In the past, doing photography on cell phones was something unheard of. Cameras on old phones were pretty sub-par, resulting in pixelated and blurry pictures. However, mobile camera technology has come a long way since then, and the photography done on many smartphones today could rival that taken on some of the more professional cameras out there. Getting good quality photos of this caliber is something anyone can do, too, if they keep some techniques in mind and have some inexpensive equipment on hand.
Some people prefer smartphones for photography over point-and-shoot digital cameras and, in some cases, even bulkier and more expensive DSLR and mirrorless cameras. However, there are some trade-offs when it comes to the number of things you can manually control on a smartphone. However, if you enjoy a challenge or don’t want to spend a lot of money on a camera, smartphone photography may be right up your alley. Here are some tips to help you get the best photos possible during this adventure.
Find natural lighting
Finding natural light sources and knowing how to use it can greatly improve your photography skills. To get soft lighting, look for places where the sun shines indirectly. Direct sunlight can make the lighting in your photos appear too harsh, but you can work around this by using HDR (more on that later). If you’re shooting on a dark and dreary day, you could increase the exposure in post-production to get more visual appeal with lighting.
Another thing to consider is the best times of day to take photos. The best times to take photos are usually very early in the morning, mid-day, and just before nightfall. The so-called golden hour is well-known among photographers as the time just before and after the sun sets and rises when sunlight emits a more diffused, hazy effect (via Adobe.) It’s ideal for evoking emotions in your photographs.
In most cases, you should avoid using your phone’s flash for photography because it can cause photos to look washed out and overexposed. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, so don’t be afraid to experiment with flash.
Use the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a photography technique used to make your photo look visually appealing. The rule employs a grid with three lines equidistant horizontally and three lines vertically, dividing the scene into thirds in both directions. According to Adobe, our eyes naturally gravitate to areas where these lines intersect. Placing a subject at any of these points or aligning scenery with them can produce a visually appealing image.
These grid lines can be activated when using an iPhone or some Android phones. To enable the grid in the iPhone camera app, go to Settings, then Camera, then Composition, and Grid by tapping the slider. Grid lines can also be used on Samsung Galaxy smartphones by opening the Camera app, tapping on the settings icon, and then tapping on Grid Lines. The photos can then be easily aligned with the points of interest.
Because many manufacturers tweak the UI and may place the feature in different menus, the exact method used to turn on grid lines on Android smartphones may differ slightly from the Galaxy instructions.
Use a smartphone tripod
Many companies now make tripods that are specifically designed for smartphones, or that come with extra mounts that can be used with them. Keeping still while taking a photo can be a difficult task, and a tripod comes in handy here. You’ll get nice, clear photos with less effort if you use a tripod; this is especially important if your phone’s camera lacks optical image stabilization. There are many inexpensive smartphone tripods available, but you can also make your own with household items, as CNET demonstrates. These may not be suitable for all environments, but they will suffice in a pinch.
To use a smartphone tripod, it should come with a mounting plate that allows you to place your phone inside. You can then position it on top of the tripod. You can also raise or lower the tripod depending on the type you purchased to achieve different effects. It is also much easier to get very high or low angles on a tripod, which can be useful when taking timed photographs.
Turn on the camera’s HDR setting
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is an excellent setting to use in low-light situations. According to Tech Terms, this feature will take multiple photos with different levels of exposure and then piece them together so you have one comprehensive photo with the different exposure levels. This can be useful if parts of your image appear too bright or too dark. Phones support both auto-HDR and the ability to toggle HDR on and off manually.
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On an iPhone, open the Settings app and select Camera. To use auto-HDR, scroll all the way down and turn on the Smart HDR slider. If you want to turn HDR on or off manually, go to the Camera app and tap on HDR in the top right corner. Because not all Android phones support HDR, you should look up your model to see if it does.