As a full-time travel writer and a photographer we spend our lives trying to capture special moments we encounter on the road through the lenses of our cameras.
The rise of apps like Instagram showed that we all love to document our lives on the go. That’s where our smartphones come in super handy.
These days, our smartphones are powerful compact cameras, and they’re changing the photography game entirely. As many photographers will tell you, the best camera you have is often just the one you have with you – and who really ever leaves home without their phone?!
Whether you’re looking to capture your own travels or just lift your daily Instagram game, we’ve put together our favorite tips to help you take better photos with your smartphone.
UNDERSTAND THE BASICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Photography is bound by a few set of rules; understand these few simple photography composition basics and you’ll have your mobile photography game nailed in no time.
USE GRIDLINES TO BALANCE YOUR SHOT
One of the easiest and best ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s gridlines. There is a rule in photography called the “rule of thirds” that helps you to compose well-balanced photograps. It says that the image composition could be broken down into thirds using 2 intersecting horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, so you have 9 parts in your picture.
The idea is that human eye naturally drives towards the lines and where they meed. So use your phone camera grid to help you place the monst important elements along the intersections or along the lines. This will make your photo not only more balanced, but it will help the viewer to interact with it more naturally.
To switch the grid on …
- iPhone: Go to “Settings”, choose “Photos & Camera,” and switch “Grid” on.
STRAIGHTEN THE HORIZON LINE
Another important thing that must be in your picture is a straight horizon. You don’t want your image to look like it’s falling off its axis! Straighten up those horizon lines! If you forget to shoot the horizon straight while taking the photograph, you can always fix it up using the edit function on your phone after. And that’s why the next element is very important.
TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS
If we’re heading out on a day’s shoot with our camera, we’ll generally take upwards of 600 photos. Later on, we will go through them and select the best for post-production. And it shouldn’t be any different with mobile photography!
Take a photo, analyse it, then make the necessary changes. Move around, get creative by adjusting angles or perspectives, or modify your exposure. You can always delete extra photos later, but you can’t capture the same scene twice.
USE NATURAL LIGHT
Photography is all about capturing light, so stick to it and always think about it when you’re taking a photo. It’s hard to find a great smartphone photo that was taken with a flash. Your phone’s camera is best equipped for soft, natural light – so look for the ‘golden hour’ in the early morning and late afternoon. This is also the time of day when shadows are softened, colors are deeper and richer, and the whole world just looks magical.
FOCUS ON ONE SUBJECT
Many of the best photos include just one, interesting subject. For instance, if you’re taking a portrait of your friend, focus the camera on the human subject first and foremost, then recompose the best shot around them. Some professional photographers say that the subject shouldn’t fill the entire frame, and that two-thirds of the photo should be filled with “other space” – that helps the subject to stand out even more.
KEEP YOUR LENS CLEAN
This might be really obvious, but we clean the lenses of our DSL often. There is nothing worse when you want to capture a shot and you miss it because you lense was dirty. Always give it a quick wipe before you click.
GET OUT TO EXPLORE AND BE READY
Photography is always about taking an opportunity, whether it’s a particular moment or the perfect light. Your phone is almost always in your hand or pocket, so take the opportunity when that incredible moment arrives.
There’s no secret to photography – it’s definitely all about being in the right position at the right time. So get out and explore, whether it’s in the mountains or in a city.
LEARN THE CAPABILITIES OF YOUR PHONE
SET THE FOCUS MANUALLY
Today’s phone cameras automatically focus on the foreground of your frame, but not every picture you take on your phone has an obvious subject. But getting your focus right is super important. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, open your camera and tap the screen where you want your focus to be (on iPhone’s, the focus point is shown via the yellow box). Often, this will also help you to manage which part of your photo you’d like to be ‘exposed’, which will help you to stop your shot from being too dark or too light.
NEVER USE THE ZOOM FUNCTION
When you take a photo from a distance, it’s tempting to zoom in on something specific you’re trying to capture. But it’s actually better not to zoom in – doing so can make the photo appear blurry, or pixelated.
Sadly, unlike DSLRs which utilise optical zoom that gets you in nice and close to your subject without distorting the image at all, the digital zoom on your phone actually crops the image as it zooms. This means that your closeup will end up blurry and distorted, much like when you attempt to zoom in on a website image on your computer or mobile.
Instead, try to get closer to your subject – unless it’s a wild animal, in which case we would advise keeping your distance – or take the photo At a normal size and crop it to the size you want during editing. That way, you won’t compromise quality, and it’s easier to play around or optimize a larger image.
USE THE VOLUME BUTTON
Sometimes – like when you’re about to take a group selfie or with your gloves in winter – pressing the phone screen without dropping your phone is almost impossible. Press the volume button on your phone to release the shutter instead.
ATTACH ADDITIONAL LENSES
Want to get really fancy? External lenses are for you. There are actually several out there that can be attached to the top of your smartphone’s native camera lens – from fish-eye to wide-angle lenses, these add-ons can bring an entirely new quality and perspective to your photos.
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