“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” - Paul Caponigro
Nowadays, everyone is taking photos thanks to the fact that there’s a camera (or two) on every smartphone. Whether this is a good thing or not, it allows everyone to express their creativity through the art of photography.
In fact, the majority of photos taken are now taken on smartphones! So while everyone has the tools to take better photos, it’s easier said than done. With white balance, shutter speed, and aperture to think about, it can be quite tricky getting that perfect photo.
That said, there are techniques you can use when taking a picture to improve your personal snaps, Instagram photos, or family portraits.
Here are our 10 photography tips and tricks for getting better photos with your smartphone.
1: Avoid Backlighting
Backlighting is every amateur photographer’s worst enemy. While this can sometimes be used to great effect by professionals, backlighting will probably ruin most photos. Similarly, since smartphones have digital cameras, it’s not as easy to account for it or react quickly to it.
Ideally, you want your subjects lit by a light source that isn’t directly pointed at your lens. In short, no matter what equipment you’re using, that perfect shot will be ruined by direct light into the camera.
2: Clean the Lens
If there’s one thing you should always do when taking photos, ensure the lens is clean. If your pictures are still blurry after ten attempts, there might be something on the lens.
If only you’d cleaned the lens before you started shooting. Don’t forget that when you’re taking photos with your smartphone, you’re also taking photos with a device that’s with you everywhere you go.
There may be grubby fingerprints on it, bits of food, or even makeup on the device.
3: Use Accessories
“I don’t trust words. I trust pictures.” - Gilles Peress
Many smartphone photographers forget about just how useful some accessories can be, even for their smartphone. There are plenty of devices and accessories that you can clip onto your smartphone and turn it into something far more powerful.
You can get clip-on fisheye, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses for many of the popular brands and models. You’d be surprised at just how close to professional-grade lenses you can get with some of these.
Find out more about the smartphones with the best cameras.
4: Edit Your Photos Afterwards
Smartphones are designed to be versatile and you can even edit your photos after you’ve taken them. You don’t always need expensive photo editing software since a lot of smartphones include the most common tools you’ll find in some of these programmes.
Every photo can be improved in some way. You can alter the white balance, add a filter, or remove certain imperfections.
Find out how to edit your smartphone photos.
5: Think About What the Photo’s For
The great thing about smartphones is that you can take photos with them anywhere, any time. However, one drawback is that we tend to habitually take photos without thinking about why which can result in disappointing photos.
The first thing you need to do when taking a photo is think about why you got your smartphone out to take it in the first place.
Why is this worthy of a photo? Is the depth of field right? Will I be posting it on social networks?
The latter, for example, is more often than not the reason for taking a photo on a smartphone.
If you’re taking a photo for Instagram, why not take it in the app or use the square photo mode built into your smartphone’s camera?
Most smartphones will have a mode which is designed with Instagram in mind.
6: Take Several Photos
You’re probably wondering why you should take several photos of just one thing. Taking a few photos at once gives you the opportunity to get the right angle and a greater chance of the photo turning out well.
With different placements and points of view, you’ll be able to see something completely different and in the end, pick the photo you like the most. After all, it doesn’t cost anything to take several photos.
7: Avoid Using the Zoom
“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.” - Ralph Hattersley
Whether it’s an Instagram photo or a holiday snap, try to avoid using the zoom on your camera.
For the simple reason that the zoom will pixelate the image. Try getting closer to your subject if you can. Very few people will enjoy a photo where you can’t tell what anything is.
8: Don’t Rush
Similarly, while it doesn’t cost anything to take a photo with your smartphone, you don’t need to go crazy when it comes to taking photos; it’s not a race. Of course, in some cases (like a race), you mightn’t be able to take your time.
Don’t stress out, though. Take your time to study your subject and plan out your photo. Look at the lighting and pay attention to unfavourable details you mightn’t want in your photo.
Learn more about the different photo modes on your smartphones.
9: Use HDR Mode
When possible, try to use High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mode. This mode can improve the lighting and exposure of photos by taking several at once and compiling them into one photo.
Using different images allows your smartphone to choose the right lighting and exposure for different parts of the photo. The most important thing is to stay as still as possible because you don’t want your photo to be blurry.
10: Avoid Using Flash
To take better photos, you should adapt to your surroundings. At night, you may be tempted to use your flash. This is often a big mistake as the flash will remove the background and ruin your subjects’ eyes.
Ideally, you want to take the photo using night mode and adjust the lighting after you’ve taken the photo. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Photography isn’t drawing, after all; you need to adapt to the conditions.
To capture the best shots, make sure you think carefully before you press that shutter button. If your photos are blurry, set your camera or smartphone up on a tripod before you take a picture. Natural light can also help to get the best photos.
In addition to ensuring your using the right camera settings, focal length, white balance, aperture, etc., consider the composition of your photos and make use of the rule of thirds and the negative space in your photo. You'll be surprised at how much what isn't there can influence good photos. Even selfies can be really good pictures if you take your picture-taking seriously.
You’ll soon see that taking decent photos with your smartphone isn’t that complicated.
Ready to give it a try?
If you'd like more help with photography, there are many talented and experienced tutors on Superprof who'd be willing to help you. There are three main types of tutorial and you can choose the one which best suits your preferred learning style and your budget.
Group tutorials tend to be the cheapest and best for those on a budget as all the students in the tutorial are sharing the cost of the tutor's time and expertise. However, this does mean you'll get less one-on-one time with your tutor and the lessons won't be tailored to just you and what you want to learn.
Online tutorials tend to be slightly more expensive than group tutorials but are just between you and your tutor. This means you can benefit from tailored lessons and learning programmes as well as enjoying the tutor's undivided attention throughout your tutorials. However, without the tutor physically being there with you, it can make certain hands-on aspects of learning a little bit more difficult.
Finally, face-to-face tutorials have the benefits of the previous two types of tutorials without the drawbacks of the tutor not being there or there being other students in the tutorial vying for your tutor's attention. If you want to learn with these types of tutorials, however, you will have to pay more than the other two types as you'll be paying for your tutor's expertise, travel costs, and all the time they put in outside of your tutorials to ensure that they're tailored to you and exactly what you want to learn about.
Think carefully about which type is best for you and discuss all this with any potential tutors before hiring them!