In recent years, mobile photography has come a long way, and is now for most of us a day-to-day activity. Almost everybody has access to a smartphone which allows us to take photographs wherever and whenever we want. Our smartphones are now also loaded with plenty of extra tools and software needed to capture, edit and share our images very quickly and efficiently. Cameras are increasingly becoming a thing of the past now that your smartphone has all the same features.
Despite having a relatively powerful device at our fingertips, a lot of pictures taken with a smartphone still end up looking poor in quality. Many people are quick to blame the lower quality cameras, but this is more likely a result of poor photographic technique and not knowing how to use your smartphone’s camera properly. With social media being a particularly influential part of our lives now, photos on the go have never been needed more, and there is pressure to create beautiful images for all social media platforms, even if you’ve never previously labelled yourself as much of a photographer.
The key to taking a good photo is the same for smartphones as it is for a professional SLR or any other camera. After all, a good photo is a good photo no matter what it is taken with and many people forget that the best camera is the one you have with you when the opportunity arises. However, it would be ideal if those precious, spontaneous moments could be captured with a great photo.
In this article, we’ve laid out 11 tips for improving your phone photography and a number of techniques that every serious smartphone photographer needs to know, so you can ensure that your snaps are always of the best possible quality!
Take Close-Up Shots
There is something fascinating and magical about seeing a subject close up. A whole new world of photography is opened up through macro photography and it provides photography enthusiasts with a great form of photographic expression. Some of the most interesting photographs can be taken in the great outdoors at close range – flowers, leaves or insects are great subjects.
The majority of smartphones, particularly the iPhone, come into their own when they are used to take close up and macro-style shots. Not only does taking a close up image mean that you have greater control over the lighting of your subject, but it also means that you are able to get the entire object in focus thanks to the relatively wide depth of field or the small sensor.
Crop Don’t Zoom
Even though your smartphone camera is equipped with a digital zoom, it is best practice to ignore it. As soon as you start zooming in on your subject the image loses definition and degrades in quality, making your photos fuzzy and unclear. To avoid this happening, it is much better to just crop the picture – many smartphones have at least 8 megapixels of resolution, meaning there is plenty of resolution left even after substantial cropping to display on the web. However, always ensure you keep the original, as once you crop the image, you can’t get the full photo back again.
Edit Don’t Filter
Although setting a filter for your photo seems a quick and easy way to make your photo more interesting, it does not make it unique. Millions of other people are using the exact same pre-set filters on their photos, so to make yours stand apart from the crowd, consider editing your pictures with an editing app such as Photoshop Express, iPhoto or SnapSeed. Using these you can change the contrast, sharpness and color temperature, and choose your own style.
Also filters are often quite harsh and extreme in their saturation and contrast settings, which often makes the photo look quite artificial. By choosing the settings yourself, you can adjust the photo, while keeping to the original image, and using similar colors, unless you opt for a quirky black and white or sepia style.
Avoid Adding Fake Blur
Depth of field is one of the biggest challenges for smartphone cameras but adding fake blur to achieve this effect does more harm than good! Adding blur via an editing app applies the effect uniformly and unnaturally, and also can decrease the quality of the colour in the photo. If you want the viewer to focus on a particular point in the image, make it the central object in the frame and ensure the background is as simple as possible. This will slightly blur the rest of the photo, without adding too much to disrupt the rest of the image.
Forget the Flash
The majority of smartphone flashes are no more than a glorified LED light. They may be bright, but the color temperature can be completely off and the actual flash duration is far too long, leaving you with a blurry and badly lit image. The light’s proximity to the flash will also leave you with the red eye effect. When it is dark and you want to take a photo, your best bet is to find an alternative light source – it probably won’t be perfect or maybe even flattering, but it can add interest to your picture. This is also where editing your photo can help, as you can adjust the saturation and contrast, which will often affect the lighting of the photo.
Keep Your Camera Lens Clean
Whether you keep your smartphone in your pocket or in the bottom of your handbag, it is not being kept in a clean place. The grime can transfer onto your phone’s camera lens and result in hazy, dark images that don’t look any better, how ever hard you try to salvage them. Even a quick wipe with a soft cloth will help solve this problem, but once in a while it is certainly worth using some lens cleaning solution to really clean the dirt away. Also don’t forget that you’ll need to apply this to your front camera as well as your back camera.
Don’t Overdo the Lens Flare
To control the flare in the shot, move the light source (be that the sun or something else) around in the frame. As you get closer to the edge of the frame you will notice the flare spread out and become more prominent. Another trick is to cup your hand around the camera lens which will help to cut down the amount of flare or even get rid of it completely. Lens flare is commonly seen in photos especially when using the flash, and can really ruin your image.
Use the Rule of Thirds
Without good composition your photo is not going to be particularly eye catching, how ever hard you’ve worked on getting the focus and exposure right. The rule of thirds is one of the most effective composition techniques out there and is important to learn if you want to take more engaging and well balanced photos. All you need to do is divide up your image using two horizontal and two vertical lines, and then position the important elements of your scene along those lines or at the point where they meet.
Wait for an Interesting Moment
The best and most interesting photos have something happening in them, or a story playing out. Find something to compliment the backdrop, be that a person walking by, people peacefully relaxing in the park, or a flock of birds disturbed by a passer-by. It is these photos which really are interesting and worth sharing. There’s also an app called Boomerang, where you take a few photos of people moving which makes it into a very short, repeated video, which can be an alternative way of capturing movement.
Light Your Subject Well
Your image is likely to be clearer if your subject is lit well. If possible shoot outdoors or if you are inside, make sure the lights are switched on. If you do the latter, be aware that artificial lights can impact on the colour cast in your shots and it might be necessary to experiment with white balance to fix it.
Keep Your Phone Still
There is nothing worse than a blurry photo, unless you intended it to be that way. The steadier you hold your phone when you take the shot, the clearer your image will be. This is particularly important in low light situations when the camera will select a long shutter speed to make up for the lack of light. A good trick is to lean your camera or the hand holding it against a solid surface when you are taking pictures.
Overall, there are many different ways you can ensure your photos are the best quality; we’ve just picked the top tips. Play around with all the settings on your phone, as they also have their own unique features. It’s also worth doing a fair bit of research into different apps you can get on your phone; you might find some out there that are more specifically tailored to your needs than to someone else’s.