Smartphone Photography: Definition Of Terms

As the technology evolves, so does photography! Few decades ago, you can only take better photos using digital cameras and it can take ages to see the results. Heck you need films and process them in the dark room. But now it’s easy in a blink of an eye! No, you don’t need expensive cameras to take astounding photos. Why? Because you can use  a smartphone!

Smartphones have evolved too when it comes to bringing the better photos to the consumers. It’s no reason why that there are tons of people who are into smartphone photography too (*cough).  Below are some of the commonly used terms when it comes to smartphone photography. I hope you find this one useful.


The aperture the opening or the hole in the lens when pushing the shutter button. Light travels through this hole. So if there’s a big opening, the brighter is the picture. Otherwise, if the hole is small, there’ll be a little exposure.

Most smartphones have fixed aperture but there are modes that one can set the “bokeh” effect (also known as depth of field), which blurs the background and gives focus to the subject. These are good for macro-photography or when taking portraits.

Aperture is measured in f/(digit here). Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie’s apertures is f/2 (rear cam) and f/1.8 (front/selfie cam). Which means, the selfie cam performs better in low light because of smaller aperture value compared to the rear cam.

Most newbie photographers (including me) are confused with the value of the aperture. You should take note that the larger the number in aperture (f/4) means small opening or less aperture. So if it has lesser number in aperture like f/2, it means that the opening is bigger and it will have more light.


As you have noticed, every camera has an image sensor and the one measuring its sensitivity is the ISO.  The higher ISO, the brighter is the photo. However, the brightness of the photo will often result to grainy/noisy output.


ISO – auto


ISO – 400


ISO – 100

If you are capturing light colors and silhouette, low ISO should be used.

typical ISO: 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1200

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed measures how long is the image sensor (ISO) exposed to light. The longer the shutter speed, the brighter is the light. On the other hand, if the shutter speed is fast, lower light will pass through it. Long exposure (longer shutter speed) is good for astrophotography (photos of the milky way). It also plays well in capturing city lights and waterfalls.

If you are trying to capture a fast moving object, you should opt for a faster shutter speed.

screenshots/preview mode:

shutter speed: 1/30

shutter speed: 2s

Shutter speed: 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5 to 1/1000, 1s, 1.3s, 1.5s to 3s – depending on the device.

Auto White Balance (AWB)

The AWB corrects color casts when capturing. It somehow keeps the saturation at the acceptable level. If you scroll the AWB to the right (to the sun icon), the color becomes warmer or saturated. On the other hand, if you move the value to the left, the photo will become de-saturated, mostly with bluish/frozen effect.

screenshots/preview mode tweaking AWB:

Exposure Value (EV)

EV is the value or figure that represents the exposure of the photo based from the values set on the shutter speed, aperture , ISO, and AWB. You may also set it manually, however, this will also affect the values you have set with the ISO, shutter speed, etc.

Focus (Auto/Manual)

Most smartphones have automatic and manual focus. With the proper values set in the aperture, you can create a depth of field using the manual focus. Most smartphones aren’t capable of high quality depth of field as it doesn’t really support the manual setting of aperture. However, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, there are filters in the camera that can help you achieve the bokeh effect. In Zenfone 4 Selfie Pro, I did notice that the “portrait” function only works on people; it was not able to get a blur effect on objects (unlike the depth of field filter it added in the previous Selfie phone).


Did I miss something? Or is there something you need to clarify? Please feel free to add or comment on the smartphone photography terms mentioned above.