Do you remember the otherworldly shots of Paris by night, which we published back in December last year?
Taken by Parisian Olivier Wong-Man-Kan with a Nokia Lumia 920, they were a stunning debut to our series Around the World in 80 Lumias, and a textbook example of how to take masterful nighttime photos with your Nokia Lumia smartphone.
Now, to help every aspiring Lumia photographer achieve equally incredible results, Olivier has agreed to tell us how he does his magic, in just a few simple steps. “Using these techniques will help you to achieve amazing special effects, such as light trails or motion blur,” he promises. If you want to transform your low light photo skills, read on… Olivier, we’re all ears!
Long Exposure Subjects
In low-light conditions, anything that moves can become a perfect subject for long exposure photography. Below are some subjects that I love to capture with my Lumia 920:
Traffic and cars
Flowing water and fountains
Spinning carousels and wheels
Long exposure requirements
Rather than giving you a detailed tutorial about long exposure photography (since I don’t think I have the expertise and you can find plenty of well-written articles about it online), I will only show you how I apply long exposure techniques to my Lumia 920. When it comes to low-light and night shots, there are two basic requirements to keep in mind. Firstly, keep the Lumia steady. It is really easy and frustrating to end up with blurry photos when shooting at night. By keeping your Lumia still, you will prevent unwanted blur from camera shake or movement. Secondly, set a slow shutter speed. This will help you capture more movement of the subject you focus on.
These two rules will explain my choices in terms of equipment and apps.
Nighttime equipment for your Lumia
The best way to keep the Lumia totally steady is of course to fix it on a tripod. I have purchased the tripod below, which fits my Lumia 920 perfectly (the head can be adjusted) and is strong enough to support it. I can lay and place it almost anywhere and in many positions.
The best long exposure effects are obtained by setting the shutter speed to a high value so that you can capture more light and movement. The Lumia 920 can go up to a shutter speed of 4 seconds, which is pretty good for a phone. However, as it has a fixed f/2.0, the shots come out overexposed when you set the shutter speed higher than 0.5 seconds, even with the lowest ISO (100). That’s why I purchased an ND8 filter. It enables me to set the shutter speed to the maximum value of 4 seconds and keep a correct exposition.
I attach the filter to my Lumia by placing it between the phone and the silicone cover.
My Lumia photography apps of choice
For taking long exposure shots, I use only the Proshot app, which gives me full access to settings. Why Proshot? Because it was the first photography app that enabled the use of custom settings on the Lumia 920. Now, you can find lots of apps that give DSLR capabilities to Lumia phones, such as the very user-friendly Nokia Camera.
I use Proshot in Manual Mode with the following settings:
Focus: Depending on the situation, I use either Auto or Manual Focus. However, in low-light conditions, the Lumia struggles to find the correct focus, especially for the subjects in the background.
ISO: I set the ISO to the minimum value, i.e. 100, so that there is less noise in the shot and I will be able to set slower shutter speed.
Timer: I generally use a 2 seconds timer after pressing the shutter to ensure the stability of the phone.
Shutter speed: This is the parameter I play with to get long exposures. With my ND8 filter, I can easily capture at 4 seconds shutter speed.
In most cases, these settings are perfect for taking long exposure shots. Naturally, this advice on capturing long exposure shots with Proshot applies to other photography apps, too.
Fotor and Creative Studio
I mainly use Fotor and Creative Studio for editing my shots. I generally make some adjustments (brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness) and sometimes play with filters.
In a nutshell, this is how I get long exposure shots with my Nokia Lumia 920. I hope these tips will help you capture perfection in low light… the Lumia phones are great for that!
I look forward to seeing your results on Instagram.
Thanks, Olivier! You’ve made it seem as easy as 1,2,3! And with the world’s greatest camera smartphones in our pockets, why shouldn’t it be… we’ll be trying out these tips and tricks under the starry skies of Helsinki, Finland, as soon as we get the chance. Where will you catch your first light trails? Please tell us and share your results. And if you want to add anything to Olivier’s guide, please contribute to the comments below.