HTC One M8 Camera Tips to Improve Your Photos

The HTC One M8 camera leaves some people wanting, but follow these tips and smartphone photographers can still take great shots with the 4MP Ultrapixel HTC One M8 camera on this terrific Android phone.

Take a look at the tips below to figure out how to get the most out of the HTC One M8 camera and the included camera app’s editing features. These tips will make the difference between ordinary snapshots, like millions of other Android camera phone owners take, and quality images you’ll proudly share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Flickr.

HTC One M8 Hidden Features

Use the Built-in HTC One M8 Camera App

This may seem obvious, but, with dozens of excellent camera apps available in the Google Play Store, like Google’s own Camera app, why not try a camera with better features or an easy-to-use interface? The answer is that those cameras don’t make use of the built-in camera hardware like HTC One’s stock camera app.

People can break this rule in certain situations. For example, if a person only wants a quick snapshot they can post on a social network, like Facebook or Instagram, then using the camera feature in those apps makes sense. However, the user won’t get access to the best features available in the stock HTC One M8 camera app.

Shoot With Zoe on the HTC One M8 Camera

The Zoe feature built into the camera takes video and lets the user choose the best frame of the video as the image to save to the camera and eventually post online or share with friends or family. In our review of the phone, we suggested this as the best way to get great shots, especially of kids or fast-moving pets.

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In addition to selecting the best frame to save to the Gallery, the Zoe feature gives us access to Zoe Highlights. The video above shows an example of a Zoe highlight where the phone’s software grabs photos and videos taken at the same time and location and splices them together with some generic music. The user can customize the resulting video by adding music stored on the phone or by adding or removing specific photos or videos.

Tap to Focus and Set AE or AF Lock

Some people may not know that their smartphone will focus on a specific subject in an image when the phone photographer taps on that subject on the screen. For example, if I’m shooing a photo of my family standing in a field, I can tap on their faces to bring them into focus even if the phone accidentally focuses on something else in the scene. First, tap on the screen, then tap on the camera app’s shutter release button.

htc one m8 ae af lock

Tap and hold on an object or person to set the Auto-exposure (AE) or Auto-focus (AF) lock.

If a user taps and holds down on the screen for a couple of seconds, they will see the AE and AF locked message pop up onto the screen (see above).

  • AE = Auto-Exposure and means the phone picked the right brightness levels for the scene
  • AF = Auto-Focus and means the phone choose which parts of the scene to focus on

By setting the AE and AF lock, the user can control which part of the scene determines what the HTC One M8 camera will focus on and use to set exposure levels.

What if I know that a child will ride her bicycle right in front of me and I want to take a picture as she whizzes by? I can set the AF lock by tapping and holding on the spot where she will ride through the scene. Make sure there’s something stationary to focus on at that point, like another person or the ground just in front of where she’ll ride by. Tap and hold on that spot and the phone locks focus and exposure. Release the finger from the screen and put it over the camera button, ready to snap the shot as she rides by.

Give Shots a Great Depth of Field Look with UFocus

One of the best improvements in the HTC One M8 camera software comes in the form of UFocus. It lets the user change the focus of an image after taking a shot. Here’s an image I took of a cool mirror with North Carolina license plates as a border.

htc one m8 sample shot before ufocus

Here’s the original image taken before adding UFocus effect to the shot.

I wanted the focus on the plates, not my son and me. So, after taking the shot, I tapped on the thumbnail of the image in the lower right corner of the Camera app to bring up the photo in the phone’s Gallery app. I hit the Edit button on the lower right corner. By default the Effects menu is selected and the UFocus option shows as the first effect on the left end of the row of effects (see below).

htc one m8 effects menu in editing screen

To open the UFocus effect, open an image from the phone and tap on the Edit button. This screen appears.

Tap UFocus. A pop up tells the user to Tap anywhere to refocus. I tapped on a license plate along the mirror’s edge and it gave me the effect below. I also cropped the image to get rid of the screen and my thumb over part of the camera’s lens. Do this by tapping on the Tools option (see above) and then choose Crop.

htc one m8 ufocus effect

The HTC One has a great UFocus effect that lets users blur parts of an image after the camera took the shot.

