One of the best things about modern smartphones is that they can replace your camera so you only need to carry one gadget with you. But if you’re going to use a camera phone to take great photos, you’ll need to know what you’re doing. So here are a few top tips for taking beautiful photos with your smartphone.
KEEP YOUR PHONE STEADY
Blurry photos are usually the result of a shaky phone. To minimise this, hold the shutter button, don’t poke at it. Then you can take your thumb off slowly so the camera’s steady when it takes the shot. And use two hands! We prefer to hold the phone steady with the left hand and use the right thumb for the shutter button.
TRY NOT TO ZOOM IN
With most phones, using the zoom cuts the quality of your photos. So get close to your subject if you can. This will minimise camera shake and give you the highest quality photos.
TAP TO FOCUS
Tap your phone’s screen to focus on the subject of your photo. Then you can tap and hold the screen to lock the focus and exposure settings. This’ll give you better photos if you move slightly after you’ve focused.
KEEP PHOTOS SIMPLE
The photos you take on your phone will probably be viewed on phones with small screens that don’t help complex shots look their best. Look for simple patterns that are easy to follow, like straight lines and repetition, to make your shots look professional.
FIND THE RIGHT LIGHTING
Avoid shooting portraits in direct sunlight as it causes harsh shadows. The best light would be on a bright but cloudy day, but anywhere with even shade will do. Think ‘next to a house’ rather than ‘under a tree’ as the light coming through the leaves could create unfortunate shadows. If you can’t find anywhere shady, use your phone’s flash to fill in the shadows on your subject.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE LIGHT
If you’re taking a photo of a bright scene, see if you can find an angle that creates silhouettes. This can add an extra dimension to a landscape photo.
KEEP DETAIL IN BRIGHT LIGHT
It’s easy to accidentally lose a lot of detail if your photo’s too bright. To make sure you don’t miss anything, lower the exposure value, or EV, on your phone. By under exposing a photo, it comes out darker and would keep all the detail. But you’ll need a top camera phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for this level of control.
Look for reflections to create some really unique photos. A reflection in a puddle can give a photo a whole different perspective.
LOOK FOR A SENSE OF SCALE
Use people or common objects to give scale. A photo of the Grand Canyon has little meaning without a car or person standing on the edge to show how big it is.
TAKE PHOTOS FROM UNUSUAL ANGLES
Photos are a lot more interesting if they’re taken from an angle that people wouldn’t expect. So crouch down or find a higher spot to shoot from.
SHOOT THE QUIRKY AND UNEXPECTED
If you see something that looks unusual, take a photo of it. That’s the beauty of camera phones; they’re always there for those unexpected moments.
SHOOT IN BLACK AND WHITE
When the sun’s strong, you can get some really nice black and white photos thanks to the strong shadows and light areas. Just remember the other tips and use the flash to avoid shadows and you’ll get some great artistic shots.
SHOOT IN LANDSCAPE
Smartphones are usually held in portrait, but cameras traditionally shoot in landscape because that gets more into your scene. So remember to turn you phone round when you’re shooting photos or videos. You’ll suddenly have a lot more in your photos and they’ll look like they’ve been taken with a regular camera.
If you want to take top quality photos at night, you’ll need to think of a few extra things. So here are our top tips for night photography.
TURN OFF THE FLASH
The first thing you want to do is turn off your phone’s flash. They only work at short range, so you never see the background of your shots, and they normally make things look pretty unnatural as they create a really white light. Even if you leave the rest of your settings in auto, turn off the flash.
SET THE ISO AND SHUTTER SPEED
Now you’ll want to play with some of your phone’s settings to compensate for the lack of light. Most new smartphones will let you change two key things, the ISO and shutter speed. The ISO tells the phone how sensitive it should be to light, so for the best night shots set this to the highest number possible. A slower shutter speed will also let in more light, but will make it easier to blur the photo. Try a few different speeds to see which works best for your shot.
CHOOSE THE WRONG WHITE BALANCE
Once you’ve managed to get your photos bright enough, you can make their colours really stand out by changing the white balance setting on most phones. Using the fluorescent light setting makes night landscapes look really cool, while the cloudy setting works well for portraits. Play with them all to find one that you like for your particular photo.
STEADY YOUR PHONE
The most important thing to do once you’ve sorted out all the settings is to keep your phone completely steady. As the shutter will probably be open for longer than normal even a tiny amount of hand shake can blur a shot. So rest your phone on a solid surface or invest in a mini tripod.
Fireworks are fun to photograph. And there’s one extra tip for getting better shot of these beautiful bursts of light. Point your phone at the fireworks, tap the screen when one goes off, but don’t take a photo of it. This locks the exposure and focus settings onto that part of the sky, then when the next firework goes off your phone will take the photo much faster, giving you the perfect shot.