Tips Needed: Digital Camera Settings~How to Get Nice Shots

I have a new phone with a nice digital camera. It’s 5 megapixels and the review of the camera is generally that it’s a top notch camera as far as phones are concerned. It has face detection, smile detection, auto focus as well as the “anti shake” thing that helps taking decent pictures even if you can’t hold still while shooting(very good for the poor photographer that I am). Oh, and it has a pretty powerful built in flash.

I can’t find anything in the manual that explains all the settings, and the settings I do “somewhat” understand, I’m not quite sure when they should be used or for what type of shot I hope to achieve.

I know that there are a few well versed photographer posting here, and I hope I can get some tips and explanations about some settings. I have a manual for my ancient Sony camera, but the settings are not defined in a way that illiterate photographers like me will understand clearly. The result is I usually set everything on “automatic” in hope that it will work, but I think I’m missing out on taking nicer shots if I knew more about setting the camera. Other people with similar questions are, of course, welcome to ask questions as well. I will number my questions to make it easier to answer.

1- The camera gives me the choice of six “scene” mode: Portrait, Sports, Sunset, Dawn, Beach/Snow, and night shots. Are these modes worth using? I find that a lot of times the pics turn out better if I just have the camera on automatic everything.

2-I have the choice of iso “auto”, 100, 200, or 400. Should I just keep in on automatic or can I get better shots fiddling with that?

[color=#FF0000]3-[/color] I have a setting called “WDR” which can be turned on or off. I have no clue what that is. What is it, and when should I turn it on? The thumbnail for this setting looks like a sun and a moon and some stars or something like that. It’s not clear at all what this setting is for. I’m clueless with this one.

[color=#FF0000]4-[/color]Even more clueless, I have two choice under “exposuremeter.” I can select Matrix or Spot. What the … is that?

5-White balance has 5 settings: auto, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent and cloudy. Should I bother with that or should I leave it on automatic all the time. This question is inline with question number 1 and 2 above. It seems I have so many options to take a single image that pretty much makes me feel clueless as to what to do to get the best out of this camera. Preset or automatic ISO, preset or automatic white balance, scenes, etc. I pretty much gave up trying to figure it out because even if you take the same shot with different settings, once you get home and look at them on the computer screen, you can’t bloody remember what setting you used, and I can’t be bothered to shoot every pictures with several settings in hope to get a better picture. Well, I actually do that sometimes, but it’s not convenient, and again, it’s difficult to remember what setting I used unless I took notes and numbered the images.

That’s it. Pretty simple camera. There are a bunch of other settings that I actually understand and know how to use. Anyone knows what Flash “on” or “off” means. :laughing:

Question number 3 and 4 are the questions I would most like to have answered. And any general tips to help me choose the settings better so that I can get better pictures would be awesome.

Thanks in advance,


Here’s a selection of images I took with said camera. All on automatic settings:


They’re really nice shots - what phone is it? I might need to buy a new phone soon.

I don’t know much about camera phone settings so can’t be much help with most of your q’s.

For spot vs matrix metering, matrix is probably best for everyday use. Matrix will read the light over the whole scene and adjust the exposure for the average of all of it. Spot metering will read the light from a very small spot (hence the name) usually about 1-3% of the scene. Spot is handy when the lighting is mixed and you absolutely have to get the correct exposure. I use it when shooting bands in clubs - I’ll spot meter the singers face and not worry too much about the rest of the scene. The rest of the time, I use matrix metering.

Nice photos!

I don’t mean to cut in here, but I’d like to mention that marboulette’s questions are pretty similar to mine so I would also be very interested to hear some of the replies. :s :blush:

Also, thanks to cfimages for that explanation of spot vs matrix. :notworthy:

For white balance, you could test it pretty easily. Set it to flourescent and take a pic indoors with the lights on. Then set it to auto and take the same pic. Do the same with daylight/auto and so on. If they more-or-less match (auto and xx), you may as well leave it on auto. Daylight and cloudy should be no problems for the auto, flouro is the only one that may cause problems - due to the prevalence of flouro lights in Taiwan, this is the one you want to get right.

