How to take better low-light photos with Windows Camera
Switching to auto mode can make the difference
Windows Phones have always had great cameras, especially the high-end models from the Lumia 9xx series (and of course the Lumia 1020). But when it’s dark, not all shots are great. Whether because of camera shaking, too aggressive post-processing, or something else, your shots taken in low light may be unsatisfactory even for posting in Instagram. But here are a few tips how you can take better low light photos with your Windows phone:
Switch to ‘Pro mode’
While Auto mode is definitely good for beginners and taking photos in daylight, when it’s dark the Windows camera app often struggles to capture the scene as it’s seen from the eye. Pro mode is activated by tapping on the little arrow at the top camera control bar.
Using the Pro mode, you could control exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance – all these things are crucial for producing good low light images.
Keep the phone steady
When it’s pitch dark, you must use a tripod or something to make the device steady to avoid shaking and producing blurry photos.
It’s also a good idea to set the timer – choose between 2, 5 and 10-second timer to trigger the shutter.
Set the light sensitivity (ISO) to the minimum possible.
ISO and shutter speed settings are always related. Without sunlight, when you lower the ISO to 100, you must have a steady phone because the shutter speed will automatically increase.
Reducing the ISO will guarantee you clearer and less grainy photos providing you manage the keep the phone steady during the time it collects light, because the shutter speed will increase. As a rule, shutter speeds slower than 1/20 of a second are not good for moving objects in the scene. Start from ISO 100 and double it until the results are satisfactory.
Control brightness / exposure
Another way to dramatically improve the quality of the photos is to reduce the exposure stops in low light. A stop is halving or doubling the amount of light let in when taking a shot. This setting can be adjusted from the icon in the left corner called ‘brightness’.Microsoft Camera for Windows 10 Mobile shows a tendency to over-process the images, making them much brighter than they should be. That’s why, reduce the brightness gradually and experiment with the results.
In the test above, the photo taken in auto mode was unrealistically bright, so I had to reduce the brightness by 1 – 1 1/3 stops to eliminate the influence of the software. You can also try different combinations between ISO and shutter speeds, starting with the ISO100.
Shoot in RAW
Phones like the Lumia 950/950 XL can shoot in RAW – a file that includes the unprocessed data from the sensor, allowing you to process the image on your own with professional software or mobile apps.
Tap on the Camera Settings icon and navigate to ‘Image size for main camera’. Select ‘JPG (8 MP) + (DNG 16 MP)’.