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


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.



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.



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”


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.



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!



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)


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).



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.



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




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.