  1. Stick with auto exposure mode. Those scene modes are worthless.

The one setting you should try to fiddle is something called “automatic exposure control” or something to that effect. This allows you to shift the entire exposure of the shot up or down to make it brighter or darker. IMO, this is the one manual setting you should learn how to control.

Learn how to read a histogram. After taking a test shot, check the histogram and use the exposure control to make the next picture brighter or darker. Learn how to avoid blowing out the highlights.

  1. I usually manually set my ISO. The lower the ISO, the better the picture quality (less noise), but the more likely there will be subject blur. The advantage of doing it manually is that usually auto-ISO cranks up the ISO too much and your pictures are needlessly noisy. On the other hand, the disadvantage of changing it manually is that you might forget to change ISO as you go from light to dark. If your display shows the exposure time, I’d manually set the ISO so that the exposure time isn’t slower than 1/30s or so.

  2. I’m assuming WDR is wide dynamic range. Dynamic range refers to the range of intensity of light in your picture. At midday on a cloudy day, there will be relatively little dynamic range. In a forest on a bright sunny day, with both bright patches of light and very dark shadows, there’s a whole lot of dynamic range. Cameras have a limited amount of dynamic range that they can capture, so if you were to take a picture in a forest on a sunny day, you will either get decent looking trees with a white sky or a decent looking sky with completely black shadows. I’m assuming that WDR is that some fancy algorithm to try to expand the amount of light it can capture. I have no idea how it’s implemented on your camera, so I don’t know if it actually improves your pictures. I’d experiment with it.

  3. As to the exposure meter, the quick answer is to leave it on Matrix. Here’s an explanation about the differences: The times when you’d need spot metering over matrix metering are fairly rare, and even less so in the digital age where you can instantly see if you nailed your exposure. It’s quite easy to see when matrix mode is messing up and you can easily adjust for it by using the exposure control. On the other hand, leaving the camera in spot metering mode can often screw the picture up.

  4. For white balance, I’d just leave it on auto. Auto WB rarely screws it up majorly. On the other hand, if you set it to one setting (say, tungsten lighting) and then go out to another type of lighting (say, a cloudy day) and forget to change it, your pics will all be screwed up (in this case, everything would be way too blue.)

Isn’t this great? It’s like leaving a tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy. I posted this before I left for work, and here, all my questions were answered very well as soon as I’m back from work. In fact, I actually feel more confident and motivated to try a few things with the ISO settings and the automatic exposure control now that I know better what settings to mock with, what other settings are for, and what settings to leave on auto. Your posts(alidarbac and cfimages) slims down the setting options to a less overwhelming list and more comprehensive way to using this camera.

If I use a scene mode, I don’t have the option to adjust the exposure, but I do when it’s on auto so I’m guessing that’s what you are referring to as “auto exposure mode,” alidarbac. Cool tips. :slight_smile:

And of course, thank you for the explanations and the links regarding matrix, spot, and WDR settings. Very helpful. The camera is set to Matrix and WDR turned off as a default setting and I haven’t touched them because I didn’t know what it was.

If I understand, WDR will basically help getting a better shot if there is too much light coming from around your subject. That is really good to know. [quote]The way it works, a camera is fitted with two CCDs. One high speed CCD and one low speed. The two CCDs take 2 scans of the same image instead of one scan like a typical camera.
The first CCD scans the images in normal light condition. After that, the camera scans the second time at high speed to get the image with strong light background. The image processor then combines the two images into one to provide a balanced image which shows the indoors and outdoors clearly.[/quote] Makes me proud of my new toy, and I’ll be sure to try the WDR sometimes.

So that’s it! My questions have all been answered. Many, many thanks to cfimages and alidarbac for taking the time to help out. :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

My camera phone is a samsung F-488

It’s a big upgrade from our old Sony Cybershot 3.2 megapixel, and the funny thing is, it’s a phone! How things change so fast, it’s crazy. :s