Apr
13
2012

Camera Tip: Taking better photos with your new Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 900 Carl Zeiss Lens

As I’m sure many of you figured out in the last couple days… that fancy f2.2 camera on your brand spanking new Nokia Lumia 900 seems to take some awfully disappointing photos – particularly in low-light situations. Maybe you’ve even started to wonder who this Mr. Carl Zeiss is and whether he even had anything to do with this camera.

Anyway – the good news is that most of the issues seem to be software-based, and somewhat fixable! At the very least, this little guide should help you take much better photos depending on the situation.

 

1. Taking low light shots? Turn off that silly auto ISO setting to reduce noise and avoid grainy looking photos

THE PROBLEM:

Because the Lumia 900 lacks a back-illuminated sensor (BSI) like other smartphones, it tries to compensate for low-light situations by pumping the ISO to all the way to 800. This causes really grainy-looking photos with blue/red scanlines all over the place. Bleh.

 

THE FIX:

If you’re going to take a photo in a low-light situation, tap the camera settings, scroll down to ISO, and manually change it to ISO 100 or ISO 200. Lowering the ISO, will also produce darker photos and slow down the shutter speed – potentially causing blurry photos – so you’re going to need steady hands for this. Otherwise, you can also pump up the ISO to 200/400 if you need more light/faster shutter hopefully still keeping the noise down. Try it out and find the best setting for your shot.

 

THE PROOF:

Auto ISO: (ISO 800)

Shot with Auto ISO

Manual ISO: (ISO 200)

Shot with ISO 200

 

2. Taking close-up or macro shots? Switch the Focus Mode to “Macro”

THE PROBLEM:

This one is really silly, and with all the camera experience that Nokia has – I think they should’ve known better. Unlike previous Windows Phones that intelligently switched the focus mode to Macro when you tried to take a close-up shot – the Lumia 900 doesn’t. Why? I don’t know.

 

THE FIX:

Anyway, this one is simple: If you’re taking a close-up shot of something, tap the camera settings button, scroll down to Focus Mode, switch it to “Macro” and watch those close objects finally come into focus!

 

THE PROOF:

Normal Focus Mode: (tap on close object to “try” and focus)

Closeup Shot on Normal Mode on Lumia 900

Macro Focus Mode: (again using tap on object to focus)

Closeup Shot with Macro Mode on Lumia 900

 

3. Taking photos with bright backgrounds? Does your object always seem to be in the dark? You might want to use tap-to-focus (or spot metering)

THE PROBLEM:

I don’t think this one is necessarily the fault of the camera or software – but rather limitations of point-and-shoot cameras in general. If you’re taking a photo where the background is bright – unless your object is exactly in the center of the photo, the camera won’t know to focus on that object and adjust the exposure accordingly. As a result, your object  of interest can very easily come out darker than expected. And unfortunately, most beautifully composed photos do not have the object of interest in the center (especially when using the rule-of-thirds).

 

THE FIX:

There are a few ways to fix this. The easiest solution is to try using the tap-to-focus feature instead of the physical camera button on the Lumia. Tap-to-focus allows you to tap on your object of interest on the screen, and the camera will refocus on that object and adjust the exposure as well – usually bringing your object into focus and making them brighter even with a bright background.

The other way you can fix this is to change the Metering Mode to Spot (default is usually Center). Spot metering will cause the exposure to be adjusted to a smaller part of the image (usually the center, or focal point), and usually brighten the object you’re trying to focus on.

 

THE PROOF:

Physical camera button:

Using Physical Button to Focus on Lumia 900

Tap-to-focus with Spot Metering:

Using Tap-To-Focus and Spot Metering on Lumia 900

 

 

LASTLY…

After messing around a lot with the camera settings, I’ve personally been very happy with these saved settings:

Everything left on default, except…

Exposure: 1.0 (or 0.0 if you’re taking a shot outside with great lighting)

ISO: 200

Focus Mode: Macro (yes, always on macro creates photos with smaller depth of field = more bokeh!)

Flash: OFF

Then scroll to the top and choose “Save Settings” to keep this as your default. Give this a try and let me know how it works for you! It’s a bit on the brighter side (I like bright photos!), should work well in low-light situations (particularly indoors), and should work for macro shots and portrait shots well. If you’re taking photos outside, in bright light and sun – I would probably leave the exposure at 0 instead of 1.0.

 

 

… and more on the way! If you have any tips of your own – please sound them off in the comments and I’ll add them up here as well. Let’s prove that this phone can definitely take some awesome photos!

