Thanks to smartphones it’s never been easier to take a photo. And not just take a photo but take really good photos, almost professional quality photos.
Want to know how to get from “almost professional quality photos” to “wow, that looks like it was taken by a professional photographer”? Here are our top 10 mobile photography tips that will take you to the next level.
Clean the Lens
Think about it. How often do you take your cell phone out of your pocket or bag, check your messages or news feeds, then slip it back? Hundreds of times? What do you think that does to the lens on your phone? Dirt, dust and other contaminants that collect on the lens from daily use block light, which shows up as blurs on your photos. That smudge right over your significant other’s face? It’s caused by a dirty lens.
So, right before you take a picture, take out a soft lens cloth (not just any cloth, a lens cloth, other types of cloth can scratch) and clean the lens.
This is easy. Your iPhone, as well as most other cell phones, displays a small yellow square as the focus point. Make sure your subject is in the frame, then tap the screen. Pro tip: when you’re shooting people or animals focus on the eyes.
When you set the focus on your cell phone camera, you also set the exposure, meaning how bright or dark the image will look. Sometimes, you might want to set the exposure yourself. Could be for artistic reasons (you want something to abnormally bright or dark to emphasize a mood), could be you just don’t think your cell phone camera is “seeing” the image the way you’d like it. While you can adjust the exposure afterward, pro photographers usually recommend setting the right exposure when you take the picture for the easiest and best results.
Okay, you’re at a concert in the cheap seats and you want that close up shot of your favorite band so you can actually see their faces. We get it. But for other kinds of photos, the ones you want to have that pro look, avoid using zoom. Cell phone cameras have a digital zoom, not an optical zoom like you’d find in a “real” standalone dedicated camera. A digital zoom crops the image and reduces its quality. If you want to get in a real tight shot, don’t use the zoom, just walk closer to the subject.
Rule of Thirds
You can put a grid over your camera’s screen. (On an iPhone, go to Settings>Photos & Camera to turn the Grid on.) What that does for you is divide the view screen horizontally and vertically into thirds. You want to position your subject off-center in line with one of vertical lines. Not in the dead center of the grid, which is what most inexperienced photographers think. Take a look at the photos you find most interesting. In almost every case, you’ll find the subject is placed off-center.
Bend Down, Get High
Getting down to take a picture from ground level up provides a different perspective than from standing in a normal position. As does taking a picture looking down from a higher elevation. Cell phone cameras are great because they are light enough to carry and snapshots from different positions that might otherwise be awkward.
Take Multiple Shots
Here that continuous clicking noise from cameras at news events? Pro photographers aren’t looking for the perfect shot, they take a series of shots and then later go back to find the perfect shot. No one just takes a picture that turns out to be the best picture possible. (Well, okay, sometimes you can, but not all that often.) Take multiple shots from various angles and distances, delete the ones you don’t think came out so well, keep the ones that did.
Can’t get everything in that one shot? This is where panorama mode comes in handy. On an iPhone, swipe left until you see Pano selected. Hold the camera in portrait orientation, point to the left-hand side of the image you want to capture. Tap the shutter button and pan slowly to the right to capture the full scene. As you’re panning, you should see a yellow line to follow. The slower you can pan, the better the image.
Put it in Black and White
Eliminating color and putting everything in black and white isn’t just a retro look, it can help bring out details and give the image an artistic feel. This is particularly true if your shot contains a lot of colors that are distracting from where you really want the eye to focus. You can easily convert a color photo to black and white, but in some situations you may want to consider shooting in black and white in the first place.
Unless you want to intentionally blur the image, you need to hold the smartphone steady. To really ensure a steady picture, consider the Triflex Mini Cell Phone Tripod with Remote or the Unimount 360 Tripod Mount Adapter. You don’t need a tripod in every circumstance, of course, but for low light situations, a tripod can make the difference between a good photo and a professional quality photo.