Want Better Cell Phone Pictures: Use ISO

ISO for Cell Phone Photography

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January 25, 2018

Smartphone Photography: What is ISO?

ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO the less sensitive it is to light and higher the greater sensitivity to light. On your cell phone the lowest ISO is usually 100 which is called your base number. The highest number on your phone is 800.  You can improve your photography in low light situations. Instead of using a flash you can increase your ISO by setting it to a higher number which lets more light into the image. Auto mode can sometimes work well in low light situations to improve your image.

How it affect Exposure?

ISO is one of the factors in determining the correct exposure of a photo. By changing the images sensitivity to light it determines how well exposed a photo will turn out. A low number will give you less ability to access light and a high ISO will give you greater light.

How does ISO affect the image quality on your phone?

The higher the ISO the higher the sensitivity which means the more noise or grain will be introduced in the image. This means that unless you are shooting in low light you don’t want it very high. The lower the number means that you will have a greater quality of photos. Here is a little math equation to help explain it easier.

Lower ISO = Lower Sensitivity = Finer Quality Photos


When shooting in daylight there is no need to boost it any higher than 100-200. For slightly darker conditions such as shade or indoors where it is darker at 200-400 will make your image look great or 400-800 is when it is rather dark inside and is used to improve the lighting and get better exposure inside. Canon Australia has made this great little clip that shows how ISO works in a camera. Check out this clip to see how ISO can change an image.

Here are some tips for great cell phone photography

  • If your subject is in motion and you are trying to freeze the motion for a still shot a higher ISO will allow for a faster shutter speed and you will get a better image.
  • If you are shooting a small shot for Instagram or social media the higher it is it will improve your image and will not show up grainy online.
  • A high ISO can lead to a vintage look in your photo with added grain and noise.

How to use ISO on your phone?

You can change the settings by going into manual mode on your phone. If you have a Samsung it is the “pro mode” and tap on the  button. Go and switch off of auto and try the settings. If you increase the ISO this creates a shorter exposure time and the photos get sharper.If you have an iPhone you will need to download an manual mode app. There are many options and I will go into detail about new apps in other posts.

How to use manual mode on a Smartphone

For continued tips and trick see other blog posts about how to take pictures with your phone. Also you can purchase gear to improve your photography.

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