The days have long gone when we would regularly carry around both a phone and a camera. Thanks to advances in mobile technology, everything is now neatly packed into a single device – our trusty smartphones.
The chances are that your phone’s camera is of fairly high-quality, considering its size. Smartphone cameras are, by no means a replacement for DSLRs with changeable lenses, but their quality has dramatically increased since their inception.
Have our photography skills also increased? Quite possibly, yes.
Especially with the popularity of apps like Instagram which rely on pre-made filters designed to make even the most boring images stand out. Again, this doesn’t necessarily replace the need for professional software like Adobe Photoshop, but things certainly have come a long way.
We all know that images are more engaging than reams of text. Images are also big business now in the social marketing world. On Twitter, posts with an image get 150% more engagement than those without. Other social platforms are a similar story, so…
How can you improve your smartphone photography skills?
Here are 8 tips you can use to improve your photography skills. With your improved knowledge, your blog posts and social media profiles will soon be shining with visual eye candy, without having to spend a fortune of professional equipment.
Our Engaging through pictures workshop explores different approaches and methods for engaging people in a less literary way.
1. Lighting is everything
For all photographers, lighting is the single most important factor in getting a good photograph.
Do you ever notice when you’re in a clothes shop, or a hairdressers, the lighting is always more flattering inside? Obviously this is done purposefully – they want you to buy that outfit or be happy with your new haircut. A lot of thought goes into the lighting design inside these businesses – it’s just as important for photographers. Ever tried to take a picture in the dark?!
If in doubt, natural lighting is the best. Taking photographs of people on a sunny day will often cause shadows on the subject’s face, which can be flattering sometimes, but cloudy weather is typically easier to get a more accurate exposure with your phone.
If you’re taking photos indoors, avoid placing the subject directly in front of a window as you will end up with a silhouetted image.
2. Understand what the settings mean
Shutter speed is the length of time in which the shutter is open. The longer it is open, the more light it lets in. It is used to control motion blur in images.
ISO is the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. The higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor is to the available light. Higher numbers are good for poor light, but come at the price of noisy/grainy images.
White Balance allows you to select the type of light according to conditions and the camera will adjust itself accordingly. It has presets such as Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent and Tungsten. The best way to choose the correct white balance is to use your phone’s screen to look at the skin tone of a person, and try to match it as best as you can – unless you’re going for an experimental look!
3. Use the highest image resolution available
- High quality images take up more storage space on your phone
- Higher resolutions are more suitable for printing, if you want this option
- Low quality images take up less storage space on your phone
- Lower resolution images can only be printed in small sizes
Using the highest resolution and quality settings available will not always result in a better image, but it will usually be sharper providing you’re holding the phone steady and there’s semi-decent lighting.
4. Don’t bother with the flash
Despite the great quality of modern camera phones – you can ditch the flash. It’s pointless and in the wrong place for it to be of real use. Most users will have better results using the correct settings and good/natural lighting.
5. Don’t bother with the zoom, either
Another downfall of using your phone’s camera is the zoom. It’s awful. It’s a digital zoom, which just magnifies the pixels, rather than using an optical zoom which you would find on a larger camera, such as a DSLR.
You can get away with using the zoom up to 1x, but anything higher than that will be a pixelated, blocky photo that you won’t be too proud of!
6. Use the ‘Rule of Thirds’
This is not actually a ‘rule’ as such – more a guideline. Imagine your image is split up into 9 equal squares. Try to place important elements of the image along those lines, or where they meet/crossover. This is called the ‘Rule of Thirds’ – photographs composed using this ‘rule’ will generally be pleasing to the eye.
This is because the eye is naturally drawn to those places on an image and also has something to do with the ‘Golden Ratio’ – a mathematical formula resulting in a perfectly symmetrical grid that is very simple to visualise.
Most phone cameras will have a setting to turn the ‘Gridlines on’ which helps compose your photographs.
7. Hold steady!
It can be difficult, but try to keep those hands steady when you’re holding your phone. If you struggle with this, you can buy small tripods with holders for your phone for less than £10. These can be really helpful if you use your phone for recording video too.
8. Portrait or landscape?
It depends on what you intend to do with your photo, if it’s for Facebook or Instagram then it will likely be cropped to square when you publish it. But, if it’s to be displayed on a TV screen or presentation, then you should hold your phone landscape in order to fill the space on-screen.
If you shoot your photo portrait (holding your phone upright), and you want to use it in the future for a video, digital story or presentation – it will be a challenge to crop the vertical black bars either side of the photo.
That’s why it’s important to know what you want to do with your photo when deciding which way to hold your phone!
So those are the tips for all beginner smart phone photographers! If you’re going out and putting this advice into practice – we’d love to see the results…
Leave a comment below with a link to the best photo you’ve taken using your phone or even a link to your Instagram profile and we’ll share the best ones!
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