Photographers claim that the best camera is the one you have with you, and in most cases that would be your handy smartphone. While handsets didn't always deliver a great photography experience, technical enhancements have brought them to almost the same level as many specialty cameras. However, having a quality camera is only half the battle. You have to learn how to get the best out of it, and nothing beats shooting in manual mode.
By using manual control, you can manipulate settings to create the image you really want. We know that manual mode can be intimidating for casual users; especially those without knowledge of advanced camera theory. While it is true that photography is a comprehensive topic, we can teach you the basics and get manual shots with your smartphone in no time.
Does my smartphone camera have manual mode?
Most recent smartphones are in the form of a manual mode in the camera app. They might get fun and call it pro mode or something. Just head over to the camera app and check your recording modes to find out if your phone has manual recording options.
The Pixel 3, known for its best smartphone cameras, does not come with a manual mode.  Edgar Cervantes
Don't worry if not, as some phones don't come with manual camera mode. Known for having one of the best smartphone cameras, the Pixel 4 doesn't come with a manual mode. Don't feel left out if yours doesn't have one either.
Good news is that we are dealing with Android and that everything is possible. Your camera app does not have a manual mode? Just go download one from the Google Play Store.
Here are some of our favorite third-party camera apps with manual mode:
Now that you've found your stock camera's manual mode or found an alternative, let's jump straight to the basics of manual mode recording.
Note: Please note that this is a general guide. We can't tell you exactly how to operate your smartphone in manual mode simply because devices come with different camera apps. They all look a little different and work – especially if you use an outside party.
Exposure triangle for manual mode
Let's start by understanding what it takes to render an image correctly. In photography, the lighting triangle is a visualization of how ISO, aperture and shutter speed work together. You have to balance these three elements to display an image correctly, keeping in mind how changing each element affects its quality.
I want to keep things very simple, so we'll give you the definition of each factor and tell you how changing it affects an image.
ISO stands for & # 39; International Organization of Standardization & # 39; which is responsible for standardizing sensitivity ratings for camera sensors. When taking pictures, changing the ISO will determine how sensitive a sensor is to light.
A lower ISO makes the sensor less sensitive to light, which means you may need to increase the aperture and / or slow the shutter speed. At the same time, the image will be cleaner.
By increasing the ISO, you can capture light faster, which can speed up the shutter or increase the aperture, but it also creates a more grained image or digital noise. The quality of the image decreases as you increase the ISO.
Camera systems have a shutter that covers and exposes the sensor. Shutter speed determines the length of time that this shutter remains open so that more light can reach the sensor.
A faster shutter speed will result in less exposure, but it will make images sharper. Likewise, extending the shutter speed can cause motion blur, but will let the light in for a longer time, providing more exposure.
Camera systems have a diaphragm, which is a hole where light must go through to reach the sensor. Aperture determines how wide or narrow this hole is.
A larger aperture increases exposure. It also narrows the depth of field and blur the background / foreground. If you want to keep more sharp, a narrower aperture will do better, but you'll have to make up for lost exposure by adjusting the ISO or shutter speed. In this case, a larger number means a narrower aperture. For example, F / 1.8 is wider than f / 2.8.
This is something most don't need to worry about, as the aperture usually cannot be controlled in smartphones. The only exceptions come from Samsung. The company introduced "Dual Aperture" with the Samsung Galaxy S9, which allows you to switch between f / 1.5 and f / 2.4. They have also used this technology with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and S10 series. However, Samsung threw it away with the Galaxy S20.
White balance in manual mode
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At the most basic level, you've probably seen white balance settings that allow you to take cloudy or sunny outdoor shots and incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Above these basic settings, some apps offer color correction using a full Kelvin (K) color temperature scale. This allows for finer tuning of the white point, between exaggerated red at 2000K and ridiculous blue at 9000K.