Smartphone Photography Guide
If you plan to do serious photography with your phone, it pays to explore and even to research the capabilities of your phone's camera. It might also be worth it to try third party camera apps help you take even more advantage of your phone's functionalities. Here are some of the most important ways that you can maximize your phone’s features to take high quality images.
Set the focus
In most cases, a smartphone camera will automatically select the object located in the foreground your photo. However, your subject may not always lie in the obvious spot. Additionally, if your subject happens to be in motion, the phone may have trouble identifying and tracking your object on its own. Your phone will allow you to realign its focus by simply tapping the screen at the precise location of the object in which you are interested. When you do this, a square box will appear, within the perimeter of which your phone's camera will now concentrate its focus. The result will be a much sharper view of the main subject of your photo.
Identify the most important subject
Have you ever been looking at the photo and been confused about where exactly the photographer wants you to look? Most great photos have a clear subject in order to avoid confusing the viewer. When focusing your phone camera, identify the most important thing in your scene and place the focus there. Remember that blank or negative space contributes to a good composition. Therefore, you should not be eager to fill up or overcrowd the space. Give your subject room to breathe.
Leading lines are guides that help your viewer focus on the object or objects you want them to. They also dictate the order and direction of viewing that would makes your photograph most coherent. This is good advice for photography in general. Leading lines might be straight or they might not be. Their shape can vary and they need only take the shape that imputes design, creativity, and customization to your work. A road or path might serve such a purpose, as might the direction of the lighting or the flow of pedestrians on a crosswalk. These leading lines will guide your reader toward the true beauty of your subject.
Patterns and Symmetry
Humans find symmetry beautiful and are natural hands at pattern recognition. Finding novel versions of both will provide worthy subjects for any smartphone camera, even ones that do not boast the highest specifications. This is an important point because, often when a photographer pulls out smartphone, the quality of the camera may have a psychological effect that makes the artist feel that this particular photoshoot might not be as serious as it would be had they been using an expensive dSLR, or some such hi-tech device. Subjects should be properly composed using artistic insight—even with a smartphone, and one should never fail to make the effort to find an interesting shot.
All serious artists want to go beyond a flat image and to add richness, texture, and depth to their subjects. Doing this with any camera is tricky, and with a phone camera it is even more so due to the constraints of the technology. But sometimes, you can simply change the position of your shot. Shooting from a low position might skew the perspective in just the right way to create the illusion of depth or highlight textures that might otherwise have been hidden by a dead-on shot. Smartphones' extreme portability gives them an advantage in pulling this off. Leading lines are also helpful in adding or creating depth, as is the maximization of shadows present in the vision field.
A variety of accessories exist that can enhance your smartphones capabilities and help you to step up your game as a mobile photographer.
Have a low megapixel camera? Have a middling lens? These things might not be such limitations as many lenses exist that clip onto your phone and allow you to extend the distance and breadth to put your phone camera can reach. Wider lenses will allow your phone to take panoramic shots that are perfect for capturing landscapes and even large groups of people. Some lenses will even allow you to adjust your depth of field, enabling focus on distant objects-- or even close ones--while blurring out the rest of the image. Placing such accessories in your arsenal will expand your capabilities as a mobile photographer.
Such tools as tripods, sticks, and gimbals add stability, versatility, and the range to your functionality. They spare you the job of holding the phone in one boring position—and even allow you to compose self-portraits in more creative ways than mere selfies. Furthermore, the lightness of phones makes them easily susceptible to shaking or vibration. Using stabilizing equipment, such as tripods, gimbals, and other physical or digital stabilizers, adds clarity to your phone pictures. Incidentally, you should turn off your phone's vibration function when doing photography to avoid an incoming call that messes up the perfect shot.
Below is an overview of some of the tools your phone provides. The do’s and don’ts of these tools are worth becoming familiar with because they give you the ability to enhance images beyond simply snapping the photo. Once you become familiar with these, you might also venture beyond your phone’s native functions and download applications that give you even more freedom to be creative.
To Zoom or…?
In general, you should avoid zooming in on details or in an attempt to make something far away seem closer. A better strategy is to move toward the distant object—if doing so won't compromise the photo opportunity. It might be tempting just to zoom in to capture those faraway locations, but doing so degrades the quality of the image and you run the risk of making it blurry.
A viable alternative to zooming is the crop function in your photo editor. Since an image is larger and more pixel-rich when it has not been zoomed, cropping the photo allows you to select the precise frame that you need without compromising quality. This will allow you to use other tools to make the image stand out in the way you want to--tools that would otherwise fail with a zoomed image.
The sharpening tool—when used wisely—can add the kind of clarity to an image that gives it the appearance of being a crisper, closer shot.
Try to make use of natural light and avoid using the flash as much as possible. If unwanted shadows are in the frame, then a flash might be required. Yet it is best to confine flash use to the daytime—thus the flash should complement, rather than replace, natural light.
Finally, a note on editing
Feel free to edit your smartphone photos after you have taken them. Never feel ashamed of this: editing is an art-form too. Many phone editing apps exist, including a light version of Photoshop. Learn to use these to enhance your photos and bring your vision to life.