Optimize Your Smartphone Camera by Using Manual Mode

Photographers think that the best camera you carry with you is in most cases a smartphone. Headphones haven’t always provided a great photo experience, but advances in technology have brought them to about the same level as many dedicated cameras. Having a high-quality camera is only half the battle. You have to learn how to make the most of it and you can’t guess anything when shooting in manual mode.

You can use manual controls to manipulate the settings to produce the image you want. Manual mode can threaten normal users. Especially those who are not familiar with advanced camera theory. Real photography is a broad subject, but it teaches the basics and can be captured immediately with your hand with a smartphone.

What is manual mode in your smartphone camera?

Most modern smartphones have some form of manual mode in the camera app. They are beautiful and you can call it a professional way of working or something. Go to the camera app and see the shooting modes and see if your phone has manual shooting capabilities.

Some phones don’t have a manual camera mode, so don’t be surprised. Known as one of the best cameras for smartphones, the Pixel 5 has no manual mode. Don’t feel alienated without yourself or even with one

The good news is that we are dealing with Android and anything is possible. Don’t have manual mode in the camera app? Download it from the Google Play Store.

Here are my favorite third-party apps for manual mode cameras:

  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Manual Camera DSLR Camera Professional
  • ProShot
  • Open Camera
  • Camera FV-5

Now that you’ve found the manual mode for your primary camera or alternate mode, let’s move right to the basics of manual shooting mode.

Note: This is a general guide. Since the device has different camera apps, I can’t tell you exactly how to operate the smartphone in manual mode. Everyone looks and behaves a little differently, especially if you use an independent product.

The triangle concept for manual mode

Let’s start by understanding what is required to display the image properly. The photo shows an exposure triangle that visualizes how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed work together. Keeping in mind the quality impact of each factor change, you need to find a balance between these three factors to properly expose your image.

I want things to be very simple, so I’ll give you a definition for each element and let you know how the changes affect the image.


ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, which standardizes the sensitivity class of camera sensors. Changing the ISO value during shooting determines how sensitive the sensor is to light.

ISO will make your camera sensor less sensitive to the light, so you may need to open the aperture or slow down the shutter speed. At the same time, the image becomes cleaner.

Increasing the ISO allows you to capture light faster, so you can increase the shutter speed or widen the aperture, but you can create images with more grainy or digital noise. Increasing ISO reduces image quality.

Shutter speed

The camera system has a shutter that covers and covers the sensor. The shutter speed determines how long this shutter is open so that more light can reach the sensor. Also, increasing the shutter speed can cause motion blur, but light enters for a longer period of time, giving greater exposure.


Camera systems have an aperture, a hole through which light has to pass in order to reach the sensor. The opening controls the width or the narrowness of this hole.

A larger opening increases the exposure. This also reduces the depth of field and blurs the background / foreground. If you want to keep more focus, a narrower aperture is better, but you’ll have to compensate for the loss of exposure by changing the ISO or shutter speed. In this case, a larger number means a narrower opening. For example, f / 1.8 is wider than f / 2.8.

Most of the time you don’t have to worry about it because you can’t control the aperture on your smartphone at all. The only exception is Samsung, that the company has introduced a “double aperture” on the Samsung Galaxy S9 that can be switched between f / 1.5 and f / 2.4. They also used this technology with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and S10 series. However, Samsung has left the Galaxy S20.

White balance in manual mode

White balance is a very common setting that is also included in basic camera applications. This setting adjusts the color representing white light, shifting all other colors. This allows you to creatively use warmer and cooler photos. It is also useful for compensating for any color variations that a light source can bring. If you’ve ever seen photos taken indoors always look orange, you should adjust this setting.

At the most basic level, you’ve probably seen blurry or clear outdoor shots and white balance settings that can compensate for incandescent or fluorescent lighting. In addition to these preferences, some applications offer color correction using the full Kelvin (K) temperature scale. This allows you to fine-tune the white dot between excessive red at 2000K and blue at 9000K.

An alternative to making this decision when recording is to delay recording RAW images.

Exposure compensation

If you’ve ever seen the camera keys with “+” and “-” signs, this would be an exposure compensation control. Most smartphone cameras have exposure compensation, which helps when the setting is automatic (even in manual mode, you can exit the setting automatically).

The camera tries to get a decent exposure by measuring the light, but you don’t always get what you intended. Sometimes you want things to look a little darker or lighter. With exposure compensation, you can tell the camera that the exposure is being recorded incorrectly, and it compensates by setting the setting to Auto (usually ISO).

Exposure compensation is usually measured at f-stops, such as -1.0, -0.7, -0.3, 0.0, +0.3, +0.7, +1.0. In this case, -1.0 is one cell less and +1.0 is a higher cell.

RAW shoot

RAW images are known as uncompressed unordered image files. It stores all the data recorded by the sensor, making it a much larger file, but does not lose quality and high editing power. This is why RAW data alone does not have much to see, and many phones today support RAW shoot.

RAW should only be used if you plan to edit your photos again. Although the file size is much larger, you can bypass the default image processing of the camera and adjust the overall exposure and color settings.

Saving a photo in JPEG format will destroy the image data and compress it, but if you plan to upload the photo to Facebook or take a quick photo gallery, this method is perfect.

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