To take advantage of the high-performing hardware on the Nokia Lumia 1020, Lumia 928, Lumia 925 and Lumia 920, Nokia created Nokia Pro Camera, which puts the tools of a professional photographer in your hands.
In our latest Nokia Pro Camera tutorial, we detail how you can take better photos by manually controlling the ISO and shutter speed.
If you’ve got a Lumia 1020, Nokia Pro Camera is pre-installed on your device. However, if you’ve got one of the Lumia 92x smartphones, you’ll need to download the Nokia Lumia Amber update first – then download Nokia Pro Camera from Windows Phone Store.
By default, the Nokia Lumia 1020 and 92x are already equipped to capture great photos in daylight and low-light, thanks to the PureView technology and optical image stabilization. However, it’s always good to have extra control to get the exact effect your looking for.
In Pro Camera you can access the ISO and shutter speed controls by clicking the icons in the dashboard on the top of the viewfinder. Alternatively, you can bring all the settings into view by sliding the on-screen camera shutter key in from the right. This gives an overview of all the controls and their values.
Tip: You can swipe the shutter key a second time to the left to reset all the values to auto.
Shutter speed is also called Exposure Time, and it defines how long the shutter is open to expose the sensor to light. In Nokia Pro Camera, you can set it to as low as one sixteen-thousandths of a second (1/16000s) or all the way up to four seconds.
Low shutter speed value is good when you have a lot of light and you want to capture the action and freeze the motion without blur.
For example, if you want to take a photo of a dog chasing it’s own tail, the motion in the photo will make your image look blurry. By setting the shutter speed value to 1/500, you’re able to freeze the dog’s movement in your photo.
For faster moving objects, you’ll need to set the shutter speed value slightly higher. In the example above, I set the shutter speed to 1/500 to capture a moving moped. As you can see, there’s a fair amount of motion blue there.
In the photo below, however, I’ve managed to freeze the motorbike’s movement by setting the shutter speed to 1/1000.
You can also use low shutter speed value to create some amazing photos of splashing water droplets. For example if you’re trying to take a photo of a fountain with running water, you can select an exposure time of 1/1000s, or even lower, to freeze the waterdrops in your image. Try also playing with the manual focus!
By setting the shutter speed all the way up to four seconds, you can capture amazing night shots and create light trails from moving lights like we explained in our earlier post.
Remember that a low shutter speed value will let less light into the sensor. On a sunny day, this is not a problem, but if you are indoors or in low-light conditions, you might need to increase the ISO. This normally happens automatically and you can see an indicator in the dashboard that shows the adjusted ISO value. But with Nokia Pro Camera, you can also set ISO manually.
ISO controls how sensitive the camera is to light i.e. how much light you let into the sensor. In dark situations (especially if there is lots of movement), you typically want to increase the ISO to 800 or so, to amplify the light, so that the camera does not have to keep the shutter open so long. In daylight, ISO 100 works well.
In a dark environment, increasing the ISO can make that dark place seem lighter in the final shot. Sure, you can use a flash, but sometimes that can give a washed, unnatural look. Plus, there are locations where you can’t always use a flash, as demonstrated in the video above.
With Nokia Pro Camera activated, select the ISO setting from the dashboard at the top (the third icon from the right), or pull in all of the controls by sliding the on-screen camera shutter key in from the right.
Stand in front of your subject and slide the ISO icon upwards, as this will increase the ISO number. The higher (bigger) the number, the lighter a dark environment will look.
As you increase the ISO, you’ll notice that the shutter speed time will automatically adjust itself based on your environment – leave it as auto for now.
As an example, I’ve placed some colourful toys onto a table in a dark room with the curtains drawn. While there is some residual light coming in from around the curtains, it really is quite dark by anyone’s standards.
By taking several shots (with a Lumia 925) at different ISO levels, you can see just how much more detail it’s possible to capture in relative darkness.
In the photo above, because I manually set the ISO value quite high (ISO 400), the exposure time was increased – to 2.53 seconds. This means that you’ll need to remain as still as possible, otherwise your photo will come out blurry. However, experiment with the shutter speed time and take it off auto. You may find you get a better picture with less time.
While adjusting the ISO manually is useful to some degree, it’s worth remembering that it can introduce ‘noise’ to the picture and can possibly leave you with grainy shots. This is also indicated in the dashboard by an underlined value.
In the photo below, I cranked the ISO value up to 3200. While this reduced the shutter time to 1/3 seconds, you can see there’s more noise and fewer fine details. This goes to show that just because it’s dark don’t assume the highest ISO will help you take a better photo, because it won’t.
While altering the ISO in low-light conditions can create lighter, more detailed shots than you’d usually expect in dark environments, you can also adjust the ISO in the daytime, too. The result will be photos with more vivid colours.
Experiment with the ISO and shutter speeds and find the right combination that works for you.
If you’re interested in finding out more about ISO and shutter speed, please refer to the Nokia Lumia 1020 whitepaper (PDF).