How to use Professional mode in your smartphone camera.

The quality and performance of smartphones have been increasing constantly over the years, with this the performance, capability, optics, and intricacies of their cameras have improved a lot as well. Almost all smartphones offer the professional mode in their camera app. This feature helps you to take pictures that are as good as pro DSLR pictures.

Professional mode is a common feature found in these cameras, which allows users to take more customized, professional looking, shots by tweaking various attributes of the camera, its lens, optics and so on.

 

A large number of third-party apps are available, which let you use Professional mode if your smartphone didn’t come with it, built in by default.

Let’s delve into some settings/options available in Professional mode, and learn How to use professional mode in your smartphone camera, and when it is appropriate to use in real life situations, factoring in parameters such as ambient light, and other external factors.

ISO:

This feature is one of the essential ones in the list of options available in Professional mode, ISO is basically the sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor to ambient light. The unit of measurement is a number, with a higher number meaning more sensitivity to light, and a lower one meaning lesser sensitivity.

We can obviously infer from this, that we can tweak the ISO value as required to take brighter shots in darker areas/environments, but at the expense of added noise (i.e. graininess of the image).
Visual Comparison between a range of ISO values:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

The ISO value is directly tied to the amount of light that can be let in within the time between the opening and closing of the camera’s shutter (therefore also affects how fast an image can be captured).

Hence, lower the ISO value, the longer it will take to absorb the required amount of light, and hence increasing the time for which the shutter stays open, thereby delaying the capture of your image and increases the likelihood of blur in your final image.

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

Higher ISO values are more appropriate when capturing a fast-moving scene but at the expense of some quality(noise/graininess). On the other hand, using lower ISO values will produce high quality, neater looking shots.

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

Shutter Speed:

Which can be referred synonymously to exposure time or duration, is the amount/duration of time for which the camera’s image sensor is exposed to light. So, the longer the shutter stays open, the more light will reach the image sensor resulting in a brighter image.

A lower ISO value takes longer to capture the same amount of light (more shutter time) that will be captured while using a higher ISO. The key here is to remember to balance between ISO, to manage the quality of the image, exposure, and how fast the shot requires to be taken.

Shutter speeds are measured in seconds, for example, 1/6000 means the shutter is “open” for one six-thousandths of a second.

Hence, shorter shutter speeds are obviously better to capture fast, in motion shots, and longer speeds if used right can add a creative blur effect to your photographs. A very short shutter speed can result in unnecessarily dark images.

Aperture:

This is an attribute of the camera’s lens, which is the size of the lens opening. Light enters when you tap the shutter button, and the amount of light depends on the size of this opening. It is analogous to the pupils, in the human eye (which control the amount of light that enters our eyes). Aperture is measured in “f-stops”, with some values looking like f/1.4, f/4 and so on.

Let’s take a look at some effects which can be added to the picture for a more stunning, professional, stylish look. One of them is “bokeh effect”, which looks like this:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.Intelligent use of Bokeh effect to add a cinematic look to the picture.

Aperture also determines the focal point of the lens. So, increasing the aperture value thereby increases the focal separation between the foreground parts and background parts of the image, used to achieve bokeh effect, where the foreground appears to be more focused than the background and the background is blurrier to provide a sense of depth to the picture.

The quality of a bokeh is tied to the overall quality of the blur in the area which is out of focus in the image.

Another example of Bokeh effect:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

Although, we cannot adjust/change the aperture and hence cannot change focal points, In smartphones, due to lack of moving parts in smartphone cameras. That said, many dual cameras use software techniques to simulate a similar experience and functionality.

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

White Balance:

This is a commonly found setting in many phone cameras Professional mode.It adjusts the color of the white light in your image (between red and blue) and offsets all the other colors accordingly. Intelligently tweaking this, will result is color accurate photographs.

At a basic level, you can adjust the value according to the cloudy/sunny weather outside, and configure according to various varieties of indoor artificial lighting.

Various presets such as, Tungsten, daylight, shady and so on are available. At a more advanced level, the measure of lights temperature in Kelvin(K) can also be tweaked for a higher degree of desirability of the image.

Typically ranging from 2000K – extremely RED, 9000K – extremely blue. Although we have a scale of values ranging between red and blue, the following lines are applicable for many devices and flagship phones.

Comparison of a range of white balance values:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

 

A higher value of temperature suggests that the ambient light is bluer, hence the camera must compensate by making things more yellow accordingly, to balance it out. On the contrary, a lower temperature value means, the light is more yellowish, and the camera should make things bluer in the final image.

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

Set this value to the temperature of the lighting you’re using, and the software will automatically compensate. This option can be creatively tweaked to obtain pictures which are warmer/cooler as desired. You must think about tweaking this option when indoor shots look a little (or probably quite) yellowish/orange.

White balance presets with their respective temperatures, with kelvin scale:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.
Note that, the Particular temperature value at a particular preset can be slightly different for different apps or cameras. (Example, Shade preset in the above chart is 7000K, whereas in the picture below the Shade preset uses 7500K instead).

Some Visual aid to understanding white balance better:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

HDR:

HDR or High Dynamic Range is one of the most common options found in almost all smartphone cameras these days. HDR can be used a quick tool to capture highly appealing, more vivid and vibrant looking shots with your camera, i.e. it adds more “Dynamic Range” to your pictures, how HDR achieves this, is by combining multiple shots taken over various, slightly different levels of exposure.

This technology is software based (makes use of an averaging algorithm which intelligently combines these multiple shots).

How HDR combines shots to give you that final Beautiful Picture:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

It is a hassle-free way to add more “oomph” and color vibrancy to all your shots.Although we must keep in mind that using HDR, will increase shutter time, and It will take a little longer to capture shots, and using this with low ISO, can make shutter speed longer, even more.

Also, it’s not the best option to capture fast paced action/shots, due to the added risk of blur in images.
Here are a few shots, which help observe the effects on images with HRD on and HDR off:

How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.
HDR OFF Vs. HDR ON, the shot on the right looks much more beautiful, vivid and appealing!

An example of how using HDR in the right way and right amounts can lead to great looking, shots of impeccable beauty.
How to use professional mode in smartphone camera.

The camera must be perfectly still as well, and the software will help with noise reduction to some extent. (during low light conditions, darker environments).

We can see HDR emerging in others forms of entertainment like Video games as well. HDR can be very tempting to use, and we can leave it on for most shots, but stay away from it for capturing fast moving objects or fast paced shots.

Now that you are familiar with the professional mode in your camera and all these advanced options, and know how they work, and when to use them, go outside and take some amazing photographs and capture a few spectacular moments!!

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