10 steps to becoming an expert smartphone photographer20th January 2016 by Anthony Lane
Much as we’d like to believe otherwise, you simply can’t rely on photo booth hire for all your photography needs… It’s just too darn big to fit in your pocket. But that smartphone you’re glued to day and night, that’s practically attached to your body at all times. It’s also a camera – and probably a much better one than you think. Ok, so it’s not a snazzy, big-bucks DLSR like the pros use, but what the pros don’t tell you is that the camera isn’t the most important piece of photography kit. Say what? That’s right folks – it’s your eyes. Say cheese!
Step 1: it’s all about the light
The single most important part of a photograph is light. What kind of light, how much of it, and the direction in which it plays on your scene are all critical. As a rule, natural light is king. Nothing beats it. Ideally, you’re looking for strong, shadow-casting light, as this really brings out colour, shape and motion. Sunlight at the start and end of the day is perfect for this. Not enough light makes your pictures look washed out and boring.
Step 2: rule of thirds
Although you probably don’t realise it, the rule of thirds is everywhere. In every magazine you read, every painting you see in a gallery, and every well-known photograph. Once you ‘see’ it, you’ll never take photos the same way again. And here’s how it works. Imagine your canvas (in this case, the photo you’re taking as seen on your phone screen) divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Now, instead of just placing the subject in the centre, try to balance your scene along these lines. I guarantee it will look a thousand times better.
Step 3: camera care
Before you roll your eyes and skip this step, just hang on there a sec. When was the last time you cleaned the lens on your smartphone camera? The answer’s never, isn’t it? So go on then…
Step 4: calm your nerves (or get a tripod)
Camera shake is one of the biggest barriers to a great shot. So if you’re somewhat of a nervous disposition – or recovering from a particularly heavy night – you may need a little help keeping the camera steady. So why not invest in a tripod? Or if you’re feeling especially 21st century, a monopod (a.k.a. Selfie stick). If you go for this last option, beware the haters…
Step 5: the resolution will not be televised
Bad puns notwithstanding, there’s a serious point to be made here. Say you take a great landscape photo on your phone, and it’s so good you want to send it to your local TV station for their weather-watchers gallery. But it’s rejected for being too small for TV. That’s because your camera is set to low resolution. Set the resolution as high as possible, so you can really get the best from your new found photo skills.
Step 6: work the scene!
Do you have any idea how many pictures a professional photographer takes for each shot they actually use? Well, it’s a lot. So don’t be afraid to take lots of pictures when you find an interesting subject or scene. When you get home, pick the best one (or two) and delete the rest. Sometimes you need to look at something several ways before you really see the magic.
Step 7: tell the story
So you’ve photographed a sunset. BIG DEAL. You and everyone else on the planet. Even the best sunset photo is kinda boring these days. Why? Because nothing is happening. Truly great photographs on the other hand tell a story. A cat disturbing a flock of feeding birds, a child scoring his first goal at football, or a sunset – over an erupting volcano. The world is full of stories waiting to be told; all you have to do is turn up and point your camera at them.
Step 8: explore your camera settings
The beauty of having a camera built into your phone is that you can just whip it out of your pocket, point, and tap. But it’s exactly that convenience that stops you from looking further. Have you ever even opened your camera settings page? You may be surprised to find all sorts of little gems in there, like panorama, close-up or bokeh mode. Be sure to check it out.
Step 9: the app store is your friend
Did you know there are a bunch of camera-enhancing apps out there just waiting for you to point them at a great photo scene? Instead of upgrading your smartphone, why not just make the best of the one you already have? Our favourite app-store picks are Camera+ for iOS, and ProCapture Free for Android. So get installing, and enjoy playing around with pro features like exposure and focus.
Step 10: don’t forget to edit
Photo editing is how all the pros take their best snaps stratospheric. A crop here, an enhancement there, and suddenly your great photo becomes a brilliant photo. And the good news is you can do all the editing inside your smartphone. We recommend Picsart Photo Studio for iOS and Android. Which is free! Professional-level editing at your fingertips doesn’t get any better than this.
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