Whether you’re taking pictures with a DSLR or a smartphone, there are some basic rules you can follow to ensure you are taking awesome photos.
With today’s modern smartphone, you have a camera that is capable of taking incredibly sharp pictures, but you need to understand how to find the right conditions (focus, lighting, contrast, etc.) to snap the perfect shot.
Here are six tips to help you go from novice to know-how.
The perfect shot isn’t perfect if it’s not in focus.
While most cameras auto-focus, you want to make sure the camera has a second to properly focus on your target. And it’s easier to focus on surfaces that have contrast and details, so the camera’s technology has a reference point.
Some cameras have a two-stage focus feature that can help you setup the shot properly.
When focusing on a subject, remember the “rule of thirds” which basically means imagining three horizontal and vertical lenses over the picture frame, then aligning subjects on the horizon along those lines.
And don’t forget to hold the camera still! Shaking will cause the focus to move and result in blurry pics.
Avoid the “washed out” look
If you’ve ever tried to take a beautiful night picture with a flash, then it’s likely the picture had that dreaded “washed out” look. No one likes to look at a photo where the colors are off and there’s no dimension.
This can happen because the camera doesn’t properly estimate the amount of exposure and/or because flat lighting takes away depth.
Most smartphones allow the user to manually compensate for the exposure, so images have proper contrast.
For the flash, the trick is to not have it be the only light source for the picture. It should be a source of ambient light so the shutter speed isn’t too slow.
If the flash is the only light source, your main option is to bounce it off a reflective surface, otherwise you can’t avoid a flat picture.
The pixels on a smartphone’s camera sensors are tightly packed, which limits their ability to capture fine details and means they are affected by “noise.”
You can setup a scene for smartphone photography by adhering to the following ‘rules’.
Avoid low-light situations
Low-contrast lighting won’t allow your subject to be front and center
You also want to avoid a moving subject, and should focus on people’s faces as the focal point when taking shots of individuals
You want to have depth in your lighting and also use it to spotlight certain colors. Using a spot light is a classic photography technique to emphasize a certain color so that it stands out in a photo.
You also want to consider the color of the lighting and the effect it has on the overall picture.
Warmer lights in the orange or yellow spectrum for example tend to work well with warm-colored objects, especially if you need them to stand out from a “cool” background.
Capture a moment
Photographers know the benefit of catching that perfect moment and understand that preparation and patience are the keys to capturing perfection.
When armed with a smartphone, be sure you understand the most commonly used camera application settings and are using good default settings.
You can set a default to have the flash turned off, the exposure compensation to zero, and your white balance on “auto.” Then it’s all about developing an eye for crucial moments – which will take practice to develop the right composition and lighting that will turn a mere picture into a “moment.”
Create your own look
As your smartphone skills progress, you’ll want to develop your own photography “brand” that sets your photos apart from others.
Creating a persona means consistently composing images a certain way, or using reflections in exciting ways.
You ultimately want to create a story with your images – where pictures evoke strong emotions or propel the viewer to ponder something or challenge them in some way.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the smartphone’s settings and effects to create some overexposed or unconventional photos to help you develop a style.