It’s often said that the best camera is the one that you have on you at the time. Lucky for us, smart phone camera abilities are improving with each new phone release, making it easier than ever to take professional photos. With a little bit of know-how, most smart phones can take stunning, high quality photos:
Forego the flash
First of all, make sure your lens is clean – a dirty lens can result in cloudy pics. Also, natural light is always better than using the flash. The best light is a few hours before sunset and a few hours after sunrise when the light is more subdued. Overcast days work well too for the same reason. If this is not possible, move your subject into the shade so the light is dispersed more evenly. Always try to have the lighting (whether sun or artificial light) behind you. Pointing the camera towards the sun will cause a shadow effect and loss of contrast.
Unfortunately camera phones are sensitive to movement, so try to minimise shake as much as possible. Rest the phone on something – a wall, table, even your shoulder. Or place the camera on a ledge and use the timer. For more serious snappers, there is a wide range of tripods available that keep your phone steady at any angle.
Think in thirds
Thinking about the composition in advance will save you having to crop your photos later. Remember the ‘rule of thirds’ – placing your subject slightly off-centre actually results in a more balanced image. A lot of phones have a ‘grid’ option that will overlay a grid over the screen making it easier to line up your image. Go to Settings – Camera and turn on ‘grid’.
Most smartphones now give you some control over focus, usually by tapping the screen once. But did you know that you can also adjust the exposure by holding and dragging the slider that pops up? Portrait mode (if your phone has this) will blur the background giving your photo the professional quality that you may have been lacking. This works well when taking pics of your delicious dessert or cocktail, as well as for portraits. Check the editing features in Instagram as they can also be used to blur your background.
No doubt you’ve seen the HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode on your camera, but do you actually know what it does? As the name suggests, HDR adds a more dynamic range to your shots by bringing out the darkest and lightest parts of your picture. It takes a little longer for your phone to take the actual photo so use it on static subjects (landscapes and portraits) rather than moving objects. Some phones allow you to put HDR onto automatic so it will kick in when it thinks you need it.
Burst mode lets you fire off multiple rapid shots – this is usually activated by holding down the shutter button when in camera mode. You can then delete the pictures you don’t want afterwards. This is particularly great for moving and jumping photos.
To zoom or not to zoom
It’s not recommended to digitally zoom by pinching or swiping your screen, as the phone simply enlarges the image resulting in a loss of quality and definition. Some of the latest ‘dual-camera’ smartphones have a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens that works much better than the digital zoom. For extreme close up photos you can buy a macro lens to attach to your smartphone. Other types of lenses are also available to buy.
Have fun with filters
Play around with the different live filters before taking the photo (the icon in the top right corner of the screen). With these you can tweak the colours regardless of the light that you’re dealing with. These filters can also give your photos some really cool creative touches.
Edit with Apps
There are many apps that give you access to extra settings, different features and filters to get your mobile photos looking their best. Try Snapseed, Photoshop Express, VSCO, Pixlr, Adobe Lightroom, PicsArt, Google Photos. And let’s not forget Instagram! It now includes a host of editing and tweaking tools as well as the filters that it’s famous for.
Practice makes perfect
As with most things, practice is the only way to improve, so get out and start shooting. Get familiar with the settings on your particular phone camera. Take multiple shots of one image on various settings and with different lighting and filters to see how they vary. Don’t be afraid to experiment with unusual angles as well as all the suggestions we’ve highlighted in here. Then post for everyone to see!