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Nokia Lumia 1020 : An Essential Quick Start Guide

Nokia Lumia 1020 : An Essential Quick Start Guide by Josh St. Germain

If you’re like me, you like to skip the instructions and learn about a new gadget through trial and error (followed by finally giving in and Googling tutorials and forums). That’s the approach I took when I got the Nokia Lumia 1020 in my hands. I did it mainly to test how user-friendly it was compared to other mobile devices I had shot with. I also just like to tinker and discover things on my own. That often leads to finding tricks, shortcuts, and strategies that I can later share with other users. This article is exactly that.  I’m sharing with you,  the most valuable tips and tricks I’ve discovered while using the 1020. Hopefully this can help you skip a bit of the trial and error and just get to making amazing images. Let’s start at the beginning,  before you even think of snapping a shot…

1. Set the camera button and lock screen options to your advantage :  You never know when you’ll see a moment develop that you want to capture. The time it takes you to get your phone into your hand and to open the camera app needs to be as small as possible. One of the absolute best features of the 1020 is the dedicated camera button. It let’s you half-press the button to trigger auto focus and then full press to capture, much like any pro camera out there. That’s not the best part though. There is a setting to allow you to directly open the camera by holding the camera button down when your phone is locked. Here’s a screenshot of the setting I have -

The other setting that is important is the “screen timeout” length and the “require a password after”. When you are walking around shooting, you don’t want the screen locking quickly and making it harder to access the camera and get a quick shot.  I’ve set mine to 3 minutes and have been happy with it. After three minutes, the phone screen will shut off. HOWEVER, if you set the “require a password after” time to longer, you will only need to tap the side-lock button and then swipe the screen to resume where you were (you skip the password step). If you aren’t using the camera button to access the camera, this will be a lifesaver in those spontaneous situations.

2. Use multiple camera apps for different situations : I started with strictly using the native camera app that is called “Nokia Camera”, but soon learned of the 3rd party camera app called ProShot. As shown in the first tip, I have the camera button set to open the “Nokia Camera” app. You cannot set it to open ProShot. But, you can utilize the live tiles that ProShot offers you.

I keep two different ProShot modes as live tiles on my home screen. One is a black & white filtered P mode and the other is the HDR mode. This means I can open them quickly from my screen after unlocking my phone. It’s not as fast as the camera button shortcut, but it’s great to have in the arsenal as it’s black & white filter is fantastic!

The most important thing to consider when choosing a camera app, is what you’re gonna be shooting. The reason is the “zoom”. If you plan on shooting anything that requires a narrow focus field or plan to zoom in close, you MUST use the Nokia Camera app. If you don’t intend to zoom in too close, want editing options and a higher immediate output resolution, then you should utilize ProShot.

Here’s what the top of my home screen looks like:

3. Frame, zoom, shoot, reframe : This is probably the most important lesson I learned “the hard way”. I love to get close-up shots that have a nice depth of field to them. The problem is always focusing precision. The 1020 allows such a narrow focal range (especially when you change to manual focus), that it’s very easy to think you are focused the way you’d like and end up with a disappointing result upon review. I have found a perfect solution for this problem.

Let’s start with an example of what shooting at an un-zoomed distance looks like

It’s not easy to tell exactly where you are focused. You might think it’s just right and end up wrong when you take a closer look during editing. The answer is simple ; zoom before you shoot! Set the manual focus slider to the nearest focal point (just above auto). Then tap anywhere on the screen to minimize the pop-out focus menu. Then you are free to slide your finger on the screen and zoom in. Before you zoom in, you’ll want to compose the frame as you’d like it to be . Then zoom in as far as possible. You’ll be able to easily see where your focus is. Try to keep your phone in the same position and just move in or out in tiny increments to achieve the focus you want. Here’s what the zoomed in screen will look like :

Now I can see that I’m focused on the nose when I’d rather be focused on the eyes. I moved a tiny bit closer and took the shot. On any other camera, you’d be stuck with this exact image seen on the screen and only be able to get a tighter crop of it. Not with the 1020. You can then go to your camera roll and select “Open in Nokia Camera” to utilize the reframe function and zoom back out to the distance you had composed the shot at. Here is what that will look like :

Once you tap save, you’ll have your fully “zoomed out” image that you had composed before shooting!!

4. Exporting originals or grabbing originals from your computer : I want to go deeper into the reasoning behind choosing different camera apps to shoot with. My decision is often determined by how easily I want to access that glorious 38mp version of my shot. When you take a photo with the Nokia Camera, the image you see in your camera roll is a 5mp copy of the image. Your phone stores the full res version for when you want go back and reframe. The only way to get your hands on the full res file is to connect your phone to your computer and access the phones storage folders. When I do this, I will just copy/paste them into a OneDrive folder I created specifically for these. I will then be able to access them from any device that I am signed into OneDrive on. This can be a tedious method and I usually wait and do it for large batches of photos rather than each time I take a few.

