HTC One camera tips: How to take better pictures

The HTC One's "Ultrapixel" camera is one of its main selling points, as is the vast assortment of photo features arranged around it. But knowing how to get the most out of the camera hardware and its array of software options isn't always easy, which is why we've come up with a quick guide to walk you through the best way to using the HTC One's camera features.

If you're picking up an HTC One this week in Europe or Asia -- or you're planning on taking the plunge in the weeks ahead -- you'll want to check it out after the break.

Give yourself a lock screen shortcut, and use “sightseeing mode”

The HTC One -- and many other HTC Sense devices -- make it easy to jump straight into the camera application.  If you keep the camera app in the app dock at the bottom of the screen, you’ll be able to drag this up and immediately launch the camera app from the lock screen.

HTC Sense’s “sightseeing mode” also means you can easily jump in and out of the app at ease. Lock the screen at the camera app, then the second you press the power button again, you’ll bypass the lock screen and jump back into the camera app. As the name suggests, that’s ideal if you’re out and about shooting lots of pictures of different stuff.

Both of these tricks will bypass any lock screen security you have set up, but to do anything outside of the camera app you’ll still need to enter your pattern or PIN lock.

Use swipe shortcuts to switch to switch between cameras

You could use the main camera menu to change between the front-facing and rear-facing shooters on the HTC One... Or you could just swipe inward from either edge of the screen.

For best results in regular shots, use Zoe​ mode

There’ll be plenty of instances where you’ll want to use a specialized scene mode to get the best shot. But if you’re just taking pictures in normal mode, you’ll get more flexibility out of Zoe mode, which captures a series of shots and a short video. It also starts buffering frames before you press the shutter button, meaning even if you’re a little late (or early) in pressing the shutter, you might not miss that crucial shot.

Zoes also make for better video highlights. As you’d imagine, a highlight reel consisting of short video clips looks better than one dominated by still photos.

Zoes on the HTC One

… but if you do, turn off auto-upload!

Zoe shots output 20 JPEGs and an MP4 video file. That means if you’ve got Dropbox, Google+ or any other app set to automatically upload images from the camera, you’re going to use up a lot of space, bandwidth and (potentially) battery power and data allowance. So if you’re going to be shooting lots of Zoe shots, you might want to turn off auto-upload in advance.

For close-ups, use Macro sce​ne mode

This might seem obvious, but unlike a lot of modern phones the HTC One doesn’t automatically switch to macro focus mode when you target a close-up subject. So to take in-focus close-up shots, you’ll need to go to the main camera menu, tap the triangle under “Scene” in “Photo capture mode,” then select “Macro.” Note that when you quit out of the camera app, the scene mode will default back to “Normal.”

Know when to switch to HDR mode or Backlight scene mode

As we mentioned in our review, the HTC One’s rear camera has lower dynamic range than other high-end phones. That means it sometimes struggles to resolve photos with a mix of bright and dark areas -- for example, shooting a landscape with a bright sky in the background.

You can usually tell on-screen when you’re going to have issues with dynamic range -- either the sky will become whited-out, or the terrain will become unrealistically dark. To work around this, switch to HDR mode (Menu > Photo capture mode > HDR) or Backlight scene mode (Menu > Photo capture mode > Scene > Backlight). Backlight works best in moderate cases; HDR is better in shots with extreme brightness differences. (And the HTC One’s HDR mode in particular is among the best we’ve seen on a phone.)

Again, remember that all scene modes are reset when you leave the camera app.

Never, ever use digital zoom

Every phone camera includes a digital zoom mode. This is not to be confused with the optical zoom mode found on many point-and-shoot cameras. All digital zoom does is blow up the pixels  in the center of the image; you never get any extra detail.

Digital zoom sort of makes sense on phone cameras with lots of megapixels to spare. But the HTC One outputs at four megapixels, meaning you’ve got very little leeway when it comes to zooming in on distant objects. Do yourself a favor and stay zoomed all the way out. You’ll thank us when your photos don’t look like crap.

Shoot in widescreen mode to take advantage of that wide-angle lens

Most cameras have square-ish (4:3 or 3:2 orientation) sensors. The HTC One does not. Its 4-megapixel sensor is widescreen-shaped, in 16:9 orientation, same as the phone’s screen. So to capture the most pixels possible -- and the most stuff, thanks to that wide-angle lens -- leave it set to widescreen capture mode (Menu > Settings > Crop).

