Believe it or not, the most powerful tool you have to take terrific images is one of your most overlooked daily devices. Taking photos with phones has been an increasing trend for almost a decade now-- it offers convenience, portability, and accessibility. Even if the megapixel quality on cell phones wasn’t always as staunch as it is now, it never deterred anyone from snapping a great pic with their flip phone. Now there are fervent races between feuding competitors to see who can ramp up the best camera quality in phones and which company can offer, among other things, the best clarity, stabilization, color accuracy, and low light/daylight capabilities.
In the last couple of years, some phones have easily outperformed basic point and shoot cameras. Of course they aren’t on the same level as a DSLR, but they for sure have their advantages. With that in mind, if you have a smartphone and you’re interested in photography, you should take advantage of every tool you have and start capturing those special moments! This post is here to help detail the why and the how of smartphone photography.
Here are the main points of my post:
- What are the benefits of smartphone photography?
- Tools to begin taking pictures with your camera
- Photography tips
- Sharing your images
It’s now common culture to carry around our smartphones to stay in touch with our family, friends and acquaintances. Not only this, but we are heavily dependent on our phones now for a variety of tasks, from entertainment to news to productivity. Unless you are one of those types who carries around their cameras and has them ready at a moment’s notice, smartphones can be invaluable for capturing the spontaneity of our daily lives. They are small, portable, and convenient. Do not underestimate the importance of accessibility.
When you’re photographing shots with your phone, there’s less expectation to nail a good picture versus when you’re experimenting with a nice camera. Less expectation and pressure can drive a desire to take more pictures and venture outside your comfort zone. The repetition of taking pictures on your phone will help you pay attention to composition and other basic photographic elements that make an image attractive.
The great thing about smartphones is that they work as a camera and a device for disseminating information. You can easily take your picture, edit your content, and post it on apps and websites such as Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook for sharing and critiquing purposes. This also allows you to build a community and a following of people who are interested in your content. It can additionally serve as a visual diary-- you can go back and examine your growth over time.
It’s important to make sure your phone is properly protected, so buy a case and maybe a screen protector! This will make your device more secure when you go for riskier shots. For example, I went hiking last week-- I didn’t have to worry much about dropping my phone and cracking the screen in case it slipped. You can also buy waterproof cases. This is helpful if you want to do some photographing in the rain or even potentially underwater. Make sure to do your research!
If your phone doesn’t already come with a reliable camera application, there are others you can download. I would recommend finding one that has the following features: gridlines, exposure adjustments, flash on/off, timer, HDR, video capability, etc. There are also camera applications that allow you to adjust more minute details (apps such as Manual Camera, A Better Camera, VSCO Cam, etc.). There are also a measure of editing applications, some which are dual sharing applications, e.g. Instagram allows you to take photos, edit them, and then post to your Instagram feed.
There are now assortments of lenses that you can clip over your normal camera lens. These attachments will change the effect you get, from macro to fisheye to wide angle. While not necessary, depending on what brand you purchase lenses from, the overall cost is not too expensive and adds some drama to your photos.
Again, while not necessary, if you wanted to get a little more serious you could buy a cheap, adjustable tripod or stand. You could even get a selfie stick if you’re into self portraiture!
Understanding composition is essential to composing an excellent shot. While you don’t always have to follow every rule or staple to achieve good composition (there are always exceptions to the rule), it’s important to understand concepts like line, direction, rule of thirds, etc.
DEPTH OF FIELD:
Controlling depth of field with a manual camera is a little different than using a camera phone, but the overall effect is still attainable if you want something more dramatic or a shallow depth of field. Some phones come with a lens blur function, and I’m sure there are lens attachments that allow you to attain the illusion of a shallow depth of field.
High Dynamic Range is a setting that comes on most phones. HDR mode takes several shots at once with several different exposures and combines them into one image. When you take a photograph in HDR mode, it levels out the lights and darks so they aren’t so extreme-- ultimately, it makes the shot appear a bit more natural. Most of the photos on this blog are taken in HDR mode on my iPhone 6.
PLAY UP WEAKNESSES:
Take advantage of your phone’s weaknesses. If your phone doesn’t have the best resolution, take images that look intriguing while grainy. If your phone reduces your shutter speed, sometimes taking pictures of moving objects can result in interesting images. For example, while I didn’t take this following image with my phone, I reduced the shutter speed on my GoPro to capture the Washington Monument and allow movement around it to blur. This was the result:
SHARING YOUR IMAGES:
There are so, so many places to distribute your work. Imgur, Instagram (app), Flickr, DeviantArt, Tumblr, and Pinterest are a few that I can list off the top of my head. Some of these platforms aren’t simply image sharing--they can double up as social media or information hubs. Tumblr and Pinterest are among these social media platforms, but they are more image focused than websites like Facebook.
Before you sign up for these applications or websites, make sure to read the user agreements associated with each business. Know what rights you do and don’t have when you post your content. Some websites allow you to state what kind of license is associated with an image, some do not. Overall, sharing can be an excellent tool to make friends, network, or receive constructive criticism regarding your shots.
I hope this guide was helpful! If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to write a comment!