Guide for shooting with Nokia Lumia and Lightroom
Why a Lightroom workflow with a Lumia?
Normal phone cameras are pretty restricted,
delivering suboptimal quality unless you have perfect light, and do not offer many
options to manually fine tune the camera settings while shooting. So most people
usually just apply a very filter and post a small version to Facebook, Flickr,
However the Lumia 920/925/928 (and up)
change the game. The quality with f2.0 lenses, low light capable sensor and an
optical image stabilizer cranks up the quality so much that it is comparable
with a compact camera (thought a DSLR is still a whole class better). At that
level, an image is worthy enough to run through a full Lightroom treatment, not
just simple auto filters.
This guide is made using my Nokia Lumia
925, but it should at least be transferrable to the Lumia 920 and 928. However
it is important they have the GDR3/Nokia Black installed, which changes the camera
characteristics for color.
1. Choose the right photo app
Like with a DSLR you want to have as many
manual controls as possible (ISO, EV comp, WB…). This leaves basically two
options for professional shooting apps: ProShot and Nokia
Cam. ProShot is compatible with all manufacturers and also allows you to
control many manual settings. However the often used EV compensation control is
small and fiddly to use, no comparison to the elegance of the Nokia Camera app.
Also you cannot delete image from the app (an OS security restriction), which
is a big drawback.
Then you might be tempted to use Nokia
Smart Cam because of the burst shot mode, allowing you to e.g. select the best
shot afterwards. However the problem is that to perform quick bursts, Smart Cam
has to increase ISO. So the shots don’t have the maximum quality, especially
when having lesser light.
This leaves Nokia Camera app as best choice. However since the image is done in the OS, the values given here will be the same with ProShot.
3. Holding the Lumia most steadily
Like with DSLRs, a steady grip still is the
key to be able to reduce ISO while keeping sharpness. ISO affects the image
quality massively. A smartphone without a grip and surrounded by knobs is not easy
to hold comfortably.
You can try yourself which grip works best
for you by opening Nokia Smart Cam and zoom in a lot on a distant point. You’ll
see every movement you make.
I came up with the following grips as most
steady while not blocking the camera lens:
(Sorry for the quality, made with a cheaper
While holding it like this, stem the
holding hand into your body, so the arm is not floating freely. If you can lean
against e.g. a wall or table this is always great.
With the other hand you hold the index
finger on the shutter button and the thumb on the opposite side of the shutter
button to not cause shake while pressing it. Though you can use the on screen
shutter button, it lacks the capability to half-press it for holding focus. So
it’s good for static scenes because it causes less shake, but for dynamic
scenes you need the lock feature of the physical button to catch the moment.
4. Setting camera controls
Many apps focus on editing the picture
after the shoot itself. That is limited, since e.g. burnt highlights, noise
from setting too high ISO etc. cannot be corrected afterwards. So camera
controls are the key. Just like with DSLRs, which mostly lack many automatic
Nokia Camera controls are simple and fun
to use. Press anywhere on the image to set the focus point. The menu above lets
you access the single settings:
Turn on Focus light only. Camera built in
flashes mostly destroy the image anyway. Because they are flashing parallel
with the lens (naturally), they are no comparison for softened studio flashes
modeling the light from the sides. The focus light helps a lot in dark
If you have artificial light, set to AUTO,
since these tend to be pretty difficult with all the different lamp types
around. If you have sunlight or overcast sky, set it to “Sunny” (yes, also on
cloudy skies). For details see Lightroom White Balance chapter.
If you got a steady grip and no moving
objects in the scene, lower this and hope for the optical stabilization to
reduce the shake.
With ISO this is the most important dial,
as the automatic exposure is often right in simple settings, but tends to
underexpose on night shots. Also in some scenes with one bright spot (e.g.
reflections on a window, or lamps), it also tends to underexpose a bit. If it
is the case try to increase EV compensation a bit. A little bit like +0.3 ...
+0.7 is usually sufficient. If you do not correct the exposure, you may create
burnt shadows or highlights that cannot be recovered afterwards.
5. Transfer to PC
Do not try to import the images directly
from the phone on USB via the Lightroom import dialog. Lightroom will try to
crawl the whole phone for images. If you got larger sets on You Lumia, it will
slow to a hang.
You may upload the files to SkyDrive and
add images in Lightroom from that directory (install the SkyDrive Desktop app
first). I prefer the direct copy, as it is fastest. Connect your phone via USB
and unlock it via PIN, otherwise you don’t see any folders on your phone. The
copy all files over to local hard drive and add image in Lightroom from there.
6. Set Lightroom 4/5 development settings
The Nokia Lumia (like other smartphones)
does not shoot strictly neutral colors. I shot some reference image with a
color checker chart and retro-fitted the camera calibration to have a neutral
image, however that is not a good way. I found the Nokia calibration to be like
a neutral color image adding a few points Vibrance and Saturation in Lightroom.
Since you often set this anyway, there is no point in correcting this with
calibration in the first place.
Here is the trick: When you shoot with
fixed setting to "Sunny" in Nokia Camera app, you can now set an almost perfect
color balance here. After some experiments with a color checker I recommend:
Please be aware that these settings are for Nokia Black/GDR3. Color rendering changed significantly from GDR2/Amber.
Detail - Sharpening
For base sharpening (the image is already
sharp), you don’t want to increase the inherit artifacts and noise. I found the
following settings to be a good start:
||0.7 (yes, pretty low)
Then set Masking relative to image content (hold ALT
key while dragging the slider).
Detail – Noise Reduction
The Color noise reduction is practically
useless on Nokia Lumia images, since the built in reduction is already quite
effective here. But Lightrooms luminance noise reduction can add some
If you set ISO to AUTO, Lumia will also set
uneven values. So it is not advisable to use Lightrooms feature to set develop
defaults by ISO values.
Set all neutral here. Lumia already correct
distortion and chromatic aberration itself.
Always good light! If you got any comments,
drop me a mail oduis (the magic sign) oliverduis.de