A good number of my readers have four things in common. They enjoy photography, desire to be good in it, own phones with good camera capabilities and believe they need to own good cameras to take good photographs. By good cameras I mean the expensive type that make them forget that they can actually enjoy phone photography!
Some photographers dismiss phone photography but who says it can’t be a thing? There are more camera phones today than DSLR cameras anyway!
In its simplest form, photography is the ability to capture things or moments as they are at a particular point in time. If a camera phone is what you have, as long as you are freezing a moment with it, you are in my view practicing photography.
There are numerous reasons why you may wish to improve on your phone photography. Impressing your Instagram buddies and attracting more followers is one. Running a blog and needing to take quality photos but all you have is your phone is another. Investing in an expensive camera for a blog especially when starting out may be quite an stretch. Or maybe, you just love photography and it will give you joy getting good shots.
If you suit within what I have mentioned out then this write up is definitely for you. If not, let me tell you why I still think this is for you.
One of my friends hires a photographer to cover his wedding. Feeling generous, he pays the photographer his full sum upfront. The photographer shows up, carries on as expected and promises to deliver the images in three days. The photographer has never been seen or heard from since. The couple result to collecting photos from family and friends who were randomly taking photos at the wedding. All the photographs that the couple have today of their wedding were taken by phones.
Let’s get started.
Learn to Compose
Photographers are a complicated bunch.
First they tell you to take good photographs, learn rules of composition. Then they tell you, the only rule in photography is there are no rules. It took me a while to understand this contradiction means the rules are guidelines which you have to learn to be able to break them.
Simply, learn and practice on using rule of thirds, balance, leading lines, symmetry, patterns, colors, viewpoints, framing, depth and so forth. Understanding these guidelines will allow you to come up with visually appealing and interesting shots.
Follow the Light
Light is probably the most important aspect of photography. Crack this code and you have it!
Observing how light affects a scene or set up is critical. With phone photography, you will predominantly deal with ambient light and there will be no advanced lighting setup. Let me not say that you cannot use strobes for phone photography but I have never come across anyone who does.
Manipulating ambient light can be tricky but more often you will be required to either increase or reduce the intensity of light. If you are shooting directly under the sun, you can either look for shadow areas where the harsh light is diffused or shoot facing away from the sun. This is not to say that you cannot capture photos under or facing the sun but it will take some practice.
If you are shooting indoors, take advantage of light coming in from windows and doors. Have your subject adjacent or opposite to the where the light enters the room to have it lit up. If you are taking a portrait of someone, have them stand against the window or stand opposite the window with the camera in between the subject and the window.
Ditch the Flash
The light from the flash on your phone is flat and will probably leave you with red eyes. Even if you find yourself in a rather dark place, read the light and work with it.
Here is why.
The primary work of strobes is to capture action in a split second. Flashes fitted on phones however are LEDs that light up longer than needed. This ends up giving you a blurry and badly lit shot.
Study the light that you find yourself in and this will force you to be creative. I guarantee that you will end up taking better shots without the flash. If it comes down to being in a completely dark place, use the flash if you are going to end up with no shot at all.
Don’t Use the Digital Zoom, Move
Unless your phone has a lens that pops out when you zoom, you are on digital zoom which is a sure way to crappy photos. Zooming leaves you with blurry and pixelated photos.
A better option is walking towards your subject and getting a closer capture. Like many other photographers, I work with the 50mm lens most of the times which has no zoom. I have to walk and position myself to capture interesting shots.
There are times when it is impossible to move closer in which case, you are better off taking the shot as it is and cropping out the parts that you do not want.
Fill Your Frame
This is closely related to the point above. When you have a busy background, you confuse your viewers over what you want them to see. Remedy by filling your frame with your subjects by getting closer.
Rather than have people squinting at your phone every time you show them your shots, have them admire your photos by the amount of details you capture such as facial features, textures, colors etc.
Go High Quality
The sensor on your camera phone is small, explore the settings on your phone and select the highest quality it offers.
Often high quality means a tread off with storage space but I would advocate for the former. Getting your phone to shoot at high quality allows you to capture more details.
Stabilize Your Hands
Blurry photos are such a turn off! Keep your arms as stable as you can by holding the phone firmly and closer to your body to avoid any shake. A good number of times your shots are blurry because you moved while taking the shot.
You can also try placing the phone on a surface before taking the shot which will help you in stabilizing your phone.
Make use of the camera timer as clicking the shutter button adds camera shake. Using the timer not only eliminates shakes but also lets you focus on staying stable while the camera shutters away. I find this feature to work really well on static subjects and landscapes.
Always Take Multiple Shots
There is nothing worse than getting home happy about a photo only to realize it is not as good as you thought. To avoid this, take multiple shots.
Change your angle while you repeat the shots and you may end up liking a different angle more than the original one you had visioned.
Edit Don’t Filter
Leave Instagram filters alone. Everyone is generous with them there is nothing unique about them anymore.
Learn to edit with a good software. Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop are great, however, with phone photography chances are you may find these to be an expense that you are not ready for. There are quite a number of free editing tools out there such as Google Nik.
These programs are powerful and capable of delivering huge improvement in the quality of your photography.