They say the best camera is the one you have with you and in today’s world that camera fits right in your pocket! Capturing images with our phones is fun, quick, and easy and the image quality is pretty amazing. With every new smart phone released on the market the camera quality is getting better and better, but you know what else they say? The camera doesn’t make the photographer! Any camera whether it be a vintage film camera, a professional DSLR or a smart phone, the camera is still just a tool and while modern technology has made it easy to take a photo, there is still some skill needed to take a GOOD photo. In this post we are going to look at some tips and tricks to get great photos with your smart phone or any camera you have at your side!
1. FIND THE LIGHT
Lighting is everything when it comes to photography. A good light source is paramount when it comes to getting good photos. But how do you find the best light?
The best tip I can give is to find a light source that is soft and doesn’t cast harsh shadows on your subject. You can typically find this type of light by placing your subject near a window during daylight hours. This gives a flattering light for photos of people and pets, just be aware of direct sun shining through the window as this can cause harsh shadows and “hot spots” on your subject.
You can also put your subject in the shade if you are outdoors. The shade of a tree or a building can give you a nice soft, even light. But watch your background! You don’t want your subject in the shade and have your background to be much brighter than your subject, this will cause your background to be over-exposed and look unnatural.
2. DITCH THE FLASH
Smart phones are excellent for taking personal photos, but one area they cannot compete with professional cameras is with flash photography. The flash on your smart phone has a tendency to be slow to fire, very harsh, and can wash out the colors in your photos creating an unflattering look to your subject. Make sure to take your photos in natural light, ditch the flash and you will be one step ahead in getting great smart phone photos!
3. PORTRAIT MODE
One of the best features that became available on smart phones in the past few years is portrait mode. This mode will blur your background - simulating the effect that many pro photographers use when they want to separate their subject from a busy background and put the main focus on the subject. This will not only make your subject stand out in the foreground, but it will also make a less than desirable background look nicer in your photos. Portrait mode also has a few other tricks up its sleeve by offering some extra color pop, sharpening, and processing to your photo.
Try to take your photo at different angles and position your subject in different areas of the frame. This will make your photo more interesting and draw the viewers eyes to the subject. Get down low or try to get up high to vary the photos a bit. You can also experiment with different techniques such as the rule of thirds or leading lines to create interesting photos.
5. KEEP IT STEADY
Keep your hands as steady as possible so you can eliminate any blur that may come from shaky hands, also so make sure your subject is standing still to avoid any motion blur. You may also consider using a cell phone tripod to keep your smart phone still while taking your photo, this will also be handy if you're trying to take a self portrait.
Make sure you are putting the focus on your subject! With smart phones this is incredibly easy, just tap the subject on your screen and the camera will focus! Doesn’t get easier than that! This is very important to get the sharpest photos possible.
Editing has been a huge part of photography since the days of film. There is a very good chance that every professional photo you see has been edited in some way whether it be color correction, blemish removal, or even has parts of the photos regenerated by AI! Digital photography has made editing much simpler over the years and has put a digital darkroom in your pocket! Your phone has some presets that you can apply to photos to give them extra pop, color balance, sharpness and even different simulations of old film. The key to editing is to experiment with different filters, but don’t over-do it, you don’t want to lay so many filters on your photo that the subject becomes unnatural looking. If you make a mistake, just hit undo!
8. QUALITY SETTINGS
All digital cameras including your smart phone have quality settings that you should pay attention to. Make sure you are taking your photos at the best setting possible. This is especially important if you plan on printing your photos. You do not want your camera to be set for a lower quality if you plan on printing, this will compress the image to save space on your device, but it will also shrink the “physical” size of the photo and will give very poor results in your printed material.
9. AVOID LOW LIGHT SITUATIONS
Smart phones have trouble with low light scenarios. They are getting better and manufacturers are trying to develop new “modes” on their camera apps such as “night sight” on the google pixel but they still have a long way to go before they can really take low light images with good quality. An example of a low light scenario would be a room in your house in the evening with a single lamp on. This type of lighting will force your smart phone to slow the shutter speed causing blur and also increase the ISO which will cause grain in your photo, your phone will also struggle with producing accurate colors in these types of situations. Try to take your photos during the day for best results.
10. TO ZOOM OR NOT TO ZOOM
Most smart phones will have a zoom feature which is convenient to get closer to your subject, but often this is a digital zoom which causes grain and brings your image quality way down. The best zoom you can use is your feet! If you need to get closer to your subject, keep the camera at it’s standard view and walk closer to the subject. With that said, some phones are now incorporating multi lenses on their camera which will give you different optics for wide angles and telephoto options, but good old “foot zoom” is still the best option and still preferred by many professional photographers!
11. TAKE A LOT OF PHOTOS
Keep taking lots of photos! Practice makes perfect and the more your practice the better you will get at it! You can always delete the ones you are unhappy with!
BONUS TIP - STRIKE A POSE!
We covered many different tips in this post, but another important aspect of your photo is your subject and how they are posing for the photo! I can write a book on how to properly pose someone for a photo but to keep this brief here are some simple tips to get good photos of people.
- For kids, have them sit criss-cross-apple-sauce and tell them if they look really close at the lens they may see elmo or whatever character is popular these days - it is sure to get them to look at the camera - and will get some really cute,natural reactions out of them. Trying to get a child to pose for a photo is a challenge for any photographer, so it is best to keep it as natural and candid as possible.
- For girls and woman, hands on the waste in super-hero stance, but have her face to the left or right, then ask her to turn her shoulders slightly towards you, and look at the camera over her shoulder. This always makes a nice photo!
- For the guys, its always good to try to give them something to lean on, a wall or even a tree - It gives a nice casual, relaxed look and if you play with angles you can get some great looks!
- For newborns it is usually best to get shots of them while they are sleeping. As a parent, if you are lucky enough to have a sleeping baby and have the energy to take photos - you are golden, especially if you plan it out and have them sleeping in a cute blanket, fun pajamas, or with some stuffed animals. When it comes to babies, don’t try to replicate photos you may have seen online taken by pros - these photos are usually heavily edited to create these images and best kept in the hands of a pro!
- For most people, have them slowly walk towards the camera, put one foot in front of the other. Have them put their hands in their pockets or put their arms out like they are balancing on a tightrope - This always gives a great photo and the subject is posing and doesn’t even know it! You can also have them walk away from you, have them stop and look over their shoulder towards the camera with a big smile - works every time!
This has been a guest blog post by Joe Sanfilippo of 434 Photography, an exceptionally talented photographer whose keen eye and expertise in mobile photography have led to some awe-inspiring visuals. In this article, Joe shares his expertise on the art of capturing breathtaking smartphone photos that are not only perfect for social media but also suitable for submission for printed items, like candy bars wrappers, invitations and announcements.