How to take better smartphone photos
The summer of festivals, sun, and sea may now be behind us, but that's no reason to pack away the camera. Winter gives us some of the best photography opportunities of the year - from hazy sun to frosty mornings, winter is the perfect season for casual photographers and pros alike. This is everything you need to know about capturing the colder seasons.
How can I take better autumn photos?
Red, orange and brown are classic autumnal colours. From rusty trees to fallen leaves, you’ll see more natural contrast out and about than at any other time of the year. And the changing colour of leaves is always a great reason to play with the macro mode on your camera phone.
Any good smartphone will automatically switch to macro when you get in close to fill the frame with the deep, rich hues of the leaves.
If you want to freeze blowing leaves mid-air, shoot at a fast shutter speed. Or if you want them to blow and blur around your subject, reduce the shutter speed. For this level of control, you’ll need a phone with a manual or pro camera mode like the LG G5.
Plan ahead to take advantage of the winter sun. While it’s low on the horizon, you’ll get dramatic scenes with long shadows and a uniquely golden glow. But the sun sets fast so the shooting window is always narrow. Prepare to visit a location in advance, so that you’re there for the short period when the light is right, or the ‘Golden Hour’ as it’s known.
How can I take better night-time photos?
Night shooting is always challenging for photographers, but there’s no better time to hone your after-dark skills than around Christmas.
If you've got a Samsung Galaxy S7, for example, you’ll have a smartphone that’s great at compensating for the lack of light. It's large pixels suck in loads of light, meaning you'll get a brighter, more accurate photograph. The best way to find the right exposure level is to keep taking photos with different settings until you find the sweet spot – after all, this is 2016 - so you’re not wasting any film.
For the best results, you’ll want a tripod (handheld shots always give lots of blur). If you don’t have a tripod, look for other support when shooting, like a wall. One trick is to carry a small beanbag around with you and nestle your phone in it for a stable platform.
City streets lit by Christmas lights make a great subject, as do bonfires and New Year’s Eve fireworks. Try and shoot after it’s been raining. Reflections in puddles not only look great but they help boost light levels, too.
Phones with manual or pro camera modes will let you raise ISO sensitivity and open the aperture, both of which will aid low-light shooting. Even if there’s no manual mode, there will almost certainly be some preset scenes, including ‘Night-time’ and maybe even a ‘Firework’ mode. If you can’t find a suitable mode, try turning the flash off and resting your phone on something steady.
How can I take better photos in the snow?
Getting out and about after a winter whiteout is always exciting. But snow shooting is a challenge. Cameras have a habit of underexposing the white stuff, turning it grey.
If you’re shooting a scene that’s mostly snow, look for something that isn’t white (a wall, car, or face) and tap it to focus on it as this will also set the exposure level. If you don’t, it’s likely your phone will underexpose the scene, turning crisp white landscapes mucky grey.
Now that you’re a winter photography expert, get out there and start snapping (check out our favourite camera phones if you want the best photos). If you’ve got any more tips for taking great photos, post them in the comments below along with your best shots.