Do you know where your camera is? These days, most people’s point-and-shoot digital cameras are languishing in a drawer or on a closet shelf. Even serious photographers who own digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras with interchangeable lenses find that they use their phones for point-and-shoot photography instead of carrying a separate device. Smartphone cameras still have some weaknesses to work around, but you can learn some tips and tricks to take better pictures with them. Here’s the scoop.
The digital zoom capabilities of most smartphone cameras aren’t very good. The technology that smartphones use is completely different from what a nice DSLR camera offers, and when you zoom the image degrades quickly. Instead of zooming, make the effort to walk closer to your subject. As an alternative, you can take the photo without a zoom and crop it later to get the framing you want. You can also buy external zoom lenses that clip onto your phone to get closer to your subject without losing resolution.
Use the Buttons
How often have you juggled your phone so you could frame your photo and still reach the shutter button on the screen? Most people go through a lot of finger gymnastics because they don’t know that the volume buttons on the side of nearly all smartphones will trigger the shutter. Try using the volume button once, and you’ll never go back.
Choose a Smartphone With a Great Camera
Not all smartphone cameras are created equal. If you want to be able to take great photos with your phone, you need to choose a device with a powerful built-in camera. Smartphone camera technology is evolving quickly, so newer models have a huge advantage over phones that are even a few years old.
Look for a phone that’s designed with photography in mind. For instance, the iPhone 7 Plus offers a 12MP camera with a 2x optical zoom, a digital zoom that goes up to 10x, and image stabilization. Connect to a fast 4G network like T-Mobile to upload your pics from anywhere and ensure that they’re always backed up.
Upgrade Your Apps
Professional photographers use sophisticated tools to edit their photos. If you’re still using your phone’s default filters and editing tools, it’s time to upgrade. Check out some of the remarkable photo editing apps that are available for your phone. You can even use professional software like Photoshop and Lightroom for free or for just a few dollars.
Learn Basic Photography Skills
Even with the best apps, your phone can’t compose, light, and shoot a great photo. It’s up to you to learn some basic skills. Generally, it’s best to stand with your back to the light source so that your subject faces into the light. Use the vertical grid on your screen to line up the subject of your photo either one-third or two-thirds of the way into the frame. This composition is generally more appealing than a perfectly centered subject.
Use the horizontal gridlines to place strong lines like the horizon or a rooftop. Tilting your camera instead of holding it straight on can add interest, and most photos will improve when you get closer to the subject. Instead of trying to get the entire scene into the frame, think about capturing details that tell the story.
Take Selfies Correctly
Face it: sooner or later, you’re going to take a selfie. When you do, follow some basic techniques to make that photo look 10 times better. First, find the light source and face into it. Keep in mind, however, that placing the light behind you can also be flattering. Hold your camera high and look upward into it.
Take dozens of photos, angling your face toward the camera in different ways and trying out a variety of facial expressions. Have fun with it, since there’s no point being serious about a selfie. Delete the ones you don’t like, and make mental notes about which angles and expressions work for you.
Great photography doesn’t depend on great gear. If you understand the limitations of your equipment, know some photography basics, and have good editing software, you can take gorgeous photos with your smartphone.