20 Simple Smartphone Photography Tips to Help You Take Better Pictures
They say that the best camera is the one that's with you, and recent technological developments have proved this statement to hold more truth now than ever before. Smartphone photography has become a priority for phone manufacturers, each year coming one step closer to professional camera equipment. As a result, the amount of amateurs and pros alike using their phones to capture pictures has skyrocketed.
What’s not to love? You are already carrying your phone with you all the time, using it to navigate social media, and even managing your photography website with it. But despite what marketers might want you to believe, taking outstanding photos with your smartphone is not that easy. In order to make the most of your phone camera, you’ll first need to overcome some hurdles.
To help you become a pro in the field, we’ve put together 20 easy smartphone photography tips that will teach you all you need to make the most of the powerful camera you always carry with you.
Use the manual mode
Just like with any other types of cameras, you should shoot smartphone photography in manual mode whenever possible. Doing so will give you much more control over the outcome of the image, allowing you to truly bring your vision to life. In addition to basic options such as use of flash and image aspect ratio, this mode lets you select the different exposure triangle settings, white balance, focus, metering, and more.
Learn to read light
More than a smartphone photography tip, this is one of the most essential photography tips for beginners. Light is the essence of photography, and as such you should be able to understand how it affects every scene and the message it transmits. The best way to get familiar with lighting is to read photography books on the topic and do some experimenting of your own.
Think about composition
You’re probably familiar with the popular photography quote by Ansel Adams that reads “It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” One of the main things that is completely up to the photographer is composition, a deciding factor in how drawn people will be to your image. So brush up on your photography composition rules knowledge and envision how to frame each scene before pressing the shutter.
Master your camera app
In order to make the most of your smartphone photography adventure, you’ll need to know your tools like the back of your hand. Spend time testing the different camera settings your device offers, getting used to the navigation and learning all the shortcuts. This will not only allow you to make the most of your device, but also help you set up the perfect exposure much faster and avoid missing crucial moments.
Turn on the grid
Adding gridlines to the frame is one of the most valued features by smartphone photography enthusiasts. As your photography skills improve, the rule of thirds will become second nature. However, being able to see the grid above the scene is always a big helper. Use it to make sure your horizon is perfectly straight and as a guideline for your compositions.
Keep your lens clean
Keeping your different types of camera lenses protected is an absolute priority as a photographer. However, your phone’s camera is constantly exposed to harmful elements such as dust, lint, and fingerprints. Since you cannot keep it stored in a safe location when you aren’t using it nor protect it with a lens cap, simply ensure that it is perfectly clean before you start taking pictures. Otherwise, you might end up with blurry shots or images with endless unwanted elements.
Capture RAW files
As phones become more and more technologically advanced, their photo capabilities become closer to those offered by actual cameras. Most phones now allow you to shoot in RAW, which is especially valuable when shooting in low light conditions such as interior portraits or food photography. To make the most of smartphone photography, invest in a good memory card and capture all of your images in RAW.
Shoot in burst mode
One of the main concerns of smartphone photography is shutter lag, with a fraction of a second passing between the moment you tap the shutter and the actual image captured. While this might not be an issue when shooting more static situations such as portrait photography, moving subjects can pose quite a challenge. Setting your phone to burst mode and taking several images can help you save the day when it comes to testing your skills on children or pet photography.
Invest in a tripod
Tripods are one of the most precious pieces of gear in nearly all photography careers, and smartphone photography is not an exception. Investing in a good tripod you can carry around with ease can make a huge difference in the outcome of your work. On top of allowing you to explore creative techniques such as long exposure photography, it can also help you slow down and capture perfectly composed and focused landscape photography images.
Zoom with your feet
One of the most important smartphone photography tips to remember is to refrain from using the zoom. Unlike in traditional cameras where the focal length is altered optically, this action is purely digital on phones. As a result, the images captured are of significantly lower quality. To avoid this, simply walk closer to your subject rather than using the zoom feature. Unless you’re shooting wildlife photography, of course, in which case you'll want to stay away from those lions.
Find the right accessories
As the popularity of smartphone photography grows, so does the number of mobile camera accessories available in the market. From attachable lenses and led lights to remote shutters and printers, you can get pretty much anything your shutterbug heart desires. Rather than spend half of your salary as soon as you start getting into the field, wait until you’ve practiced enough to realize which of these smartphone photography accessories can actually make an impact on your work.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón said that “Patience is the mother of all virtues.” As a photographer, mastering the art of patience will allow you to carefully identify the best composition for each scene and subject. Rather than pressing the shutter as soon as you see something nice, think about how you should capture it to evoke a certain feeling or tell a particular story. There are several photography documentaries that will teach you all about the importance of patience, including the popular Henri Cartier-Bresson’s short film The Decisive Moment.
Explore different genres
When thinking about smartphone photography, the first images that come to mind are probably street, portrait, or travel photography snaps. However there are many other types of photography that can benefit from the flexibility and ease of use of smartphone photography. For example, you can take your product photography work to the next level by showing the day-to-day use in a natural manner, or push your creativity with fine art photography.
Exploit the limitations
Constantly challenging yourself is the best way to improve your skills, and smartphone photography comes with a set of challenges of its own. We have already offered you some tips on how to overcome issues such as lack of optical zoom and shutter lag, but what if you were to see them as opportunities instead? Not having complete control of the images will force you to come up with creative photography ideas to counteract the challenges.
Edit your pictures
#NoFilter might be one of the most popular photography hashtags, but you should know by now that this adversity to post-processing images is nothing but a photography myth. Keep in mind that Lightroom and Photoshop are to digital photography what the dark room is to film photography. So before you consider sharing any of your images, use a free photo editing software to enhance their look and feel.
Try other camera apps
Just like with any piece of photography equipment, you might reach a point in your skill development where it feels like your device is dragging you down. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you need to get the latest phone in the market. There are numerous photography apps offering great alternatives to native phone cameras, with a wider range of tools and features. Since the majority of them are free, you can simply try them out to see which one better suits your needs.
Share the results
Few platforms are as popular as Instagram for photographers, yet that doesn’t mean it’s the only place where you should share your work. Creating your own professional photographer website will allow you to reach a much broader audience as well as sell your photos online. All you need to do is personalize one of these free photography website templates and make sure to follow these tips on SEO for photographers.
Save backup copies
Keeping all your photos on your phone is so great and convenient. That is, until it gets stolen, lost, or dropped in a lake (it happens sometimes.) To avoid the tragedy of losing both your main source of entertainment and your photography portfolio, make sure to have a backup copy. There are numerous free image hosting sites to choose from, which on top of saving you from a disaster will make it much easier to organize your photo library.
Photograph, edit, share, repeat
Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to developing a new skill. The more time you spend shooting smartphone photography, the better your images will be. Each picture will help you see the world from a different perspective, which will directly affect your photography style. Furthermore, as you discover more of this field you’ll be able to find photography inspiration in new places and subjects.
Always be prepared
As you strive to become a professional photographer you’ll develop what is known as a “photographic eye,” meaning you’ll find yourself thinking about framing, composition, and light in any situation. The best part of smartphone photography is that you’ll be able to capture your vision, without having to lament not having your camera with you. In order to do so, however, you’ll need to actually pay attention to your surroundings and be ready to get your phone out at any given moment.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Editor of the Wix Photography Blog