Why can't my cell phone camera record the lighting?

Perfect pictures with any smartphone - that's how it works

Michael Rupp and Christoph Hoffmann

We'll show you 32 photo and camera tricks that you can use to put your subjects in the limelight.

EnlargeModern cameras do a lot of work for you. But not all.

1. Basics

1.1 The optimal photo mode

Motif programs in the camera app on your smartphone ensure that pictures are worth seeing in no time. By selecting a scene and recording program, the camera automatically makes settings for the corresponding situations:

in the Portrait mode the foreground and background of the subject are clearly separated from each other. The camera app ensures that the background is blurred, which directs the viewer's gaze to the person in the foreground.

The Sports mode takes photos of moving objects sharply thanks to the short exposure time.

There is also the matching one Burst mode: If you keep the shutter button pressed, the camera will take continuous pictures in rapid succession.

in the Beauty mode your smartphone beautifies people. You will get images below with younger and smoother looking skin.

thanks Night mode With a long exposure time, you can shoot attractive photos even at dusk and in the dark. A tripod is usually a must!

in the Food mode both colors and contrast are intensified, making the subject appear more appetizing.

The Landscape mode Due to the high color saturation it is suitable for landscape and mountain photos.

1.2 What ISO, AWB and EV mean

Your cell phone's camera allows manual settings, but ISO & Co. don't tell you anything? All information is available here in brief.

If your camera app has a professional mode, you can adjust some settings yourself.

The sensitivity of the image sensor to light, also known as ISO value , choose depending on the lighting situation. However, keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the higher the image noise. With the Shutter speed (about 1/250 or 1/60 second) you control how long the picture is exposed. Shorter exposure freezes movements, longer exposure makes photos brighter in low light, but needs a steady hand. With the White balance adjust the camera to the light source (daylight, artificial light, fluorescent tubes, AWB = automatic). About the EV exposure compensation make photos lighter or darker overall. The AF mode (Autofocus) affects how the camera focuses: AF-S (Auto Focus Single) is suitable for static subjects, AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) for movement as the AF follows, and MF (Manual Focus) for manual focusing . The Measurement mode for the exposure metering (the rectangles stand for “matrix”, “center” and “spot”) adapt to the subject.

1.3 Best image quality with the RAW format

EnlargeBest image quality with the RAW format

By using the RAW photo format, your smartphone takes photos with maximum image quality almost unchanged through the camera app.

Typically, smartphones save captured images in JPEG format. Before the file is stored in the memory, the sensor data go through a series of internal optimizations that ensure a balanced display in terms of colors and contrast. However, image information is lost when saving in the compressed JPEG format. As a result, when post-processing the photos on the computer, for example, there is no longer as much brightness information available as would theoretically be possible to adjust the dark and light areas of the image. This is where the RAW format comes into play: If the smartphone and camera app support saving in RAW photo format, almost all sensor information is retained in the uncompressed photo file. This is why RAW files are larger than JPEG photos. With the help of conversion programs, you can get much more out of RAW images during post-processing than from a conventional JPEG image.

Important: While there are alternative camera apps in the Play Store that offer a RAW option, this function cannot be upgraded on the hardware side.

See also:The best cell phone camera 2020 - the big comparison

2. Photo techniques

2.1 Avoid shaky pictures with the burst mode

The series picture function helps you to take steady, sharper and therefore more interesting pictures. Try it!

Festival, club or street parade - if taking photos is hectic, the serial or serial recording function in the smartphone helps to capture the action fairly sharply and without wobbling. Let your finger rest on the shutter release, modern cell phone cameras take up to 120 pictures per second, depending on the set resolution. Although the autofocus is not tracked, the high recording frequency increases the chance of getting a few good photos.

2.2 Take photos with crisp, sharp focus

EnlargeTake photos with crisp, sharp focus
© Style-photographs / Bigstock.com

Pointing a finger can be crucial so that your photo ends up in the phone memory razor sharp and beautifully exposed.

Whether portraits, a short weekend trip or a photo session on the beach: Many pictures are quite nice, but when viewed enlarged, they are not sharp enough or the colors are simply not right. The mobile phone camera takes care of focusing and exposure independently, but the automatic does not always hit the mark. That sucks, because your cell phone can do more. Tapping the display at the right moment often makes the difference between a snapshot and a great picture.

Help the camera app by tapping the point with your finger while taking a picture, which should be used for focusing and for measuring the exposure. The lens already focuses on the desired area and adjusts the exposure accordingly to the subject situation.

With high-contrast scenes, difficult lighting conditions as well as subjects with objects at different distances, the self-set focus point often results in much better photos than if you simply hold on to it.

2.3 Take high contrast photos with HDR

With HDR you can enhance the colors and contrasts in your photos. This is particularly effective when taking pictures of landscapes.

The camera app in your smartphone has an HDR button, but you don't really know what you can use the HDR mode for? Then you will find all the information here in compact form.

HDR stands for "High Dynamic Range" and is a process with which colors and contrasts can be optimally displayed in difficult lighting situations - with maximum tonal value and dynamic range, say the professionals.

Your mobile phone takes several pictures for HDR: a light one, a dark one and a normal one. It then merges the recordings so that no area appears too dark or too light.

HDR brings improvements in backlighting, landscape photos and in situations with strong differences in brightness, for example at dusk.

Do you want to take a high-contrast picture , then simply activate the HDR mode in the camera app. With the HDR automatic, you allow your smartphone to switch on the HDR mode if necessary.

They recognize HDR photos on the HDR logo in the gallery app on the smartphone - and often with the naked eye on the magnificent play of colors. Sometimes HDR also gives exaggerated results. The images then appear artificial. In this case, just turn HDR off.

2.4 Take artistic photos with live filters