Smartphone Photography Tips and Tricks
There is a good thing about technology, and there’s a bad thing. The good thing is now you can take pictures anywhere without having to carry large equipment. Your smartphone can do the trick. The sad thing is that there are too many of the images. So what do we do? We shine out of the rest of the people by upgrading our level of photography from the device we use by merely using it slightly better.
Even for the photographers, having to carry equipment all the time is a task. Travel photography sometimes becomes more of pain managing equipment and getting everything perfect that we often forget we can enjoy with lighter stuff too. Our phones are powerful, and sometimes we should just let it go and do the photography through them.
Read more: Smartphone Photography Courses
Know the Tools
There are many different phone manufacturers, and each provides a different camera app interface. While the work of all of them remains the same, it is essential to familiarise with all the settings that the camera app has to offer. Trying to see what each will help. For example, for shooting fast moving objects, camera apps often have an option called ‘sports mode’. There’s HDR mode to improve the colours of the image, and so on.
Some of the camera apps also offer manual controls for exposure, similar to how a DSLR will work. This is designed to help you control the phone camera like a pro. There are also third-party camera apps also that allow further control to the camera if the inbuilt camera apps aren’t good enough. Some of them are free while a few are paid, offering a demo free version etc. Trying them if you want to do consistent mobile photography is a good step.
Get as Close as Possible
Smartphones don’t have an optical zoom usually. Some of the present day cameras have started showing some of the features with the aid of dual lenses. Therefore, you are recommended not to use the digital zoom of the smartphone. Digital zoom spoils the picture quality consistently. It is better to crop the image later. Therefore, the first vital ditch to avoid is the digital zoom. Instead, go close, and shoot as close as possible.
This also means you won’t be able to pursue all genres of photography using the mobile phone. You can’t, of course, do wildlife etc., or anything else that requires you to zoom into subjects. Knowing this limitation is going to be handy in progress as a smartphone photographer until the technology can offer a solution.
Read more: How To do Product Photography
Don’t Use the Flash
The flashlight from mobile camera comes from a tiny source. This result in a harsh light that will produce harsh shadows and provide a subject that will not appear as pleasing. Also, it results in some highlights on the subject if it is shiny. The best way to do smartphone photography is to avoid it unless there is no other option at all.
Treat it like Serious Photography
When we shoot from smartphones, often the results aren’t as pleasing because we don’t put as much effort into taking pictures as we would with a more complex camera system. Once you throw in an extra couple of seconds before shooting, automatically the pictures will come out better, and the compositions will be clearer and more appealing.
Use Composition Techniques
Composition techniques that have been used by photographers all over the years can also be used while doing photography from the smartphone. Be it the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, or the leading lines – all those make for more exciting compositions that offer better viewing. Therefore, getting them into your compositions is one of the ways of making smartphone photography cool and attractive.
What is easier is that you can get the overlays in smartphone photography while shooting. So the rule of thirds overlay can help serve two purposes. It can help you compose your image with the help of the overlay, or it can also help you check the symmetry of the shot and line up the horizon and vertical straight.
Read more: Landscape Photography with Mobile
Align the Images Right
One of the most common mistakes we do with smartphone photography is not aligning the image correctly. The photos often turn out to be tilted, which results in unattractive images. When you shoot them with care, line up your horizontals and verticals straight, the photos will appear more beautiful already.
Use the Correct Editing Tools
The sad thing about the smartphone app stores is that it has a variety of app creators on its platform. It has led to some really good while plenty of bad image editing programs which are designed to make people look attractive using filters. This makes them fair, skin blurry, and a fake glow appears in all portraits, and even the pictures that aren’t portraits. Some of these filters may also be auto-applied in the camera app, going by the beauty filter name.
It is imperative we avoid them and use only good editing programs. Some of the best companies have their editing apps for both Android and iPhone users. Adobe makes some useful apps, and so does other makers. If you are serious, even Lightroom has a mobile version now, which can be synced to the desktop devices if you have the subscription. All it helps is correctly editing the image without spoiling it in any way.
Read more: DIY Smartphone Photography Tips
Counter the Shutter Lag
Shutter lag is a term which pro photographers are aware of, even though there’s very tiny shutter lag in pro devices. In smartphones, shutter lag is one major issue. Shutter lag is the duration between the hitting the shutter button and when the actual image starts getting recorded. In smartphones, the shutter lag is huge, which often results in shaky photos.
To avoid the shutter lag, it is ideal to hold the phone steady and take a couple of seconds and wait for the image to be recorded than to jump the gun and just move the camera away. Moving the smartphone quickly will result in shaky photos, but if you put an effort to hold it steady, some of the natural body movement will be removed by the image stabilisation feature, and you will be getting a shake-free beautiful image.