Remember to apply the UFocus effect before doing any other editing. Once the user edits the shot in any other way, the phone’s software won’t let the user work in UFocus. Also remember to Save the image after finishing.

As you can see in the middle image above, the Effects menu offers a few others. Play with those as you choose, but none of them makes as great a shot as UFocus. The other effects work as follows:

  • Foregrounder – Adds Sketch, Zoom Blur, Cartoon or Colorization effects. The last one turns the shot into a black and white photo with one part in color.
  • Seasons – Animates the image with a zooming effect and overlays tiny seasonal icons falling over the image like snow, leaves or flower petals.
  • Dimension Plus – Adds 3D motion that moves as the person tilts their phone.
  • Sticker – Adds stickers of things like hats or glasses over the image.
  • Copy & Paste – Select a person from one photo and copy the person onto another photo, like a group shot.
  • Face Touch-up – Edits a portrait using a few effects like smoothing skin, brightening a person’s face if it’s too dark, enhancing eyes or taking shine off a forehead.

Improve Shots with Advanced Settings Menu

There’s a nice collection of advanced camera settings that a user can access from the advanced options. Tap on the menu icon in the upper left in portrait mode or lower left in landscape mode. The three dots turn red when the menu opens.

The advanced settings menu includes things like the camera scene mode options, ISO, EV settings, White Balance, Filters and the camera’s Settings button.

Scene Mode

The first button on the advanced settings menu controls the scene mode of the camera. Tap on it and a new menu appears showing more buttons.

htc one m8 scene modes

Use the Scene modes from the advanced settings of the HTC One M8 to get better shots in different situations.

  • Auto – The point-and-shoot mode handles all settings for the photographer and it’s turned on by default. Only move away from this mode when one of the scene modes below seems like it will work better.
  • Night – For shooting in low light. The mode boosts the ISO and slows down the shutter so hold the phone very steady to keep from getting blurry shots.
  • HDR – High Dynamic Range photos will combine multiple exposures to make one image with a wider range of lighting. This works great in difficult situations, like shooting a landscape with a darker foreground and a very bright sky. It’s hard to get all the levels of light in one shot, so HDR quickly takes more than one and combines them into a single image with a wider range of exposure than one shot can get.
  • Sweep-panorama – The camera takes a series of images to grab a wide shot of the scene. The software combines the shots into a single image.
  • Manual – Manual mode lets the users set things like the White Balance, the Exposure, Shutter Speed and Focal Length to get maximum control over all of the elements of the shot. Only advanced users will know how to use these, so learn about what these things mean before relying on Manual mode for important pictures.
  • Portrait – Changes the camera settings to get better portraits of people. The camera looks for the person’s face and focuses on the eyes while also smoothing the skin for an attractive look.
  • Landscape – Changes the camera settings to get better shots of scenes, like a field of flowers in front of a mountain or a lake with boats. Usually photographers want to use landscape mode when shooting wide and distant vistas.
  • Backlight – Adjusts the camera settings for those times the subject is in front of the brightest source of light, like the sun or a window during the daytime.
  • Text – Great for taking shots of documents to later upload to Evernote for optical character recognition (OCR).
  • Macro – Macro shots take well-focused images of close up objects. One would normally use this for small objects, or images of a subject taken with the camera close up to the subject to get fine detail.

Color and Exposure Settings

Three of the items in the advanced settings menu affect the color and exposure of the camera. They include the ISO, EV or Exposure Value settings, and the White Balance.

HTC One M8 camera MAX ISO Settings

The HTC One M8 camera MAX ISO setting doesn’t set the exact ISO but tells the camera to not set it above the number the user chooses.

The MAX ISO settings offer five options including Auto, 1600, 800, 400 and 200 maximum ISO. The Auto-MAX-ISO setting will let the camera look at the scene and choose the best ISO setting for the user. ISO affects how much light the camera’s sensor sees. A high ISO means it lets more light in to help with dark scenes. This adds some noise to the shot. Noise refers to tiny dots of color that make the image look bad.

