7 Ways to Take Better Shots With Your Smartphone


Some of us love them, some of us hate them but the fact is mobile photography is here and it is here to stay. The vast majority of us carry a smartphone with us all of the time. That means we are all carrying a very useable, indeed very capable digital camera wherever we go. However, because the primary function of these devices is not photography, they need a different approach to setting up and taking pictures. Today we will explore some of the things to look out for.

Camera Fast Access

All smartphone use quite aggressive power saving modes. This means they will switch to standby mode after a minute or two. This of course is not ideal if the photo op of a lifetime suddenly appears in from of you. Unlocking the phone, navigating menus and finally hitting the shutter button can take forever. Fortunately the major mobile software developers have provided us with shortcuts to get directly to the camera even from the lock screen. On Apple IOS for example you simply slide up the lock screen and press camera. Investigate and practice the quick camera access more for you camera so that you don’t miss that photo of a lifetime.

Think Prime Lens

Yes, the chances are that you smartphone has a fixed focal length lens. That to us photographers means a prime lens. Now whilst there is no comparison between an iPhone lens and a Nikon prime optically, creatively the challenges remain the same. Try to avoid the temptation just to hold up the camera and shoot, rather, use your feet, move in, move away, change your angles. Prime lenses on dedicated cameras are a great way to improve our creativity. There is no reason why we cannot treat a smartphone camera in the same way.

1969 Cadillac DeVille Convertible/ Tag Sale in Meriden, CT
Think prime to get yourself into the right shooting positions, by Marcus Balcher

Understand the Limitations

As we spend more time shooting on our DSLRs or mirrorless cameras we become aware of its limitations. Can I push the ISO a little further or will it induce noise? Can I handhold this at 1/20th? Learn and understand the limitations of your smartphone too. Most will use an auto ISO and due to the very small sensors noise will be a significant factor. Because you are holding a screen out in front of you, camera shake is a real possibility. Getting to know these limitations will able you to get much better shots.

Memories: A Lament
IF you understand the limitations, you can be very creative by Jeffrey,

Upgrade your Camera App

The dedicated camera apps on most phones are fairly limited. However for a few dollars, there are a multitude of excellent third party apps that can greatly increase control over your phone’s camera. These apps can allow you to control exposure and focus manually, change the white balance, shoot in continuous mode and much more. Unlocking the potential of your camera will greatly improve your creative possibilities.

Don’t Filter

Whilst the lay person will wax lyrical over over processed, Instagram type filters, you and I know that they are just cheesy effects. Rather than apply any filters in the camera, do it in the post production. This can be done either using a smartphone app or in a dedicated editing program such as Lightroom. More importantly, by avoiding the in camera filters, we reduce the image quality loss incurred when these are applied, an important consideration with images from small sensors.

Sam (iPhone)
Keep the image natural. Use post production apps for any manipulation by Harold Meerveld

Go Close

The small sensors on smartphones can be played to our advantage and one notable area where this occurs is macro shots. Most smartphones are capable of getting in and focussing very close on macro subjects. The deeper depth of field from these sensors can give us remarkably good close up shots. Remember to consider the limitations of your camera when shooting, such as low light and camera shake.

Yellow cup flower
Get close with your smartphone by MelisaTG

Stay Clean

Because our phones are in constant use, the tiny lenses that adorn them can get very dirty, very easily. As photographers, we all have the kit to keep lenses clean, so make sure you break out the lint free cloth and a little cleaning fluid and get that lens nice and clean before setting off to shoot. Another option is to use a SensorPen. This is actually a derivative of the Lenspen but designed for camera sensors. However, because of its hinged head and small size, it is also ideal for cleaning smartphone lenses.

We should not ignore the power of the phone in our pocket as a photographic device. Whilst the purists might point out the lack of low light ability and deep depth of field afforded by such small sensors, the fact is, most of us are carrying a highly capable camera in our pockets, most of the time we are awake. Its an easy way to fulfil the old photographer’s adage, “always carry a camera with you”.

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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