If you prefer to shoot in 4:3 orientation, the wide-angle lens means the resulting images won’t be too narrow -- though obviously you’ll lose some pixels as the sides of the image are essentially chopped off.

Tweak highlight videos to your liking

When viewing a highlight reel in the Gallery app, you can change the background music and style by tapping the icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

What’s more, you can change which images in each “event” are included by tagging them as “highlights” (in photo view, tap the screen, then hit the star icon). At least, you’re supposed to be able to do that. In the shipping (international) HTC One firmware, that doesn’t work, and the phone will always make highlight reels based on every photo in the set.

To work around this, go to Album view, then Menu > Copy to, select the photos you want (13 or more works best for a highlight reel), name your new event, then find it in the Events view. It’s a bit tedious, but HTC says the underlying bug will be fixed in a future firmware update.

HTC One video highlights

Beware of Geotagged p​hotos

Beware that the HTC One automatically tags every photo you take with its location, and if you directly share a shot online to social networks or HTC’s Zoe Share, this information will be included. To stop it doing this, load the camera app, then go to Menu > Camera Options > Geo-tag photos and uncheck the option.

Alternatively you can use a photo-editing app to strip location data out of pictures you’ve already taken.

If in doubt, check the camera menu

If there’s a specific feature or setting you can’t see, take a thorough look the main menu in the camera app. It’s a little labyrinthine, arranged in one big list with some expandable areas. But everything you need should be there somewhere or other, including staples like ISO and image adjustments.

Happy shooting. If you’ve got any HTC One photo tips of your own, be sure to share them down in the comments! Got questions? Hit the HTC One forums!

