We live in a time when digital photography is more popular and engaging than ever, and we have the nearly constant advances in the smartphone industry to thank for that. Manufacturers today, not only compete to produce faster and thinner phones, they also, pay a lot of attention to the quality of the cameras they attach to the phones.
Apart from the ubiquity of cameras, there’s also one more and very important feature of today’s digital technology that might have contributed to the rise of digital photography – it’s social. We take a photo – and we share it with friends and/or followers. And, as it seems, we really enjoy that aspect of digital technology :)
Anyone can take a photo with their smartphone, but taking a great photo with a smartphone is not an easy task. It’s not just the subject of your photo that is important, but, also, the way you take a photo of it, the skill you apply to take a photo of it. With that in mind, I wrote some tips that I hope will help you take better photos with your smartphone camera.
So, let’s get started.
Know your camera software
This tip might seem unnecessary – of course you know your camera, where the flash is and how to change to video mode. But your camera is much more that that – explore its potential. For instance, try HDR or Panorama mode. Learn your options and learn them well – you won’t miss a moment you’d like to capture and you’ll capture it beautifully.
Clean your lens
Your phone camera is always exposed because smartphones don’t have lens covers. Dust, dirt and fingerprints might decrease the quality of the photo. So, before you start shooting, don’t forget to clean the lens. Use (sun)glasses cloth and be very gentle. Clean lenses mean clean and sharp images.
It is very important to learn compositional basics. This may sound a bit boring, but I promise you, when you’ll master the basics of composition, you’ll take much better photos.
“Rule of thirds” is one of the most used composition technique. It’s not difficult at all: you divide your photo with two horizontal and two vertical lines; then, you position the subject of your photo on those lines or where the lines meet. Most camera apps offer the option of using the “rule of thirds” grid line while you take photos. It will help you to place the subject of your photo on the lines – and not in the centre – a practice which makes photos more interesting. Additionally, if there’s a horizon in your composition, make sure it’s on the horizontal lines (which will, also, help to level your photo).
Of course, when you’ll master composition principles and rules, you’ll be able to successfully break them. So, learn and practice a lot.
Set the focus
After you compose your photo, the next important step is to make sure that the photo subject is sharp and in focus. Don’t forget that. It’s easy to set the focus on smartphone cameras: just tap on the screen where your subject is, and you’re ready to take the shot.
NEVER zoom, get closer
All smartphone cameras are able to zoom by pinching (or stretching) the screen with your fingers. That way, you bring the photo subject closer and compose the photo easier. But, that’s digital zoom – as opposed to optical – which, in essence, means that the image is cropped with noticeable loss of quality. So, for sake of quality, just move closer to the subject.
Keeping your phone steady is important when taking photos in low light or at night. In these conditions, your camera uses longer shutter speed to compensate for the lack of light. If don’t have a smartphone tripod, you can always place your camera on something fixed. Also, don’t forget the shutter lag. That’s the time between the pressing of the button and the camera taking the photo. Keep in mind that some smartphone cameras have longer lag than others. So, when taking a photo in low light, find a way keep your phone steady – and, if you don’t succeed at first, try again.
Light is everything
When it comes to photography, light is everything. The better your object is lit, the clearer the image will be. So, it is very important to learn how to assess light and how to use it. That way you’ll be able to make a scene dramatic or your subject more interesting. When shooting inside, look for windows that give the light direction, render it soft and diffused so it’s not harsh on your subject.
Artificial light, like flashes, can change the colors of your photo. You can play with the white balance in photo editing apps to fix that.
My advice is to use as much natural light as you can and never use the flash on your phone, except when you need fill light (but be careful because it can create shadows and ruin your photo).
When taking a photo, you should always look for alternative points of view. Don’t just stand there – crouch or go up or even lay down on the ground. Smartphones are small and light – use that. People are accustomed to seeing things from a position or two; when you take a photo from an unusual vantage point, thing might be seen in a different light.
Never stop shooting
You always carry your phone with you – use it. The more photos you take, the better photographer you become. Even if you’re not inspired on a given day, shoot anyway. You’ll train your eye to look for light, to easily spot something worth taking photo of, to look and look faster for different angles – and you’ll never miss a great moment.
Don’t be shy or lazy. Use the camera you always have with you.
The apps are one of the most beautiful things about mobile photography. There’re lots of free editing app and they work just fine. My advice is to use them for every photo you publish online. However, don’t overprocess your photos – too much editing might turn a good photo into a bad one. Edit with restraint. Add only effects that can enhance the beauty of your photo.
I use Snapseed and VSCO and I recommend them. If you want to read more about editing apps. Erina wrote reviews for some of them. Check it out.
And remember: bad photos are bad. No editing app can fix that. Try and remember the tips above in order to get a sharp and well composed photo.
This is the final and most important tip: never stop having fun! If enjoy what you do, you’ll motivated to learn and experiment – and take memorable photos. You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you have fun with your camera.
I hope you’ll my tips helpful. Some of them apply not only to mobile photography, but to photography in general. Let us know if you have any other mobile photography tips and tricks in the comments below.