for astrophotography (stars, auroras, etc), light trails (headlights/taillights on a highway), and such - but you WILL need a tripod for some of those 15-30 second exposure times. Personally, I've managed to get 1 second exposures handheld, without a lot of shake, but it is NOT easy. Once you start dipping below 1/30th, it's time to look at a tripod or something to lean on for stability.

    Unless you're in very bright light, you will need a wide aperture (lower f-value. IE: f/2.0 is not as wide as an f/1.7) and/or higher ISO value for fast shutter speeds in order to get enough light on the sensor. The camera in the OP3 has a fixed aperture (f/2.0), so it is not part of our equation, as it would if you were working with an SLR lens with a variable aperture. That means you have to compensate with the ISO values.

    ISO is essentially the 'sensitivity' of the camera sensor. A low ISO value means you need to get more exposure to get a well lit photo. Generally though, the lower the ISO, the better for clarity. As ISO increases, so does 'grain' (in film) or 'noise' (in digital). The complaints we often see about "noisy" low light photos in auto mode are from the camera app compensating for a faster shutter with a higher ISO value.

    So, the values of each setting directly impact each other. It's like a little lighting dance. When you find the right combination, magic happens.

    The beauty of using our phones the way we can is we can change settings on the fly, and see the results previewed in real time! And if we blow a shot, we can just delete it and start over. It's a whole lot of fun to shoot manually, if you have the desire to try something different. Your worst case scenarios are shots that are over or under exposed, or have a weird white balance. But if you are shooting in RAW, you can most often correct those in editing. (Snapseed is really good with raw photos if you want an on-device solution .. I prefer Lightroom on my laptop.) Give it a go, have some fun, and let's see your results!

    This is a gross oversimplification, but just intended as a very basic primer on what the settings are, and the effects that they have. Cheers!

  2. marinobiagio
    KitKat Sep 14, 2016

  3. Mr. BG
    Marshmallow Sep 14, 2016

  4. JyotiradityaG5
    Eclair Sep 14, 2016

    S1514688766155 likes this.
  5. Ihis66
    Eclair Sep 30, 2016

    Ihis66 , Sep 30, 2016 :
    Hi, how to take photos in series like with 5 sec intervals. Couldn't figure it out yet.

  6. mariobm
    Gingerbread Oct 4, 2016

  7. Henaway
    Honeycomb Oct 5, 2016

    Henaway , Oct 5, 2016 :
    I don't believe there is an interval setting in the stock camera app. You would have to look at 3rd party apps like Camera FV-5. I'm pretty sure I recall there being an interval setting in FV-5. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong there!)

    script likes this.
  8. Joyyy
    Jelly Bean Oct 5, 2016

  9. SkillsandTrade
    Cupcake Oct 5, 2016

    SkillsandTrade , Oct 5, 2016 :
    Hello! Very nice article, it was very helpful. If anyone is interested, here is a very nice video on learning about Setting Manual Exposure, that really helped me.

    Hope this helps!

  10. shreeshan1994
    Cupcake Nov 15, 2016

    rad291 likes this.
  11. andrediaslopes
    Donut Dec 2, 2016

    andrediaslopes , Dec 2, 2016 :
    Thanks for the guide, I am a guy of DSLR photography and I am looking forward to test the manual mode of the OP3T camera, so I will keep in touch to you guys.

  12. giveme13s
    Gingerbread Dec 5, 2016

  13. Abinash_Mishra
    Froyo Dec 5, 2016

  14. Henaway
    Honeycomb Dec 9, 2016

    Henaway , Dec 9, 2016 :
    So far, I've found that shooting manual mode, with raw enabled, allows a lot of flexibility when you pull the DNG files into Lightroom for processing. You can save a lot of shots that just wouldn't work in Auto mode. Look forward to seeing how it works out for you!

    andrediaslopes likes this.
  15. andrediaslopes
    Donut Dec 9, 2016

    andrediaslopes , Dec 9, 2016 :
    Thanks for the tip. I'll continue testing but I'm actually impressed by the camera, it's not bad, for a smartphone! Even in low light the HD mode works pretty good, for a smartphone! XD

  16. Aenari
    Donut Dec 10, 2016

  17. renatosf
    Cupcake Dec 10, 2016

  18. NateAteTeen
    Froyo Jan 7, 2017

  19. Mohityadav7
    Froyo Jan 7, 2017

    Mohityadav7 , Jan 7, 2017 :
    Hehe. I do the same, take RAW images and then edit with Snapseed on my OP3. Just amazing! I'm having my own pictures set as my wallpaper. They're just great. You can follow me on Instagram instagram.com/mohityadav7

  20. TheWildEddyJ
    Eclair Jan 21, 2017

    mani jang shar likes this.