I also talked about ProShot and some of the great things about it. The other amazing feature is the “Export Original” option when you view a photo within the app. You can either tap “Open in ProShot” from your camera roll, or you can open ProShot first and tap the image review button on the screen. You’ll then tap the three dots to open the options and find the “Export Original” choice. When you tap that, the unfiltered and full res version of the photo is saved to your “Saved Images” folder and instantly accessible. If you have auto-backup turned on for OneDrive, you’ll also see that it backs-up to the same folder there. I like this because I’ll have the 13mp black and white photo as well as the unfiltered 38mp original to choose from. Though, if you are doing close-up photos or feel that you’ll want to use that great reframing option, make sure you use the Nokia Camera instead of ProShot.

**I’d like to note that the ability to capture .DNG RAW files has recently been added to the Nokia Camera options. Since I am dedicated to strictly using mobile devices for shooting and processing, I have no use for these RAW files. If an app comes along that allows me to process them, I’ll happily make that adjustment to my process. Until then I’ll stay with just the 38mp+5mp mode.**

5. Re-sizing your images :  Mobile photography has become much bigger than a smartphone screen. You see it on tablets, computer screens, TV’s, and there are many live galleries that are home to large prints of mobile photos.  Size matters when it comes to these larger format viewing situations. Therefore, it is very necessary to mind the resolution and file size of your images. I have yet to find an app available for windows phone that will allow you to upscale the images, so I’ve had to resort to other devices to achieve this when it was necessary (at least you’ll have a good use for that old device you had before your WP). You’ll notice that when you choose to reframe a photo and you “zoom” in, the saved resolution isn’t 5mp any longer. It will be much smaller due to the amount you cropped in to frame the shot. If you were to get a large print of it done, you may have a poor quality result due to the low resolution. As I said, there are many available ways to nicely resize an image, just not yet on the windows phone.

5a. Beware of editing app resolution settings :  The last thing I’d like to touch on is the output resolution of the 3rd party editing apps you’ll come across. I discovered the app Fantasia Painter thanks to this ARTICLE by Jen Bracewell. It’s a great creative editing tool and quickly had me editing many of my shots with it. After a few uploads to Flickr, I noticed that these images were at a fairly low resolution. Three of my favorite shots that I’ve taken with the 1020 were victims of this resolution theft. I then explored the settings within the app and found that the default output resolution wasn’t set as high as the app allowed. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. So, I will only dive into an editing app that allows me to change the output resolution to a suitable size. If there is no option available, I’ll just edit one photo and then check the res before continuing to edit photos.

This image came out of the app at  932 x 932

That size is fine for a website or social sharing,  but this was an image I was interested in printing and this resolution wouldn’t allow for a high quality print. I was able to successfully enlarge the image using an application outside of the phone. If you make sure that your apps are outputting the highest resolution, you can avoid the extra trouble of needing to up-scale your images.

6. OneDrive : I can’t say enough good things about OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). The auto-backup option offers a great sense of security and it is organized nicely when you sign into OneDrive. It’s extremely easy to create folders for further organization of your work as well as sharing them privately with others or straight to social media. They offer you a great amount of space for free and a backup copy of everything you have shot. You’d be crazy not to use it.

7. Get to know your camera settings : One of the most intriguing aspects of the camera in this phone is the option to adjust the camera settings manually. The manual focus is quickly becoming something I can’t live without. From the Nokia Camera app, you can easily adjust the shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance, and brightness (which should be called exposure). Until now, you we didn’t need to be concerned with HOW these setting function because smartphone cameras take care of it  for us. Due to the fact that so many mobile photographers are new to the world of photography, the majority of them don’t understand how and why to use these manual settings. It’s an easy thing to research. Just “Google it” and start reading. You’ll quickly find loads of info on how to utilize these settings to be a better photographer. The shutter speed is one of the most useful yet trickiest to learn how to utilize properly. I would highly recommend getting the Nokia Camera Grip case and a travel tripod so you can utilize the ability to take slow shutter speed photos with your 1020. I’ve gotten some great night shots using it and you can charge the case to help extend your battery life!

Here’s an example of a slow shutter shot using the Camera Grip and a tripod

Conclusion : These tips and techniques are what I feel have been the most valuable “lessons learned” in my Lumia 1020 experience so far. I encourage you to implement them in your own way, but also spend some time ignoring any rules and just experiment. You never know what cool trick or tip that you might find to share with other 1020 shooters down the road.


  1. Great post! Could you make a ProShot tutorial? Or indicate any? Thank you!

  2. thanks for the article and sharing your thoughts.. Peace

  3. Great post, makes me wish I had a Lumia 1020.


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