How to get the best images out of your smartphone camera
‘The best camera is the one you have with you.’ This old saying still rings true, but perhaps in ways unimagined by earlier generations of photographers!
These days nearly everyone has a smartphone, and therefore a camera, with them almost all the time. We hear a lot of talk about the whizz bang features contained in the cameras on these super sharp devices, but often all we want to do is point and shoot.
Do you know how to get the best images out of your smartphone camera? Here are our top five tips for taking great snaps with the camera you have in your pocket.
Clean the lens
You don’t need a fancy cloth but you do need to give your phone camera lens a wipe every now and then. Think about where your phone has been: the bottom of your handbag, deep inside your pockets, sitting on benchtops and even lying on the floor. We often clean the screen on our phones, but we pay little attention to the other side.
Turn your camera over, let the screen rest on a table or bench, and give the camera lens a wipe to remove dust, smudges and fingerprints.
Consider the lighting
Overcast days often provide the prefect lighting conditions for taking great photos. Too much sunshine will produce washed out images. On sunny days, try to shoot your photographs undercover, or in the shade.
Avoid positioning your subject in front of a window or light source as this will only create shadowy images. Remember to move around until the light is behind you, and illuminating your subject.
Lose the zoom
Most smartphone photographers agree that the zoom on your smartphone camera should be used very sparingly. Many people are accustomed to zooming in with digital SLR cameras where the lens itself moves forward to adjust to the conditions. This is not possible on smartphones where zooming often results in a loss of picture quality.
Rather than zooming in with your smartphone, try to move yourself to be physically closer to your subject. If you are unable to get any closer, it might be best to zoom and crop your images, after you have taken them, using the features on your phone. There are numerous photography apps you can use to enhance the images you capture on your smartphone.
Try an app
Take your mobile photography to the next level by controlling levels of contrast, white balance, colour saturation and brightness. These apps allow you to fine tune your images, just like a professional.
VSCO is an image editor that offers some great filter effects and options for manipulating exposure and adding film grain. This works well when editing portraits of people, and animals.
Brushstroke can transform your photographs into beautiful paintings with the touch of a button. This is a fun way to play with your travel photography and works particularly well on snaps of building facades and landscapes.
Afterlight enables you to alter the appearance of your pictures with a simple swipe. If you’d like to create vintage looking shots, or even finely tuned works of art, this is the app for you.
Google Photos can automatically save your photos to Google’s cloud and therefore allow you to access them from any device you own. The Auto Awesome feature of this app magically sends you ‘enhanced’ versions of your own photographs to enjoy along with the originals.
Snapseed offers everything from colour and contrast enhancement to cropping and sharpening to improve the quality of your images. Filters and frames are easily employed by simply swiping and swapping across the screen.
Lightroom includes auto, professional and HDR shooting modes to help you take great pictures with your smartphone. Lightroom makes sharing your photographs to social media, or your personal gallery, simple and fast.
Go for gold
Our days are framed by the golden hours. The first hour of daylight in the morning, and the last hour of daylight in the evening, are known as the magic hours for photography. The sun is low in the sky during the golden hours and everything is bathed in a diffused, gentle and flattering light.
Any type of outdoor photography will be enhanced by the warm glow and soft colours of dawn and dusk. Landscapes and city scenes, flowers and plants, even people and animals all look their best during the golden hours.
Not only will your photography benefit from the light of the golden hours but, as there are generally fewer people around during these times, your chances of capturing images without other distractions in the frame are greatly increased.
If you enjoy experimenting with smartphone photography you might like to join a local, or online, club where amateur smartphone photographers share their work and seek advice. You could even try a photography challenge or enter your work in a competition.
What will you choose to capture with that camera in your pocket?