It’s that time of year again – the summer’s here but the sun unfortunately isn’t, so most of you are probably off to find it elsewhere. And what better way to show off the sunshine than with your latest smartphone.
There are some pretty impressive models out there now, boasting 10 or 13-megapixel rear facing cameras which should be perfect for capturing those summer shots. But how do you avoid that glare from the sun? Or that harsh flash that appears on your friend’s face in a night snapshot?
Here are our top ten tips for taking better photos with your smartphone.
1. Get close to your subject and avoid zoom
If you want a really clear, focused photo from your smartphone then the first thing you need to do is get close to your subject. Yes, smartphone cameras have come on immensely – but that doesn’t mean they’re quite as good as your digital cameras. If you use the digital zoom on your smartphone you’ll find that the images become grainy and don’t focus as well, as all it does is makes the pixels bigger. If you want to zoom in further, you can always do this afterwards using the crop tool in an editing program.
As you see in the picture below, the left hand photo was taken close up at 0% zoom, the one on the right far away at 50% zoom. We’ve cropped the picture B so it’s the same size as A so you can see the difference in the quality!
2. Lighting needs to be right for your smartphone camera!
Try and get as much natural light as possible. Even though manufacturers are beginning to produce phones which do cope better in lower light situations, you will get better results if there is a lot of natural light in your images. The ideal lighting is just before dusk or when it is slightly cloudy as extremely bright light can result in glare.
If you’re taking photos inside then it’s best to avoid fluorescent lights so try and find some natural light from a window. You can see below the difference of photo quality with just slight changes in the rooms lighting.
You should also ensure that light isn’t coming from directly behind your subject, as they will appear like a silhouette. However, you can prevent this could be by using the flash on your smartphone.
3. Using your smartphones camera flash well
If you’re taking a photo at night, or when light is coming from directly behind your subject, you will need to use the flash setting but there are ways to use it well. It’s actually a good idea to take one with flash and one without if you’re not sure whether you have enough light. You can decide which is better later on, using an editing app to enhance them.
Here is an example below of how much difference you can have in 2 flash photos!
In situations where you have to use the flash you might find it is a little harsh, highlighting the shine and shadows on your subject’s face. But by sticking a thin white sticker or piece of tissue paper over the flash it will diffuse it a little, resulting in softer light which is much more flattering.
4. Clean your lens
Smartphones go everywhere with you, so it’s hardly a surprise when they end up with a few smudges or fingerprints – this could ruin your photo though. Try and get hold of a microfibre cloth to clean it with, to avoid creating tiny scratches on your lens.
5. Optimise settings – white balance, resolution
This is where smartphone cameras have become extremely adaptable. The latest models will allow you to control your white balance for instance, to ensure you photos don’t come out yellow or blue. Most of the time they come out well using ‘automatic’, but you can always play around with the daylight, night time or sunset settings if necessary.
Below is an example of different picture sizes, the larger the better, just make sure you have enough space on your device before you go taking lots of these! The picture on the right shows how the light settings can change your pictures!
The ISO can also be adjusted accordingly. If you’re outdoors with lots of natural light, it’s best to have a low ISO – to result in a less grainy image. If you’re in a situation with little light, put it up as high as it will go. You’ll see a nice alternative if you want to avoid harsh flash.
It’s also best to set the resolution as high as possible, so you can capture larger, better quality images.
6. Take your time
Take a moment to consider the composition of your photo – just like the pros.
Granted, you won’t have time to do this to capture the hilarious moment your friend falls in the pool (although we wouldn’t recommend phones around pools anyway – might be best to see our ‘How to Save a Wet Phone’ post) but if you’re capturing a them on a beautiful beach at sunset you should have time to think.
Here’s an example of a terrible photo being taken as the phone struggles to focus, holding still for just 1-2 seconds will let your phone snap the perfect pic.
Use the rule of thirds – your subject should be in the top third or bottom third of your photo to the left or right, not in the middle. It sounds like we’re being picky, but there’s a reason that the pros use this technique. Some apps like Camera + have a grid setting so you can easily see if you’re doing it right.
Also, be sure to keep your phone steady to avoid blur, especially in low light situations.
7. Get used to your shutter delay
Shutter delay is quite often a problem – this is when it takes a little while after you’ve pressed the button for the photo to actually take. So, get used to how long it takes for your shutter to actually click, and make sure you accommodate for that. If you’re taking a photo of someone jumping in the air and your shutter takes a second, press the button as they take off.
8. Get experimental with settings
Smartphones can have some pretty nifty features when it comes to cameras. For example, if you are trying to capture a friend jumping into the air, you can use a burst setting – which takes lots of photos in a row quickly, to ensure you capture your friend in mid-air. If you’re phone doesn’t do that then there are certainly apps like ‘Burst Mode Camera’ that will.
The panoramic setting can also look amazing if you’re trying to capture the full scene, there’s a good guide to working that here
9. Use editing apps
You should never be afraid of using photo editing apps. Even if you follow all the above steps, chances are you can still further enhance your favourite snap with a bit of creativity.
We all know Instagram is a bit like Marmite – some love it and some hate that filtered appearance. But if you do like it then it’s a free app that also lets you share your photos.
Photoshop Express, Camera + (which I use personally) and Snapseed are also great photo editing apps. Using these you will be able to crop, correct colour, exposure and contrast and even apply filters if you think they enhance your photos well.
Well what’s the point in putting all of that effort into your smartphone shots and not sharing them? If you’re not keen on the Instagram idea (even though this gallery should change your mind) then places like Flickr and Facebook are great for sharing your work. By following the above steps and editing appropriately, people might not even know they were taken on a smartphone.
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