10 Tips to Take Better Photos with Your Phone Camera
Smart phones with good cameras have become so common that they are putting the small digital camera business out of business. Almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera on them at all times now, one of the big problems that still remain is that many people just snap pictures without thinking about what they are doing and they get mostly bad to fair pictures. You don’t have to be one of them.
The majority of pictures taken are blurry, or just not very well taken. Most people take pictures to get a memory of something that that is at the time, important to them. It doesn't make you feel good to get bad pictures of memories that you want to keep. There are many things that you can do that will help you to get most of your shots to be good, or at least acceptable. Here are my top 10 tips to improve your phone pictures right now.
The things that make phone pictures good are the same things that make pictures good with any camera. There are different way to get those things with a phone camera, but these tips will give you better pictures on any camera, even a DSLR.
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1. Know your phone camera.
One of the keys to taking good pics with any camera is to know your camera. Learn all the controls and all the features of your camera. I have an Iphone and it has a few features that are cool and can help get better shots. There is an HDR mode on the Iphone camera in IOS7 that can help get you better shots if you are in mixed lighting or high contrast situations. The panorama is also a cool feature to use in some situations. I have printed 8 x 10's from my Iphone and they look good.
2. Compose your shot before you take it
Composition is key when using a camera, as well as a phone camera. There are several parts to composition, the most important thing to do is look around and decide what you want in the shot, simplify the shot so that the viewer will know without a doubt what the subject of the shot is. The goal is to tell the story of what you see and want to capture with a single shot.
Another key part of composition is to get closer to the subject. For most shots, you want to have the subject of the shot fill as much of the frame as possible. Don't use the digital zoom, the main thing digital zoom does is degrade your picture.
Look for items in the background that will distract or take away from the shot. Use the rule of thirds as a general rule. Meaning have your subject in the cross hairs of where the lines intersect when you divide the screen into 9 rectangles. If you have an Iphone, go into settings and turn on the grid, this makes using the rule of thirds very easy.
Try different angles, try high or lower, etc, you can just delete the shots that are bad, so don't skimp on them. If you are shooting a person or other creature, get to eye level if possible to make the shot look better.
3. Keep the phone steady
Blurry pictures are the biggest reason most snapshot photographers have the majority of their shots not usable. Not holding the camera still, or having the shutter speed too slow, or shooting a moving subject in low light, are the number one reason for bad snapshots. There are some things you can do to help avoid that problem.
First, make sure you are holding the camera with 2 hands when you take the shot. Another key to keeping the phone steady is don't hit the button when you snap the shot, use 1 finger and touch it as lightly as you can. I even go so far as to take a breath when I'm ready to shoot and hold it until after I take the shot. Any movement of the camera will lessen the sharpness of your shot.
Hold your phone close to your body and put your elbows against your sides. If you're in really low light situations, set your phone down on it's side on a table, railing, anything to make it more stable.
4. Take more than one shot
If you have something you think will be a great shot, don't assume that one shot will get it. No matter how hard you try to how careful you are, you're going to get some shots that are blurry, or have bad composition, or bad light, or bad color.
Take a few shots of your choice, then move a little and take a couple more, than more and take a couple more. It's not like when we were shooting film, although I always took extra shots, there is nothing worse than afterwards knowing that you didn't get what you saw, and you can’t go back and do it again. Most great photos are made at just the right moment, and may not even happen again.
5. Make sure the lens is clean.
This is a huge problem with phone cameras. The camera lens is always being touched and rubbed on by many things, fingers, something on the table the phone is laid down on, dirty cloth, etc.
I have a Otterbox case on my phone, it has a cover over the camera lens, and the lens also sits back inside the back of the case about 1/8 of an inch. This is good protection for the lens, but I still always wipe off the cover of the camera lens before I take a shot. I also try to never touch the camera lens area, but it does happen, so just wipe it before shooting. A fingerprint on the lens will guarantee your shot will be blurred.
6. Look at the light
If you know about photography, you know that lighting is the number one most important thing in making a great shot as opposed to a good or mediocre shot.
Look at the direction of the light, the intensity of the light, etc., and look at how the light is hitting the subject. Very harsh light on the side of someones face can ruin a shot. Dark shadows on the side of a face can also ruin the shot.
It doesn't have to look like you set it up in a studio, but it needs to be acceptable and something you can work with after the shot. Many times using the flash is the best option. If you are close enough to the subject that the flash will be effective, use it in lower light situations if you are taking people shots. The flash will lower the likelihood of the shot being blurry. No matter how steady you are, if the people you are shooting are moving around, they will not be sharp.
7. Post processing
There are many very good apps that you can use to improve your shots after. I normally use HDR FX pro or PS express, camera Awesome on my phone to post process. You can do a lot with them with very little work. I also email the shots to my computer and sometimes work on them in Photoshop if I feel they need it. It sometimes amazes me what an app can do to improve a shot in just a minute or so.
Check out the apps available, several of them are very helpful. Don't overdo it. I see lots of shots that are way over processed and look bad. You can take a cool shot and make it look bad if you overdo it.
8. Camera settings
Go into your phone camera settings and make sure if the resolution is changeable that you have it set at it's highest resolution. Also with the Iphone, turn on the grid so you can use the lines to line up parts of your shot, as well as use the rule of thirds for composition. Horizons that are crooked look bad in landscape shots.
I feel the Iphone does an amazing job of setting the camera settings automatically. It does pretty good in low light and also with high contrast scenes. I feel it does about as good as any camera I have seen on full auto. If you do have any manual settings on your phone camera, experiment with them and check out the differences that you can get.
9. Let the camera focus
It sometimes takes the phone a few seconds to focus, it you don't let it get the focus right, the shot will not be clear and you will be disappointed in the outcome. Better lighting will make it focus quicker, but you just can't rush this, let it do it's thing and get the right focus.
Just like using any other camera, or doing just about anything else, if you practice, you will get better. You will also come to where you don't have to think about these things to make your shots better. After you do them enough, you're memory will just kick in when you get into different situations and you will do these tips without even thinking about them. Go out and take lots of pictures, and remember to keep these tips in mind to make your phone photos something you can be proud of.
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