More HTC One features


Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

  • Could the switching scenes and hdr stuff get automated with updates? Seems easy enough to switch but usually when I decide to take a picture it's a quick reaction.
  • You guys should re-review the camera with the new firmware update that is said to significantly improve the daylight shots.
  • No. Just no. This doesn't exist. Please stop with these incessant fake rumors.
  • This. Our review was done with the latest software. There is no other update at this time.
  • It wasn't a fake rumor. There was an update. It did make changes to the camera. Android Central apparently reviewed it with the latest update, while many other sites did not. They did not mention that in the review, so how was I supposed to know what version they were on?
  • Nope. You are wrong.
  • That was never a thing.
  • Yes it was check GSMArena it clearly shows it on the bottom left side of the home page.
  • How about being sick of all the HTC one stuff? Android central is on the edge of being One central
  • So you don't like Nexus devices, and you don't like the HTC One. Are you also a Samsung hater? LG? Sony? Motorola?
  • Nope, not at all. I will buy what is great. The n4 wasn't close, the one is close, but 3 articles a day is a bit much. The s4 is yet to be seen.
  • And until its in their hands, they can't really write much about it, right? So you want silence until the S4 is out, is that it?
    Why not just tune out for a month or so, and come back when the S4 is available for writers to get their hands on them in quantity.
  • Yeah, I know! I mean, how dare they present coverage of a highly-anticipated and newly-released device that a majority of the site has expressed interest in? It's ridiculous! How about more coverage on the OG Droid instead?
  • Exactly, how dare they!? I better see g1 updates on this site!
  • When Galaxy s4
    is officially out they will do the same
  • Great article, thanks (though you really went out of your way making the perfect title, huh? C'mon guys.:) I would gladly trade comprehensive software management over pixels any day, this phone seems to have all the right bells and whistles.
  • I wish this phone ran stock JB and ditched the capacitive buttons for stock on screen buttons. It looks like such beautiful hardware, but I don't think I could get over having to deal with Sense 5/Blinkfeed and the awkward button layout.
  • This is crucial: know what you want. The "too dark" example in my opinion is a better shot than the "HDR" one. Why? It retains the dark blue sky and a bit of sunlight over the horizon. The HDR is crap with sky blown out. If you're taking a photo of the sunset, that's not what you want. I'm also a huge hater of halos in HDR photos.
  • How they HOLD off on all these HTC ONE tips/reviews .. until WE can ALL get our hands on one in the states
  • Why? I, for one, appreciate that I will know exactly where to go when I do get the phone, instead of doing a multitude of google searches. And some people already have the device. If some of the reviewers would have had this tutorial they may have been able to do a better review. It always helps when the reviewer know how to operate the device they are reviewing.
  • They aren't going anywhere, the articles aren't going to 'expire'. Why not help out the people who do have the device now.
  • My friend is about to buy a flippin Z10 if this phone doesn't hurry up and come to AT&T. He want a One or S4, whichever comes first. But he has always liked BlackBerry since he used them all the time in the Army. He loves his S3 and Android though but he needs a phone ASAP and I'm going to tell him to get a flip phone for communication if he needs it and use his S3 from Verizon for eveything else. He is a radio technician and needs two phones when he works on sites so if say he works on a AT&T site he still has his Verizon phone and vice versa. The worst thing is he paid almost $300 for a HTC One X+ a couple days ago on a two year contract, I told him that was a big mistake and to take me to the store to get a refund and I will talk to the employees if they have a problem with me not letting them rip off my friend. Anyway this phone needs to be released this is a huge fail on HTC's part and could hurt them exponentially in the end.
  • As I'm reading this in ASIA. Your an ethnocentric twat!
  • Why is that?
  • There is a special place... alone on Saturday nights for people who complain about blog posts. It's a blog post! #getaclue #thisistwitter
  • I don 't think it's about Dynamic Range but more of a Metering issue. Most cameras default to centre-weighted metering and the above sample scene proves it. The centre is bright. I wish OEM's gave us a Metering setting so we can customize our lighting preferences more ): Would like to be able to switch between multi-zone metering, centre-weighted etc etc
  • HTC One camera improved thanks to firmware update HTC says that the final versions of the units that will be released to consumers will contain the updated firmware.
  • @Phil... I know you agreed with the person who accused Cory, up above, of making up the firmware update story....but apparently....Cory is owed an apology possibly. There is indeed a firmware update that address' camera performance. Is it possible your main review of the ONE, done by your European colleague, was not using this new firmware? Seems a bit strange for all the US sites doing reviews on international devices...Maybe a new US version review would be appropriate. Just wanted to throw that out there... Cheers. Of course if I'm wrong about this...sorry for the bother :) Though a US version review will be nice!
  • I freelance over the internet and earn about 80-85$ an hour. I was without a job for 7 months but last month my paycheck with big fat bonus was $15000 just working on my computer from my home for 5-6 hours. Here's what i have been doing> http:\\\cqtfaxr
  • Thank you, Alex :)
    Great tips, and I can't wait for my HTC One :)
  • dumb question but should I be taping the screen to focus or let the phone focus naturally? When I tape the screen I feel I get over exposure issues
  • Best HDR? Man, this has the worst HDR, it over exposes most images in HDR mode and HTC won't let us adjust exposure comp in HDR mode. They REALLY need a firmware update for the camera to either cause the camera to fix exposure on the highlights rather than the shadows, or even better, make the HDR alter exposure based on where we click on the screen for the focus point. I love this phone, and everything with the camera app is great except HDR, I won't even use HDR on this phone the way it over exposes so many images.
  • HTC ONE camera in HDR Mode or: Best 3rd party app for HDR Mode?:
    -HDR Camera +
    - Camera HDR Studio
    * HDR camera Hi all. I have the update 4.3 Android version. I've been told to use HDR Mode in camera settings to get best photo in low light or when there is bright and low light. I have tried Night Mode but it NEVER produced good shots. Overall, I am happy with the photos. I compared a friends Sony Xperia z1 camera with my HTC ONE camera. Overall, if you do not crop, zoom in or want to blow up your pictures into photos, its a great camera. However, when it comes to HDR Mode, I was told to install a 3rd party app for this as HTC's HDR Mode is not consistent and was told some 3rd party apps are better for HDR. These are: * Camera HDR Studio
    * HDR camera ( i believe this free app has full HDR features from HDR Camera +). Not sure if that's true? Anyone know?
    -HDR Camera + Overall, in forums, HDR Camera+ and HDR Camera; Camera HDR Studio including and, maybe even Snap Camera HDR (had one great review I read for HTC ONE but from my personal experience, not so good) are the better apps and better for HDR use than the HTC HDR Mode. Can anyone suggest one over the other for my HTC ONE? Thanks all!