Phone Photography 101: How to Take Good Pictures With Your Mobile Device
Before the days of smartphones — if you can remember such a time — taking a great photo was a labor-intensive process. Now, it’s easy to master how to take good photos with your phone — no fancy cameras or desktop editing software required.
Brands are catching on, too — these kinds of visuals remain important to marketing. But make no mistake: Taking a great photo on your smartphone is not as simple as pointing and shooting. There are plenty of bad smartphone photos out there — I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few.
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What’s the secret to taking great pictures with your smartphone, then? As it turns out, there are a few of them. Check out these tips below to improve your smartphone photography game. (And once you have the photo-taking part down, check out some of the best photo editing apps for mobile.)
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How to Take Good Photos With Your Phone: 25 Tips & Tricks
1. Use gridlines to balance your shot.
One of the easiest and best ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s gridlines. That superimposes a series of lines on the screen of your smartphone’s camera that are based on the “rule of thirds” — a photographic composition principle that says an image should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, so you have nine parts in total.
According to this theory, if you place points of interest in these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced, level, and allow viewers to interact with it more naturally.
To switch the grid on …
- iPhone: Go to “Settings,” choose “Photos & Camera,” and switch “Grid” on.
- Samsung Galaxy: Launch the camera app, go to “Settings,” scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”
2. Set your camera’s focus.
Today’s phone cameras automatically focus on the foreground of your frame, but not every picture you take on your phone has an obvious subject. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, open your camera app and tap the screen where you want to sharpen the view.
If you’re taking a photo of something in motion, for example, it can be difficult for your camera to follow this subject and refocus as needed. Tap the screen to correct your phone camera’s focus just before snapping the picture to ensure the moving subject has as much focus as possible. A square or circular icon should then appear on your camera screen, shifting the focus of your shot to all of the content inside that icon.
3. Use HDR mode.
High dynamic range or HDR, is a camera app feature that helps balance the light and dark elements in a high-contrast photo. It can be used to give photos a more creative, or artsy vibe, but it is commonly used to produce an image that looks similar to how you see it with your eyes.
Often with smartphone cameras, it’s hard to get the perfect exposure for light and dark areas. You could be taking a photo of someone in a shaded area outside against a bright background or in a room with low light against a bright wall. Setting the exposure to the background could make the person being photographed underexposed. Conversely, setting the exposure to the subject could result in the background being overexposed.
HDR prevents this by retaining both the details in darker areas and shadows and bright areas. The iPhone takes photos in HDR by default. For android phones, you may need to adjust HDRsettings manually.
4. Use natural light.
It’s hard to find a great smartphone photo that was taken with a flash. Most of the time, they make a photo look overexposed, negatively altering colors and making human subjects look washed out.
Take advantage of the sources of natural light you can find, even after dark. This gives you a chance to play with shadows, like in the second image below, or create a silhouette with other ambient sources of light, like traffic and surrounding buildings.
Once you’ve taken the photo, play with the “Exposure” tool in your favorite photo editing app to see if you can make the image slightly brighter, without making it too grainy.
5. Focus on one subject.
Many of the best photos include just one, interesting subject. So when taking a picture of one, spend some extra time setting up the shot. Some professional photographers say that the subject shouldn’t fill the entire frame, and that two-thirds of the photo should be negative space — that helps the subject stand out even more.
But be sure you tap the screen of your smartphone to focus the camera on your subject — that’ll help to ensure that it’s focused and the lighting is optimized.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve taken your photo, you can use filters and apps to make the subject even more vivid, or to crop it to frame the subject correctly. The brightness, contrast, and saturation of the photo can also be adjusted accordingly — all from your phone.
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