It’s easy to have a camera with you at all times these days — in fact, it’s virtually impossible to be without a camera. Everyone has a cell phone and every cell phone has a camera.
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16 megapixels, multiple lenses, image stabilization, manual capabilities. Mobile cameras are more than competent image capturing devices that fill in nicely when you can’t or don’t want to have a full size camera slung over your shoulder or around your neck.
Mobile phone photography isn’t free of drawbacks (mostly a result of their tiny sensors) but the downsides are easily overcome with good technique. No, you won’t match the output of a camera with a larger sensor, but you can create fantastic images with a mobile device.
Here are 5 tips for capturing better photos with any cell phone camera.
Ditch The Stock Camera App
The camera app that comes bundled with your phone is fine, but you can do better than “fine.”
Check the appropriate app store for your phone’s operating system and you will find plenty of camera apps worthy of becoming your go-to app. One-upping the stock app in just about every way, an aftermarket camera app can provide full manual control, raw and TIFF file formats and a host of other customizable settings not found within the stock app.
A more advanced camera app will bring the mobile shooting experience slightly more in line with what you’re accustomed to with a DSLR/mirrorless camera.
Your mileage may vary depending on your camera but zooming in using the slider on the phone screen is just asking for a bad image.
Image quality can decrease significantly when you zoom in. If you want a close-up shot of something, move your feet and physically get closer to your subject.
Turn Off The Flash
I know the men and women responsible for designing cell phone cameras have tried to make the built-in flash not so terrible. But it’s still kind of terrible.
Unlike a speedlight with a tilting head and a bounce card, the garish flash on a camera phone just hits your subject head on and provides no flattering qualities whatsoever. So avoid using it if at all possible.
Find Good Lighting
Instead of relying on the flash, find good natural light. The basic principles of using light don’t change just because you’re using a camera that fits in your pocket. Soft lighting is soft lighting. Golden hour is just as beautiful whether you’re looking at it on your phone’s touch screen or through a camera viewfinder.
Compared to large sensor cameras, mobile devices don’t handle low light very well so finding good light takes on added importance.
Process Your Shots
If you edit the images you make with a dedicated camera, why wouldn’t you with a mobile phone camera?
Again, the same principles apply. You edit an image to bring out its best qualities (and maybe add a little artistic flair while you’re at it) no matter what camera you used to capture the image.
Some mobile photographers will take the time and effort to transfer their images from the phone to a computer so they can edit on a big screen, but there are so many powerful, easy to use apps available that you might opt to do all your editing on your phone.
If mobile photography has any advantage over more “traditional” photography, it would be that it’s the ultimate in convenience.
You can capture, edit, store and share all from one device that fits in your pocket. Mobile photography surely has its detractors, but I’m not sure they matter much given the sustained popularity of mobile photography.
If you want the ultimate in image quality and dynamic range, there is no shortage of camera bodies and lenses out there for you to invest in.
If you want a fun, easily accessible means of capturing good qualities photos, it’s likely you’ve already got what you need.
Ditching the stock app I believe is not a better way to achieve better photos.
I use the Samsung S8+ and I have not found a better camera app than the stock one, and that is not counting if I use the PRO mode. All other 3rd party apps utilize the same features as Samsungs stock app but usually with ads or limitations on the free version. Also, there are really no better apps for Apple either that I have seen on my wife’s phone. Maybe for lower-end phones than yes.
I ditched my worn out Canon DSLR camera and now use only an iPhone XR camera. I have installed about a dozen camera apps that greatly extend the default Apple camera app. For example, on the iPhone XR the default camera app will take portrait photos only when it detects a human face, but the Halide app using its DEPTH setting will take a portrait photo of just about anything, even a pet rock.
I keep several third-party camera apps and utilities on my phone. In particular I have used Camera FV5 for years… shoots raw and it’s worked pretty well for me as has VSCO. Snapseed does a commendable job and Photopills is downright indispensable.