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About the Author: ShiftF

I'm a recent senior computer engineering grad from the University of British Columbia. I'm also a bit of a phone addict - as I currently switch between a BlackBerry, a few iPhones and a few Windows Phones (Samsung Focus, HTC Titan, Lumia 900). I'm now work as a software developer full-time.

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  • Joxxy

    Well, I worked perfect for me! I made the recommended settings changes to my lumia 900 and the pictures now look perfect!  Thanks Frankie! You are AWESOME!!

  • Pingback: Camera Tip: Taking better photos with your new Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone | TweetWP7()

  • Kirksl

    I also noticed if you change Center Weighted to Center Spot and tap the screen where the background is the furthest away, in low lighting, really helps too.

    • http://www.mywpstory.com My Windows Phone Story

      This is an awesome tip, and I’ve decided to add it to the post. Cheers buddy.

  • http://twitter.com/rdubmu rdubmu

     thanks! 

  • Bob R

    The above tip is very good.  I use iso 200 and ev +.5.
    In addition to changing the setup as talked about above.  I have found that the scene modes work best.  As an example; I have taken multiple landscape shots from the same spot same time etc..  The shots taken using the “Landscape” Scene mode always had better white balance and focus.  No matter how careful I was in touching the screen on a far off (infinity) point the camera always wanted to focus on something close by?  Night Scene also seems to work better.  Obviously the software needs some work.  Who is the responsible party for the Camera SW? is it Nokia or Microspeak er Microsoft?

  • hysonmb

    Good info. I do wish they’d work on this camera SW. I had to shoot video and capture a still to get an exact copy of the image on my screen, the software kept ruining the shot before it stored. When I take a picture, I just want it to “printscreen” and be done with it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=4702348 Galen White

    I do not have steady hands.  My old Focus had anti-shake, which made my pictures sharper than I would have imagined possible.  My new lumia, however, takes fuzzy picture after fuzzy picture.  Help?

    • rikkit

       Tap on the screen to take pictures – less wobble

      • http://www.mywpstory.com My Windows Phone Story

        I’d have to agree with rikkit here. Try using tap-to-focus. Otherwise you might have to bump up the ISO to 400 or even 800 to to speed up that shutter.

  • techblogger

    Thanks ShiftF. I’ll play with these settings and apply them.  Thanks for putting this together.

  • http://twitter.com/sayonical Sayonical

    I agree completely with all the tips on this post especially the macro mode tip. Hoping Nokia releases a fox for the camera soon!

    • http://twitter.com/alexbigkid Alex

      The AF macro mode functionality was taken from Symbian world. The reason Nokia has 2 modes is that the normal AF mode is much faster. It scannes only limited far range. The usual case is: images of people which usually are in distance more then 50cm. To avoid blurry images (user don’t wait for AF to complete pressing camera button) -> Hence the default setting is AF Normal mode. In AF Macro mode camera covers also the close range where the AF lens travels farter diatance, that is why the AF in Macro mode works slower because the close range is also sceanned. In any case I don’t consider this an error, because you can set the AF Macro mode and save the setting. SO that macro mode becomes your default setting.
      Just be aware that AF is slower in Macdro mode and you are using more battery because the moving the AF lens in Macro mode consumes more battery power.

      Hope that helps.

  • planetparker

    Wait, am I reading this correctly, because I seem to remember that the higher the ISO, the longer the shutter remains open, therefore allowing more light to pass through.  So 800 ISO should produce brighter (albeit more grainy) shots, versus 100 ISO.  Do I have that right?

    • Slade307

      With film, the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film is to light – less light required for a decent image. The shutter doesn’t need to be opened for as long. Lower the ISO, the longer the film needs to be exposed to light – slower shutter speed and more chance for blurred images. However, the lower ISO usually had better color.

    • Anthony

      It’s actually the opposite…

      ISO relates to the sensitivity of the sensor. 100 being less sensitive than 800. Therefore under the same lighting conditions and assuming constant aperture size, the shutter has to stay open (8x) longer at ISO 100 than at ISO 800 to achieve the same exposure (i.e., collect the same amount of light). So the higher the ISO, the faster (shorter) the shutter speed.

      You’re right that the higher sensitivity of high ISO’s comes at the cost of increased pixel noise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1313641109 Kostas X. Kousinovalis

    I changed the focus to macro but still having problem with apps that reading barcodes. None of the apps which are in Marketplace are working because the preview its so blur

    • http://www.mywpstory.com My Windows Phone Story

      Very interesting. Using most barcode software (such as the Amazon price check one) – I never have to fiddle with settings at all. It seems to re-focus using Macro mode automatically for me.

