Taking photos on our phones is quick, simple and can be instantly shared with others. The fact that cameras on mobile phones are now of a pretty decent standard we have more opportunity to capture moments as they happen without needing to carry around a “proper” camera – and we can keep and even print those shots. I love taking photos on my phone, it’s so convenient; I can snap away to my heart’s content in all situations, be creative whenever the mood takes me, and have stills to help remind me of nice things.
There are a number of simple tips and tricks that can help us to make the most of our phone cameras. I use an iPhone and so these things may well be specific to that, but you’ll find the functionality is useful across any and probably all decent phones out at the moment. And of course the art of taking a nice photograph is the same regardless of which device you are using. I thought I’d share my best practice ideas with you (and some of my photos too) – I hope you find them useful.
Clean the Lens
First things first. Before you attempt to take any photograph on your phone, turn your phone over and give the lens a wipe. Phones get finger prints all over them, and one across your lens will turn the best photo into a blurry mess – it’s like looking through a car window with rain spots and handprints all over it. Use your t-shirt (or a nice lens cloth) to give it a quick clean and you’re ready to go.
Generally speaking phones have a centred focus point. On an iPhone you can choose exactly where to focus by tapping the screen where you want that focus point to be. This is great for landscapes with people in – you can have the people on the left of the shot in focus by simply tapping on them. It’s also good for shots of people and pets; the most pleasing shots will have the eye in focus, so tap on the eye when taking the picture to get the best focus point.
One thing I see a lot is people talking photos while walking along or moving about, or with one hand waving about all over the place. I don’t know about you but if I did that my photos would be totally blurry – and I suspect theirs are too! Stand still, hold your phone with both hands, lean against something if you need to, breath in, hold your breath for a second, take the shot.
Keep it Straight
Remember that the lens on your phone is in one corner – it’s not in the middle. So look at the screen and make sure you have it straight! You can turn on the grid to help with this and also your general composition.
Please (please please) don’t pinch to zoom. Phone cameras are only equipped with digital zoom. All this does is increase the pixel size so you end up with a shot that is blocky and very difficult to get in focus. If you want a close up shot the best thing is to move! Simply get closer to your subject. Alternatively, if moving closer is impossible, take it as you are and crop later.
All About Light
The most important element in any photograph is the light. Your flash won’t help you get a nice bright shot, it will only fill a very small area in the centre of your frame (and give any people in the shot red eyes and ghostly white faces). What you need is light all around – the more light, the easier it is to get things in focus. Natural light beats artificial light any day of the week – the bulb in your living room light fitting just won’t do the same job as the big yellow thing in the sky outside (even on a cloudy day), so get outside whenever you can. You can’t generally alter ISO settings on your camera phone, so make the most of the light around you; keep it behind or above you and on your subject, and watch out for your own shadow. Also be mindful of lens flare which I find more prevalent when using my phone to take shots. You can use light to your creative advantage too, of course – silhouettes can be pleasing to look at, but if you take a shot of your best friend and they’re all dark and shaded the shot is useless. Night time shots taken on iPhones can look fabulous, but the shutter will stay open for longer so make sure you keep still – experiment with focussing on light areas and dark areas of your shot to get different effects.
Taking the Shot
A useful thing to know is that an iPhone does not take your photo until you take your finger off the shutter button. So you can get yourself set up and sorted, stick your finger on the button, and gently release it to take your shot when you are ready. I’m sure you all know that the + button on the side of your iPhone also works as a shutter button for when you have the camera in the landscape orientation – but did you now that the + button on your headphones also works? This is absolutely brilliant if you are prone to camera shake, and a really great tip if you are trying to use your phone to take a shot over other people’s heads or at a funny angle. If you’re in a rush to open your camera app also remember that you can swipe up on the camera icon on the locked screen which overrides the need to put in your unlock code, getting you access to your camera (and only your camera) nice and quickly.
Oh, and if you want to edit your photographs – crop them, tune them, alter the colours, add filters – then I recommend Snapseed as the most useful app out at the moment. I always take my photographs using the phone’s own camera function (not from within other apps), as this gives you the largest file size possible, and it’s always good to keep the original. Then I open my shot in Snapseed and play about as I want to. I like to use a square format and so I will use Snapseed to crop, and dependent on the shot and what I’m going to use it for I’ll also change the brightness, contrast, saturation, focus point, add tilt shift, and whatever else I think is appropriate. Snapseed can help turn a mediocre shot into a really great one. But it can also turn a really great shot into an awful one, so don’t go too overboard!
Practice Makes Perfect
Of course the best thing about having a camera phone is that you can take loads (and loads) of photographs and decide which is the best later. Snap away to your heart’s content and learn as you practice. Photography on a smartphone is fun, you can get some fabulous shots worthy of the wall as well as some silly shots to share on facebook. It’s quick, easy and very convenient. So keep it in hand and document your life. You’ll be thankful in a few year’s time when you want to walk down memory lane.
I like to share my photographs on instagram – it’s a lovely way to share and view squared up phone snaps. I’m Splodz over there – give me a follow and let me know your instagram name below.
Oh… And to help us all improve, please add your own phone photography hints and tips in the comments box below. Cheers!