As we are in the age of the smartphone we are all now photographers and taking more photos than ever before, so if your taking photos for your company’s social media pages or just taking snaps of the childrens and pets, hopefully these 10 tips will improve your photos.
I will try my best to not get too technical and keep things as simple as possible, I will refer to using a smartphone throughout these tips, but these can be applied to any camera device you use.
1. Take Your Time
Smartphone cameras are almost on par with professional cameras nowadays—with the added benefit of fitting in your pocket. With such a high-quality tool at your fingertips, it only makes sense to take your time not to rush a photo.
So take an extra second—make sure your composition is good, include interesting subjects, see if you can improve the lighting or the angle, and create a good leading line for the viewer. It only takes a few seconds to drastically improve your photos.
If you think about what a camera actually is and what it does, it will give you a better understanding for taking better photos.
So what does a camera do, they seam very clever these days and can do all sorts of automated things, but essentially a camera is a device that records light, it doesn’t know what your trying to take a photo off, weather it’s a flower or your children and pets, all a camera knows is light and without it you cant take a photo of anything. So this is what I mean by taking your time, think about the light in your scene, if your taking photos of the children in the house and the room is dark, then turn some lights on or move the children to a better lit area, it takes a few extra seconds or minutes to improve your scene but as I said before it will drastically improve your photos.
Also once your get in that frame of mind that the camera or smartphone whatever your using to take photos, only records light, then it will improve your photography wherever you go or take photos of.
2. Apply Principles of Composition
What is composition ? When people discuss composition in taking photos it basically means the way you frame your scene and the subjects in the scene. The most common way is to pick up your camera or phone and take a photo of your subject directly in the middle of the frame, but this isn’t always the most pleasing way to view an image.
You should think about telling a story in your photo and show where the subject is or what the subject is doing and this can be done by simply putting the subject in your photo to one side.
There has been a rule created to help you with this and its called the rule of thirds, so imagine your scene is divided up in a grid with what looks like the game tik tac toe. You may have even seen this grid on your camera or phone and wondered what it is, so now you know
Using the rule of thirds is a great place to start improving your photos. Like I said Most smartphone or cameras have a grid overlay option. Turning on the grid will help you line up your subjects or horizon lines with the rule of thirds.
The idea is that rather than placing your subject in the centre, place it on the line separating the frame into thirds. This works both vertically—perhaps for portraits—and horizontally for landscapes.
3. Zoom With Your Feet
The zooming feature on smartphone cameras is digital, which means you’re going to get a lot of distortion and noise in your photo. And editing or cropping out noise distortion detracts from the quality of your photo.
The best way to zoom on a smartphone camera is with your feet. This means you’re going to need to get close to your subject.
Getting close to an object applies to just about anything—you can zero in on your subject in a landscape, fill the frame with your friend’s face, or just get close to something that you think looks cool.
A great way to practice this is to find small things and take a picture from where you would normally take it, and then take a few steps closer. You’ll see the difference in quality right away.
4. Ditch the Flash
The light that comes from a phone flash can be really harsh—it creates weird highlights and shadows, affects the colours of your subject, and can cause unsightly reflections. Unless the flash is the only way that you’re going to be able to capture anything at all, Id recommend turning it off.
Instead, try to take advantage of natural or ambient light. It’ll provide you with more lighting and result in a better photo overall.
Many newer smartphone cameras now include night mode; this allows you to capture much better photos in the dark, but you must hold your phone steady for a couple of seconds. Using a phone tripod will help capture a great low-light photo.
5. Use Other Camera Apps
Your phone’s standard camera app is great, but it’s not the only way to take photos from your phone. There are myriad camera apps that can capture, enhance, or add a playful touch to your photos.
With each different camera app, you’ll come across new camera settings. Experiment with them to learn how to utilize each app to its best potential. Some apps allow you to change ISO, aperture, shutter speed, or more. These settings will create photos of a similar standard to a DSLR.
6. Use HDR (in Moderation)
Have you heard of HDR or seen it as an option on your phones camera ? Well High dynamic range (HDR) is a well discussed topic. On one hand, it helps you get a balanced exposure in a photo that contains a lot of highlights and shadows. On the other, it can be overused and create photos that look like something out of a horror movie.
If you don’t go overboard with it, though, it can be really useful. For example, HDR can balance parts of an image that are totally blown out by sunlight, such as the daylight outside a window from a photo taken of a subject indoors. In general, I recommend leaving HDR on Auto. But learning how to create balanced exposure in photos will serve you best in the long run.
7. Don’t Overuse Filters
Instagram popularized the idea of photo filters, but there are tons of apps out there that will let you apply a specific combination of effects, but you shouldn’t apply these to all of your photos. Standard filters are often very exaggerated and it’s obvious when they’re being used, which doesn’t suit all types of photos.
However, professional photographers may create their own presets that they use on all of their photos; these are typically more subtle than standard filters, but identifiable enough to recognize the photographer’s work from a set of photos. You can create your own presets in Lightroom.
8. Learn to Edit
The idea of learning to edit photos can be daunting—there are entire online photo editing courses that you can take (or you can book a one to one with me). But learning to make quick, small adjustments through an app on your phone is actually pretty easy, as well as fun.
Editing your photos allows you to make subtle or drastic changes and gives you much more control than filters.
Lightroom for mobile is a great way to edit photos for free, and Snapseed is another good mobile option. Download one and start playing around. Slightly increasing the saturation and warmth of photos makes a big difference. Explore saturation, contrast, fill light, tint, grain, and other tweaks to see which improve your photos the most.
9. Keep Your Lens Clean
We take our phones everywhere, put them in our bags or pockets, and even our kids get their hands on them, so the lenses are bound to get dirty.
Even dirt you can’t see with the naked eye will affect the quality of your photos. Use a lens cloth often—carry one with you if you must—to keep your lens free from dirt and oils. You can also clean your phone’s screen at the same time. Cleaning the lens ensures no external dirt and muck will ruin an otherwise perfect photo.
10. Upgrade Your Phone or move up to a proper camera
It may not be the most convenient tip, but if you’re determined to keep your photos looking their best, you need to be using the most up-to-date hardware.
With each new phone release, smartphone camera software gets better. Not only in raw quality, but also in added features.
I don’t recommend buying or upgrading to a new phone just to keep up with new camera software, but if you’re thinking of upgrading and want to improve your photography then its worth considering upgrading your phone or going all out and buying a dedicated camera
With these ten tips, hopefully you can take your smartphone photography from dull to stunning. Remember that practice makes perfect, and with a camera that can do so much right in your pocket, there’s no excuse not to grab it and press the shutter.
Also one important thing about photography, is that it is an art and art is subjective, there is no right or wrong way to take a photo, if you are happy with it personally that’s all that matters, my tips are just a guide on how to make your photos more visionally appealing. Don’t let photography be stressful, just enjoy capturing the moment.
Stephen Davies Photography
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