Invest in a Good Tripod
If you want the smartphone travel photography to go even further, investing in a good tripod is the key. There are several tripods for mobiles these days, and ideally, you should choose one that can hold the camera still. This will help in shooting landscapes, especially during the low light conditions. The tripod has been the key to a good landscape photo for years. Now, you can use it even with the smartphone.
Another added advantage is that you can vary the shutter. So getting a slow shutter shot without compromising on image quality is now possible. You won’t get shake in photos for holding the smartphone stable for seconds – which isn’t possible. Hence shooting on a tripod with timer mode is the key. Also, you can slow the shutter to reduce the ISO to lowest in case of low light situations. Key to the slow shutter photography is that it works in landscapes and seascapes, but where there are moving subjects, it will cause a motion blur.
Read more: PhotoAndTips Resources
Use HDR Mode
HDR is usually not welcome in most of the photography world as it alters the dynamic range of the image to make it look more attractive. Especially different is the surreal HDR mode where there are so many colours and high saturation that the photo is literally screaming ‘I’m fake’. Smartphone photography, however, gets boosted by the HDR mode.
When used lightly, HDR mode improves upon the dynamic range of the photos. Due to the smaller sensor size, the dynamic range of smartphone cameras isn’t much. To improve that, multiple shots are taken and combined by the camera. This improves details in both highlights and shadows areas and reduces the grain in shadows due to lighting issues.
Take More Pictures, Use Burst Mode
Due to the shutter lag, it is possible that you will miss your pictures. Ideal way, especially where it involves people or any movement at all, you would want to take multiple shots. Sometimes, burst mode can come to your advantage and automatically take plenty of images for you in succession. You can then select the best image to work on, and thus achieve the best possible result. It is especially helpful when you are shooting action shots or pictures involving people. For group pictures, especially, you need to be sure that there are plenty of images to work.
Use Portrait Mode for some Compositions
While you may want to shoot all images horizontal or landscape mode, some of the images may require you to shoot in portrait mode. It can create an entirely different looking image when there’s a thought put into shooting portrait mode and then proceeding with it. Sometimes, even landscapes can be shot in portrait mode, which is ironic. For example, landscapes involving trees often provide a different perspective on portrait mode and can help create a unique image.
Read more: How To Shoot RAW
Understand the Lights and Use Them Correctly
Understanding lighting and using it correctly is even more critical in smartphones than in DSLRs. It is because of the lower dynamic range and less scope of improving the image that the smartphones require you to get it right in the camera itself. Therefore, it is imperative that you are sure of the lighting directions, quality, and quantity before you proceed to take the image.
For example, backlit shots provide a silhouette; side lit shots have greater contrast, etc. Most of the times though, the light needs to come from an angle from the front of the subject. It is to provide an illumination that can help the subject become visible without burning the background. Getting all these concepts right, understanding them, and implementing them is one of the important aspects of smartphone photography.
Use the Correct Shooting Height and Angle
If you shoot from the eye level of the subject, the subject will appear to be straighter, and the apparent distortion will be the minimum. Shooting from lower down the ground will make the subject appear taller; while there will be distortion with subject appearing wide at the base and narrower at the top. Similarly, shooting from a top angle does the opposite. For the majority of the images, you want to be shooting from the front and at the correct angle with your smartphone places almost straight. This will help you get distortion-free shots.
Understand the Limitations
There are limitations with smartphone photography. The major of them is the size of the sensor, which is tiny. So you need to understand the dynamic range is lower, and you can’t compare it to something that is taken from DSLR at the same place. Also, there is no RAW mode, and hence you need to get the image as close to how you want in the camera itself.
Smaller sensor also means that you can’t possibly close aperture much to create sharper landscapes. The good thing is that with a wide angle lens in most smartphone cameras, you don’t need to alter the aperture, which is the habit of pro photographers shooting landscapes. All you need to do is focus it correctly, and the image will turn out to be right.
Read more: Mirrorless Cameras Systems Are Here To Stay
Top 15 Smartphone Photography Tips
- Know the tools
- Get as close as possible
- Don’t use the flash
- Treat it like serious photography
- Use composition techniques
- Align the images right
- Use the correct editing tools
- Counter the shutter lag
- Invest in a good tripod
- HDR mode
- Use burst mode
- Portrait mode for some compositions
- Understand the light
- Use the correct shooting height and angle
- Understand the limitations
Smartphone photography has grown leaps and bounds, and with major players like Hasselblad entering the market in some way or the other, it is imperative that the growth will continue. So enjoy your photography and have fun without having to worry about all the extra equipment, as long as you understand the limitations.
**Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support! For more information, visit my disclosure page.
Mobile photography isn’t just for iPhone users! Here, Android expert Joshua Vergara walks you through the ins and outs of shooting with your Android phone. Along with photography basics that apply to any Android device, Joshua also discusses the video and editing capabilities of three specific models: Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+, and LG V30. Plus, discover a variety of apps and add-ons that’ll set you apart from other Android-ographers.
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