How to: 5 Tips to Taking Great Photos with the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S6


Praised for its impressive camera, the Galaxy S6 and S7 take great photos even in fully automatic mode.  But a few quick tips will help you take better photos in difficult situations with your Galaxy device and the Samsung camera app.

Although most photos from this article are from a S6, these tips all apply to the S7 too.

1. Light and Shadow
Sunlight is a both a friend and a foe.  It helps light up subjects both can also cause overexposure.  As you probably know, you usually want the sun behind you to light your subject unless you intend to take a photo of the sun.

The Galaxy S6 and S7 have really good dynamic range avoiding overexposure in most situations but a few situations can occur when you have buildings blocking the sun.  There are 3 approaches to improve lighting in the shadows and they are: HDR, focusing, and camera flash.

I generally avoid flash as it's too weak to light distant subjects and produces a harsh bright light if your subject is too close.  Since the flash intensity is not variable (unlike professional camera flashes), it's best to keep your subject 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) away.  It's best for taking photos of people in dark situations.

If you're taking photos of objects I tend to favor HDR.  A very typical situation for using HDR is when you have a combination of bright light from a window and a dark interior:
HDR helps bring bring out the interior without overexposing and losing details from the stain glass window details.

Here's a photo of Quinta da Regaleira with a brightly lit palace and residence wall in shadow without HDR and with center weighted metering (default in auto):

Now if I focused on the dark wall it causes the palace to be overexposed when the metering also focuses on the dark wall:

And finally if I turn on HDR it lights up the wall without overexposing the palace but it looks artificial and lacks the dramatic look with HDR turned off.
So it's up to you which of the 3 photos you prefer.  I tend to prefer HDR off and switch HDR on if there is details in the shadow I want to bring out that I can't pull out without overexposing bright areas.

With the sun setting behind me, the Eduardo VII Park isn't lit well so HDR works well to bright up the scene without losing the details in the distance.

HDR offHDR on

Now if you intentionally want a darker scene and the auto mode keeps artificially brightening up the scene, you can switch to Pro Mode and reduce the ISO to 100-200 or play with the shutter speed (Marshmallow updated needed for S6).  Here's a dramatic dark narrow street:
I just played quickly played with the ISO so I should've held the camera much more still to avoid the motion blur.

2. Capturing action
Although the S6 and S7 camera are really fast, there's still a split second delay to when you see something you want a photo of, hitting the photo button, and the camera capturing the photo.  A good way to do this is to hold the photo button so it will take 10 photos in rapid succession as it will automatically increase the exposure time so it freezes the subject
It's also great way to capture birthday cake candle blowing as well.

3. Focusing on Small Things 
Small items in the distance are difficult to focus on as your finger is too big to pick out from the screen.  It's best to use digital zoom even though it will cause loss of detail so you can get a focused photo rather than a blurry one.  Unfortunately zooming back out would lose the focus lock.

Here I'm trying to capture cherry blossoms without zooming and tried using my finger to pick out the specific flowers I wanted focused.  I failed.
From the above un-zoomed photoZoomed in photo
Another approach to focusing on the flowers is to switch the camera app to Pro mode and manually adjust the focus.  That would take a few tries to take the full picture and zooming in to ensure you picked the right focus distance.

4. Wide Shots
The S6 and S7 can take fairly wide photos there are times when you just can walk back far enough to capture everything you want in a photo.  A great function on the S6/S7 camera app is the panoramic mode.  Photos are taken by holding your phone and panning horizontally or vertically to capture multiple photos and the software will automatically stitch them together to create one photo.

A 16MP 16:9 photo of Queluz Palace:

The 11MP panoramic photo of Queluz Palace:

If you're wondering why the panoramic photo is a lower megapixel count but captures more of the scene it's because the panoramic mode uses the video camera mode to capture the photos rather than taking stitching multiple 16MP photos together.  Panoramic mode will capture photos with approximately 5MP of detail.  The non-panned side of the photo varies in pixels depending on how steady you can hold the camera while panning.

Panoramic can capture some very dramatic interior photos too:

But panoramic mode does have some weakness and it occurs when you have moving subjects in your photo.  Here I started from the left of the scene and really wanted to capture the square while there wasn't anyone standing.

Unfortunately the right of the scene had people walking at about the same speed as I was panning right so it captured multiple photos with the same person which causes the problem below:
You can reduce the effects of this problem if you pan the opposite direction of people walking.

Another problem is exposure which is locked to the first photo taken during the panoramic process.

Here I started from the right so it locked exposure on the dark cliff but it caused the ocean to be overexposed

Now I started the panoramic process from the left so it underexposes the cliff but at least I don't lose as much details as the photo above

An alternative is to take multiple 16:9 16MP photos and stitch on a PC via autostitch.  It creates a huge impressive photo but needs a PC to pull it together so you won't be able to review the photo at the scene.

5. Stealth Photos
Almost as important as enabling Quick launch, using the volume key helps you take photos in places that do not allow photos such as some churches or museums.  Make sure you turn off the shutter sound if you try this.
This allows you to quickly pull out your phone, snap a photo without looking at the screen

Here are some sample stealth photos in churches:
Just be sure hold your camera still and take more than 1 photo as you probably won't have the opportunity to review the photos and some may come out blurry (either bad focus or motion).

I hope these tips will help improve your photos.  Let us know your photo tips in the comments below and we may just add them here
How to: 5 Tips to Taking Great Photos with the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S6 How to: 5 Tips to Taking Great Photos with the Samsung Galaxy S7 / S6 Reviewed by Eric on 4/01/2016 Rating: 5

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