    • http://twitter.com/alexbigkid Alex

      what device do you have? Lumia 800 or 900?
      L900 never had that problem. The 3rd part bar code readers should work just fine. The early version of the 800 might have that problem, but Nokia fixed it with a newer release.

  • http://twitter.com/lisafaye77 Lisa Estrella

    Thank you so much for the recommending settings.  I applied them and now my pictures are so much better!  I’ve been looking for recommended settings everywhere and now I finally found them :)  Thanks!

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  • Twalz

    Thx for the great tips. Are they also helpful with the lumia 800?

    • rikkit

      Very much so.

    • http://www.mywpstory.com My Windows Phone Story

      As rikkit mentioned – the camera & software are the same in the Lumia 800/900 – so these tips should work well for both phones!

  • http://jakubrusinek.pl/ Jakub Rusinek

    No flash? Seriously? What was the point of you buying an high-end mobile in the first place?

    • http://twitter.com/wizll wizll

      you really think a tiny piece of shit flash on any camera is useful? lol
      even I don’t use the flash built into my dslr. and i’m not even a pro photographer.

      • http://jakubrusinek.pl/ Jakub Rusinek

        Well guess what – flash is there for a reason. There just isn’t always enough light to make a good photo. But deal with it your own way. You can always take your halogen lightning in your awesome pocket.

    • http://www.mywpstory.com My Windows Phone Story

      It’s not so much that flash is a bad thing. If you’re trying to take photos of your friends in a dimmed restaurant, or at a club/bar – flash would probably be very useful. I usually recommend turning off the flash when taking more composed, or scenic shots since cell phone flashes tends to wash out the photo in a weird way.

  • http://www.techin5.com Techin5

    Excellent findings, though I always kept the Lumia 800 ISO at 200 for night shots, auto for day shots. Will test on the Lumia 900 too.

  • Tazshean

    Good tips. This is a fine phone but the camera is horrid. I’ve tried your setting and it is now quite improved though still below par.

  • alexbong

    How I wish the camera would just autofocus close objects instead of doing all the hassle to change to ‘macro’ mode. And, there’s the colour oversaturation problem (Post-processing issue, perhaps). With this fixed, than the camera would be fine for me.

  • David111
  • Ilmanz89

    guys i really have problem

    maybe it is a bug
    whenever i want to shot macro
    i will change the setting to macroand a very nice pic taken
    but then when i want to take the 2nd pic its like the camera is not in macro anymore because is is very blurry even i already focus it
    i need to change the scene to other type and then change to macro again to take the macro shot again
    it is very bothering me
    any1 have the same problem??

  • Badbird68

    Is the flash the ligthning bolt or the light bulb symbol? what is the ligthning bolt with the letter A?

    • Hysonmb

       means the camera decide itself when to use the flash

  • http://www.facebook.com/raviroshan.talk Ravi Roshan

    chk dis image.. original click by lumia 800.. no editing.. ..
    any setting for this ??

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thenokiagallery/6896259123/in/set-72157629369608885/

    • Guest

       wow so amazing mywpstory.com can you teach us how to take that photo?

  • Hysonmb

    Author it seems you giving alot of tips but i feel your photos are like totally rubbish. How do you give tips when you cant even take nice photos? Curious?

    • https://openid.org/beyonders beyonders

      haven’t you seen the proof, mywpstory are definitely a great photographer. but I still think it sucked comparing to iPhone, rumor has it that the next iphone would be with interchangeable lenses (maybe just like this )which makes it can replace the P&S (camera)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MPY673MRTIHC7XOXBUL5AAJKB4 Sea

    Wow this fella posted his photos taken by Nokia Lumia 900  its impressive do check it out
    http://goo.gl/7vguC
     

  • Nikita Annenkov

    Thanks so much!

  • Teddygvo

    When I upload from Lumia 900 to Zune, my photos are, about 110 Kb’s(Not 8 Mb’s).

    How do I get a full resolution photo from my 900 to my PC?

    Thankx,
    Teddy G.

  • Random Dude

    This is very helpful! Did you check out the Nokia 920 yet?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chanrith Chanrith Peth

    You just gave more life to my phone. Who needs apps when you have the best camera a phone can possibly have.

  • ABHAY TIWARY
  • jeanryl

    DO you know how to restore my front cam’s setting? my front cam is mirroring the images now :(

  • Cyril

    Thanks for the tip! How about taking the best pictures at night? They always come out with a white fog. How would I eliminate this?