Smartphone cameras have improved dramatically in the last few years, owing to better sensors and smarter image processing. Heck, the multi-camera revolution has also yielded better zoom and depth-of-field effects hitherto unknown to smartphone photography.
Nevertheless, having a great camera is only part of the battle. The rest is up to the photographer holding it, so we take a look at a few smartphone photography tips you should know.
The difference between a good and average photographer often boils down to sheer volume of photos taken. After all, there have to be a few decent snaps after shooting 300 photos, right?
So next time you take a photo, hit the shutter button a few more times for good measure. And thanks to the excellent backup functionality of Google Photos, those snaps don’t have to clog up your internal storage. Slightly changing your position, focal point or angle as you fire off photos will also give you more options than two dozen of the exact same shot.
Then try burst mode or record in 4K
Some phones, like Samsung devices, group all burst shots into one collection.
Burst mode is seriously handy for photos of kids, group shots (there’s always someone asking for another shot), and subjects with plenty of movement like sports or pets. Some phones also allow you to easily keep a few snaps and ditch the rest of the burst, which is a rather useful touch.
Android Authority and DroneRush writer Jonathan Feist also suggests you try shooting a 4K video and picking a frame that you want to use as a photo. After all, 4K screengrabs are just over 8MP. The easiest way to do this is to tap the camera shutter button while filming. But a few preinstalled video players allow you to grab the frame while it’s playing back the clip.
Don’t have that functionality on your phone? Then try a third-party app like AndroVid.
Learn all about your camera app…
Whether you’ve got a new phone or an older device, it’s worth spending the time to visit every nook and cranny of your camera app. After all, you’ll never seriously improve your smartphone photography if all you do is shoot in full auto.
One example is XOS 3.0 camera app, which allows you to tap to focus.
Or download another app
The preinstalled camera app isn’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all for your smartphone. In fact, there are loads of third-party camera apps on the Play Store.
These apps can potentially give you everything from granular controls to more advanced modes.
Looking for a camera with manual controls and a histogram? Then try Footej Camera.
Need a selfie-focused app? Then give Candy Camera a whirl. Even if you don’t care for the features, the third-party apps might just spit out better photos.
Regular readers might also know about the unofficial Google Camera HDR+ camera app. This isn’t supported by Google or in the Play Store, but it’s certainly a fantastic app (if it works on your phone). Another app worth checking out is Open Camera.
Do you really need the flash?
Smartphones have made big strides in the low-light photography department, so you won’t always need the flash in these situations. All too often the flash can ruin what would otherwise have been a nice shot.
In fact, many of today’s flagship phones are capable of great shots without the flash. So the next time you find yourself taking a photo at dusk or indoors, try a few with a flash and several without.
You’ll certainly encounter a few moments in low-light where the flash is the only option, but again, it doesn’t hurt to experiment. Just remember, many pro photographers intentionally shoot darker photos, because they can always bring the shadows up in post, but can’t do much with blown out areas. Dark, moody images can also be much more evocative than floodlit ones.
Learn when/how to use the sun
Another rule of thumb is that you should try not to shoot into the sun when taking photos of people. There are exceptions to this, of course, such as if you want to create silhouettes or just want to experiment. Nevertheless, try to have the sun lighting up your subjects/objects, rather than directly hitting your camera.
Speaking of the sun, you’ll also want to take photos during the so-called golden hours (just after sunrise or just before sunset). Do this and you’re likely to get some gorgeous colors. Heck, everyone knows that the sunset itself makes for a wonderful snap too, so you can’t go wrong there. You can also try alternating between focusing on the horizon and on the sky to get some really popping colors.