If you know how to take a good picture, you’re more likely to capture images that are compelling to you, and those who view your work. There is certainly a learning curve. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Strong Pictures Without The Hassle
Even so, doing anything well is a challenge. Here we’ll briefly explore six photography tips to help you get the balance right.
The good news is, modern mobile photographic capabilities are more qualitative, affordable, and user-friendly than they have ever been—in fact, it’s to the point that traditional work in photography is a bit threatened.
Even so, professional photographers need not be threatened; there is still a lot of skill that just won’t translate to the average user.
However, it’s easier to get on their level than ever, if you want to. Most people just don’t put in the time, but that’s really all that holds them back.
The truth is, if you explore different options and are diligent to continue learning new photographic techniques, you can really make some things happen.
It all depends on how far you want to go with what you can do through your phone.
1. Lighting: Get it Right Before Snapping the Picture
If you’re taking a photo of a black bear in a dark cave without any light source, all you’re going to get is a picture of obsidian nothingness. You’ve got to light up that dangerous critter; ideally from a distance.
Your smartphone should have some sort of light feature on it for pictures taken in the dark, but it will be stark and obvious.
If you can set up the lighting deliberately, that’s helpful. If you can’t, the camera’s light can help you work with what you’ve got where you are.
Thankfully, with smartphones, you can essentially take endless pictures; so if things aren’t quite right, you can take a few different shots until you find one that works.
Here’s a pro-tip: before you start taking pictures, be sure you know whether or not the camera’s flash is on.
Some pictures can only be captured in an instant of time. If you snap the photo and your phone’s “flash” isn’t on, that opportunity may be gone for good.
As they say, practice makes perfect. So practice by taking more photos daily.
2. Are You Familiar With “Depth of Field” and “Portrait Mode”?
“Depth of Field” is the distance between objects near the camera, and objects far away. Focus on a nearby object, and you’ll have a blurry background. Focus on an object that’s far away and you’ll have a blurry foreground.
You want to get the balance right, and blurring different aspects of foreground and background features using focus options can create some surprisingly compelling photos.
There’s a sort of artistic aspect to many photos utilizing depth-of-field. What is blurred can become a sort of “character” in your photo.
Maybe you’ve got a picture with a clear background and a blurred foreground; maybe the reverse is true.
On iPhones and Android devices, there tend to be “portrait mode” options that automatically calibrate focus to fit whatever is in front of the camera directly, allowing you to manage depth of field without having to dive into camera focus settings too deeply.
3. “Red Eye” Removal Options
Lighting, angles, and depth of field may be perfect, but sometimes you still snap a photo and see the eyes of your friends or family are as red as a rose at a wedding. That’s no good unless you’re deliberately going for some creepy aesthetic.
Here’s a link that can help you learn how to get rid of red-eye in photos with ease.
Some cameras come with built-in apps to remove red-eye, some don’t. Even without specific software to remove red-eye, you’ve got options.
You can manually perform the procedure using software like Photoshop. It’s easier to use apps designed for the purpose.
Also, though the results may not be as you would prefer, older photos can be scanned into digital domains and fixed; it just depends on what you’re willing to settle for.
Older photos aren’t digital files, meaning the way software would automatically cleanse “red-eye” effects will be slightly affected by a reduction of available data.
So the best practice is using red-eye removal on pictures on your smartphone right after you capture them.
4. A Straightforward and Often Ignored Step: Clean Lenses
Your smartphone is always in your pocket. Your pockets are full of lint, and little bits of dirt, and tobacco dust if you’re a smoker.
Then, when you go to grab your phone, every now and again you put your fingers on the lenses without realizing it, and that transfers oil to them which smudges the final picture.
Get in the habit of, firstly, keeping lenses safe, and secondly, cleaning them before you take any pictures. This will help you get clearer photos with less annoyance.
All you need to do is be at a big event with a celebrity speaker or politician, snap a picture, get home, and see nothing but an exaggerated blur to know why lens cleaning is so important.
Professional photographers will store their lenses in special cases that keep them safe from being jostled and assure lenses are always perfectly clear. They’ll also use special cleaning equipment designed to cleanse glass lenses without leaving smudges.
That’s kind of “overkill” for a smartphone, but then again, finding ways of protecting your phone like this might be worthwhile.
It depends on how serious you are as a photographer. Today’s pros tend to combine old cameras, new ones utilizing digital operational ability, and smartphone innovations. They keep lenses for all three clean.
5. Adjusting Exposure Helps You Get Levels of Brightness Right
Varying levels of exposure will impact how bright a photo appears. Limited exposure will make even sun-bright gardens appear muted.
High levels of exposure can make darker areas seem brighter. This is another area of photography that benefits from experimentation.
Find a subject that allows you to capture images with relative ease, and adjust both lighting and exposure settings on your camera to see what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Note varying settings as you change them so you have that information readily available for future reference.
6. Camera Grids and the Rule of Thirds
Mobile devices have “camera grids” which are a nine-square cross-section of lines that is mapped atop what your camera is seeing through its lenses.
Think “tic-tac-toe”. The rule of thirds involves evenly dividing the subject matter of a photo to be distributed equally throughout that grid.
It’s worth noting that some smartphones may have a grid with a different number of squares.
It doesn’t matter how many squares there are, it matters that you divide them into three equal parts, and use such division to organize what your photos ultimately look like.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want your main photographic subject on the centerline of squares, your secondary item of focus along the bottom, and the tertiary item at the top.
You can also reverse that order if you like, and try different configurations. It’s like this: with music, you’ve got minor keys and major keys.
You can play minor notes in major keys. In fact, you can have “cross chord” situations where you play, say, a D-minor in the key of A-major simultaneous to an “A” chord on the bass. The juxtaposition ends up creating an artistic sound that’s beautiful.
Similarly, with the rule of thirds, you can create compelling pictures by changing up which subjects are at the “center” of the photo. Cats are a great example.
You’ve seen the video with the lady doing gymnastics in the background, and the cat who walks up and takes over the picture. That’s funny, but there’s a story being told, which can be artistic.
Getting the Most From the Pictures You Take
There are plenty of best practices with photography that you can utilize to capture more compelling images.
From the time of daguerreotypes to today, photography has come a long way, and there are entire textbooks on the subject of best practices in the capture and development of varying pictures. Smartphone tech is changing the game again.
To get the balance right, keep in mind that camera grids help in applying the “rule of thirds”. Adjusting exposure levels helps you get the most light for a given picture.
Clean lenses also provide clarity in mobile photography. Use automatic depth-of-field features like “portrait mode”, and understand how “depth-of-field” works generally.
Lastly, use apps to remove “red-eye”, and get the lighting right. While you can manipulate older photos using modern software, results may vary. It’s best to have good media to work with from the start.
These straightforward tips have the potential to make mobile photos you took look so good, some will see them and assume you worked with a professional photographer.