Professional mode in mobile photography

Smartphones are now jack of all trades, including in photography. Each self-respecting flagship will have different “gadgets”: a blurred background, as if filmed with a portrait, night photography and others. But PRO mode really unties your hands, because it allows you to set up your smartphone camera like a camera. How exactly to do this and what result the setting will lead to – in this article.

How Professional Mode Is Different From Automatic
AUTO mode is a photography mode in which the camera automatically selects the shooting parameters suitable for the situation. In this mode, there are no settings other than flash and photo effects. Needed to quickly and easily take a normal photo.

PRO mode or manual mode is a mode in which the user needs to independently adjust the ISO, Shutter Speed ​​and White Balance values ​​to obtain the desired result. The mode is activated manually in the camera menu or settings.
To configure the camera manually, you need to know at least a minimum of the parameters that will affect the final photo. Here are the main ones. ISO – matrix photosensitivity. The higher the value of this parameter, the more light is absorbed by the camera matrix, respectively, the photos become brighter and brighter. But at high ISO values, a lot of noise appears in the photo.

Noise vs. ISO

Exposure (S) – the time during which the camera shutter remains open for light to enter the sensor. The lower the value, the less light hits the sensor and the less blurred moving objects in the frame. The higher the value, the more light hits the camera’s sensor, and, accordingly, the more blurred moving objects in the frame.


How the subject is blurred when moving at different shutter speeds.

White balance (WB) is the temperature of a photograph, which determines how natural the photograph looks. The lower the value, the colder, bluer shades in the photo. The higher – the warmer, orange shades. White balance is measured in Kelvin.

In what tonality will the photo be at a given temperature value

How to take pictures in professional mode
When you start professional mode, the screen will display controls for the main camera parameters – ISO, Shutter speed and White balance.

To get the least amount of noise in your photo, stick to a simple rule – set the ISO to the lowest value at which the photo remains sufficiently illuminated.


ISO value

Daytime up to 150
Evening 200 – 600
Night 250 – 800
Sunset Dawn 100 – 200
At night against the light of 100

Photos taken on a smartphone Xiaomi Redmi 9A 32 GB

By setting close to the recommended ISO values, you may encounter a lack of light in your photo. To make the photo brighter without raising the ISO, you need to adjust the Shutter Speed.

On most smartphones, when you manually adjust the sensitivity, the Shutter speed is automatically adjusted. But the smartphone does not always correctly determine the required amount of light, so manual adjustment is still needed.

Tripod Hama Flex black 740 *
Remember that too high a Shutter Speed ​​value will blur moving subjects. You will also need a tripod, otherwise the micro-movements of the hands during shooting will make the photos blurry.

Exposure 16 sec. ISO 100. Only moving cars are smeared, other objects are clear because the phone is mounted on a tripod.

So if accuracy is key, lower Shutter Speed ​​and raise ISO until you get the perfect balance of settings. The Shutter Priority semi-manual mode can also be used. In this case, only the Shutter speed is set, and the smartphone’s camera independently adjusts the ISO value and white balance.

Next, move on to white balance. Switch between different modes until you see a picture on the screen that is as close to reality as possible. White objects are a good guideline – choose a white balance so that the object you see as white is the same in the photo.

What is the difference between the PRO mode of budget and flagship smartphones

6.1 “Smartphone Apple iPhone 12 Pro 512 GB silver 118 999 *
We can speculate for a long time about the difference between photos in PRO mode of flagship and budget smartphones. On the Internet, thousands of forums and millions of posts compare the capabilities of both price groups. But still there are parameters that definitely affect the final photo.

Matrix size

It is a key metric that affects light and color ranges. In budget smartphones, the matrix is ​​small, so little light enters. In flagship models, they try to increase its size, respectively, the quality of the images improves.

Now you can find more megapixel values ​​in any price category. But this parameter only affects the detail of the image at high zoom. A flagship smartphone may have several times fewer megapixels than a budget one, but it will win in terms of photo quality. This is due to the size of the matrix, which was mentioned above.

6.8 “Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 256 GB Black 114 999 Smartphone *
On-camera lens quality
The quality of the lenses and the material of their production determines the amount of light received, whether there will be distortions and how natural the colors will be. Among budget smartphones there are lenses that distort the corners of the image, and for which there is a noticeable loss of detail and color palette along the edges of the photo.

6.76 “HUAWEI Mate40 Pro 256GB Silver
6.56 “Vivo X50 Pro 256GB Gray Smartphone
6.58 “HUAWEI P40 Pro 256GB Silver
Comparison of photos in AUTO and PRO modes
AUTO mode. ISO – 683, Shutter speed – 1/50, White balance – Auto

PRO mode. The parameters are set manually. ISO – 250, Shutter speed – 1/15, White balance – Auto

By eye, the difference between the photos is negligible. But if you increase it by 20%, it is immediately noticeable. Right AUTO, left PRO. 30% increase.

AUTO mode typically uses software noise reduction, which artificially tries to remove grain, sacrificing detail. The PRO mode does not need this mode, since everything obtained in the photo is the result of adjusting the camera parameters.

Left AUTO: ISO – 1144, Shutter speed – 1/100. Right PRO: ISO – 250, Shutter speed – 1/33.

Right: AUTO mode. ISO – 3200, Shutter speed – 1/11.
Left: PRO mode, ISO 200, Shutter speed ⅓.

Left PRO – not overexposed and correct White Balance. Right AUTO – ISO 3200

If you weren’t hoping to get better results from your smartphone camera than you are now, it’s time to use the professional photo mode, if your model has one. This mode will appeal not only to experienced photographers and geeks, but also to users who want to diversify their photo gallery with original pictures. Also, PRO-mode photos can also be printed for a home photo album.