The HTC One M8 camera’s MAX ISO setting doesn’t actually set the ISO to the value the user chooses, but limits the camera from going higher than that number and then picks the best ISO under that. For example, if I choose a MAX ISO of 400, the camera may decide that 100 is best, but if it thinks 800 is best in a different setting, it won’t use 800 since I set the maximum limit as 400.

The HTC One M8 camera automatically sets the ISO higher than other phone cameras. This looks great for most indoor shots or night shots, but images taken in bright or day light will look over exposed. To compensate for this, set the MAX ISO to 400, and only change it when needed because an image looks too dark with a maximum ISO of 400. Even in that situation, use EV explained below to fix it first.

HTC One M8 EV settings

The EV setting increases or decreases the exposure of a scene when the camera picks an exposure that’s too light or dark.

The EV Setting will change the exposure of the scene to make it brighter or darker, depending on the number the user chooses. Keeping the EV Setting at zero lets the camera pick the right exposure. Increasing the EV setting will make the scene look brighter and lower it makes it look darker.

htc one m8 sample ev 0

This shot was taken with the EV set to 0 and the monitor behind the candy dish made the camera take a dark image.

A photographer will lower the EV setting if the scene looks too bright or raise it if the automatic exposure sets it too dark. The above shot looks too dark because the monitor behind the candy dish makes the camera lower its exposure setting. The one below looks better because the EV setting is set to -1, compensating for the difficult exposure situation.

htc one m8 with ev turned down

This shot was taken with EV set to -1 to compensate for the light coming from the monitor behind the candy dish.

The White Balance refers to the color of the light in the setting measured by temperature. A “cooler” light looks more blue and a “warmer” light looks more yellow. We want perfect White Balance so that white objects appear truly white instead of slightly blue or yellow. The HTC One M8 camera does a great job of setting the right White Balance, but changing it will help in situations where the camera can’t get it right. This happens if there’s two kinds of light in a room, like both an incandescent lightbulb in a lamp and fluorescent lights in a ceiling fixture. Try choosing the setting for whichever kind of light is dominant in the scene.

htc one m8 white balance setting

Change the White Balance from the advanced settings menu to compensate for challenging situations.

Another situation where White Balance helps is when someone’s outside on a bright day but taking shots in the shade. Using the cloudy setting can help overcome this challenging situation.

HTC One M8 filters

The filters give shots that Instagram look and shows the effect live while composing the shot instead of after it’s taken.

Using the Filters built into the HTC One M8 camera can make images look interesting.

htc one m8 vignette

The Vignette filter on the HTC One M8 camera adds a dark shadow around the edges of the subject.

The Vignette filter adds a dark cast around the image letting the user mask out distracting elements on the edges of the scene.

htc one m8 depth of field filter

The Depth of Field filter puts a blur around the scene taking out some distracting elements in the scene.

The Depth of Field filter will blur content outside of the circle, giving users a similar effect from the Vignette only with blurry edges instead of darkened edges.  HTC calls this a Depth of Field filter, but that’s a misnomer. It doesn’t really give a nice depth of field look, which refers to a setting where the parts of the scene in front of the subject or behind will look blurry. Instead, use the camera’s U-Focus or Dual-focus mode to get that effect.

htc one m8 depth of field filter adjustment

Use the slide along the left to adjust how wide or narrow the blur effect looks.

In each of these filters, there’s a slider along the left that changes the size of the filter. Also, use a finger to move the circle over the part of the image that should not look dark or blurry.

The other filters don’t look as nice, with the exception of the black and white modes. Try them out to see if you like any of them.

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Be looking for more great HTC One M8 Camera tips, where we’ll cover how to compose shots with the HTC One M8 Camera grid lines, printing from the phone and how to take great burst shots, selfies and videos.

Comments

  1. Stephen Diver says

    This is a fantastic review, with detail communicated in a very simple manner. I have recently upgraded to the M8 and was about to return it due to the camera, however I am going to try out your techniques on my son and dog to see what I am capable of.

    Many thanks

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