How To Take Good Photos With Your Phone Part 2
11. Avoid zooming in.
When you take a photo from a distance, it’s tempting to zoom in on something specific you’re trying to capture. But it’s actually better not to zoom in — doing so can make the photo appear grainy, blurry, or pixelated.
Instead, try to get closer to your subject — unless it’s a wild animal, in which case we would advise keeping your distance — or take the photo from a default distance, and crop it later on. That way, you won’t compromise quality, and it’s easier to play around or optimize a larger image.
Source: Obama Pacman
12. Capture small details.
You may have heard the phrase, “It’s the little things.” Sometimes, that also applies to photos. Close-up images that capture small, intricate, and delicate details can make for really compelling visual content. Keep an eye out for textures and patterns like peeling paint, a gravel road, or a tile tabletop.
Pro Tip: Use the “sharpen” tool in your favorite photo editing app to (conservatively) sharpen the details of your photo. You might also download the Camera+ app and use its Clarity filter, which is what The Wall Street Journal‘s Kevin Sintumuang calls the app’s “secret sauce — it adds pro-camera crispness to almost any shot.”
13. Use natural light.
It’s hard to find a great smartphone photo that was taken with a flash. Most of the time, they make a photo look overexposed, negatively altering colours and making human subjects look washed out. In fact, even the iPhone 7’s flash is rumored to have some flaws.
Take advantage of the sources of natural light you can find, even after dark. This gives you a chance to play with shadows, like in the second image below, or create a silhouette with other ambient sources of light, like traffic and surrounding buildings.
Once you’ve taken the photo, play with the “Exposure” tool in your favorite photo editing app to see if you can make the image slightly brighter, without making it too grainy.
14. If you use flash, only do so during the day.
Sometimes, using your camera’s flash can improve a photo — but rarely does it do so at night. Because dark shots reveal a much sharper contrast against your phone’s flash, it can make any flash look invasive and uneven
In already well-lit spaces, however, a flash can help to soften some dark shadows behind or beneath your main subject.
When framing your next shot, look on the ground or against vertical surfaces for any dark shadows you might want to remove. If you see any, flip on the flash manually in your camera app. Setting your phone’s camera flash to “auto” won’t guarantee that your phone will notice the shadows you want to get rid of. Just remember to turn the flash off again when you’re done.
Check out the difference in the two mobile photos of a metal figurine, below. You can see the desk shadow is considerably softer in the flash-based photo on the right. The flash even brings out more details in the body of the subject. Consider this differently next time you’re shooting product photography.
15. Consider buying a mobile tripod.
Although mobile devices make it easy to snap any photo on the go, there’s never been an easy way to ensure the shot stays level and balanced when you shoot — especially if you want to be in the picture and not just take a typical selfie with your extended arm.
Mobile tripods give you the freedom to mount your smartphone for quick hands-free shots without lugging any heavy equipment with you. Most mobile tripods are barely bigger than your mobile device and can bend to any angle. Check out one of them from Joby, above, and learn how these miniature tripods can help enhance your mobile video experience below.
16. Set your camera app’s exposure manually.
Another mobile camera feature you’ll want to set manually is your exposure. Tapping your screen when your phone’s camera is on doesn’t just refocus the lens on a new subject — it also automatically adjusts how much light the camera lets in. This, too, won’t always look just right. It’s best to adjust it by hand.
To change your mobile camera’s exposure by hand, open your camera app and tap the screen. When you see the lens refocus, you’ll see a very small sun icon and a vertical scale. Slowly swipe your finger up and down this scale to adjust the light level.
17. Create abstracts.
Abstract photos are meant to capture the essence of an object, or a series of them, without revealing the entire landscape as a whole. In other words, they serve the purpose of creating unique, surprising images from ordinary subjects.
This look can be accomplished by cropping an abstract portion of an otherwise normal photo, or by taking close-up shots of objects that leave the viewer wondering — in admiration, of course — what the subject might be. And subjects with patterns or repetition are great candidates for abstract photography, like in the photo of sliced figs below.
18. Take candids.
Posed photos can be great for the sake of memories — happy moments with friends, family, or the occasional run-in with a celebrity. But sometimes, candid shots of people doing things, or people with people, can be far more interesting.
That’s because candid photos are better able to effectively capture the emotion and essence of a moment. One of the best ways to capture this kind of shot is to just take as many photos as possible. You’ll have more to choose from, and the best photos often happen when the “stars align,” so to speak, in a single moment — everyone’s eyes are open, one person is tilting their head just so, and you finally got a shot of your chronically closed-lip friend smiling with his teeth.
Source: Patrick Janelle
19. Be non-conventional.
The composition is a huge part of what makes a photo great, but so is the photo’s subject. Some of the most delightful and remarkable photos come out of cool, unique ideas. Images are more effective than text at evoking emotion from your viewers — that often means getting your photos to say something.
Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to what you’re capturing — your viewers could be pleasantly surprised by a cool or unexpected subject.
Source: Paul Octavious
20. Make ’em laugh.
Speaking of evoking emotion, sometimes the most memorable photos are the ones that make us giggle. The image below of an older woman wearing a brightly-coloured shirt stating “Hi hater” is funny because it’s unexpected — and there’s a part of us that admires her, too. The second image of the dog toy on a dinner plate pokes fun at classic Instagram food shots, but it’s from a dog’s perspective. If you can make your audience laugh, they’re likely to enjoy your photo.
21. Clean your phone’s lens.
A smartphone camera might be more convenient to carry around than a full-fledged photojournalist’s camera, but it comes at the cost of protection.
Your phone is usually in your pocket or your bag when you’re out of the house. All the while, the device’s camera lens is collecting all kinds of dust and lint. Be sure to clean this lens with a soft handkerchief before taking a photo. You might not be able to tell just how dirty the lens was until you start editing your picture, and making sure the lens is crystal clear before taking a shot can keep you from starting from scratch.
22. Attach an external lens.
Want to get really fancy? External lenses are for you. There are actually several out there that can be attached to the top of your smartphone’s native camera lens — from fish-eye to wide-angle lenses, these add-ons can bring entirely new quality and perspective to your photos.
According to Wirecutter, the best camera lenses for iPhone photography are made by Moment, a manufacturer of mobile lenses. Start there, or do some research to find the lens add-ons that fit your smartphone photography needs.
23. Don’t be afraid to edit.
Composing and taking your smartphone photo is just the first step to making it visually compelling. Editing your photos is the next step — and a very critical one, at that. Filters can be a valuable photographic tool, particularly when it comes to two goals: 1) Removing blemishes from a picture, and 2) making food look even more delicious.
For the first, InStyle magazine compiled a fun list of “The Best Instagram Filters for Every Beauty Complaint” — and now, the iPhone photos app offers many similar filters. There are also apps like Pho.to, which can automatically retouch facial photos without a lot of work. And when it comes to those photos of your daily meals? One of the latest apps available is Foodie, which comes with its own set of filters optimized for different types of food.
But there are many other great photo and video editing apps out there for mobile devices — check out this post to see some of the best ones out there.
Want more tips on creating visual content? Check out these examples of explainer videos.
Originally published Nov 1, 2018, 8:05:00 PM, updated January 30 2019