Monday, March 17, 2014

5 Tips for Improving Smart Phone Photography

There’s a large group of photo enthusiasts online who will dismiss a photo straight away if they find out it was taken with a smartphone and not an SLR. I think everyone should have a dedicated camera whether it be an SLR or a digital/film point and shoot camera.

A good photo is a good photo, regardless of the gear used to take it. Smart phone camera options have some strengths and weaknesses, and by emphasizing the good and downplaying the bad, you can succeed in capturing quality imagery.

Here are some things to keep in mind when firing up the photo app on your iPhone, Droid, Lumia or whatever.

1. Hold your phone steady or find support 

Always make sure you have a good grip on your smartphone while taking photos. Try to not move it at all while taking the shot as every tremble of your hand may result in a blurry photo, especially if your camera doesn't stabilize the image optically or digitally. For the same reason, you should be gentle when tapping that shutter button. 

2. Do not use digital zoom. Crop later or get closer instead 

Digital zoom should be avoided as the digital image stretching process reduces image quality - the more you zoom, the worse your image looks. Instead, crop your photo after you've already taken it - most smartphones come with the necessary editing tools built right into their gallery apps. Of course, getting closer to your subject would be a better alternative to zooming. 

3 Get Close 

Many cell phone cameras, especially the iPhone and Lumia line, really start to shine when you bring them in close to your subject. The small sensor provides a relatively wide depth of field, so you can get entire objects in focus where cameras with bigger sensors and longer lenses would have trouble. 

When getting close, you can also usually have more control over the lighting of your subject. Are bright patches in the background of your composition throwing off the camera's meter and making your subject dark? Get closer and block it out all together. Small detail shots can be quite effective if done right. 

4. Keep Your Lens Clean 

Your pocket is not a clean place, and the dust and oils of handling a smart phone is transferred onto your smartphone camera lens. The result are hazy, dark images that won't look good no matter how many Instagram filters you slap on them. 

The lenses are now remarkably tough, so giving them a quick wipe with a soft cloth can't hurt (and your T-shirt will do OK in a pinch, but try not to make a habit of it). Once in a while, it's worth the effort to break out the lens cleaning solution and really get the grime off of it. It may not look dirty and you might not even notice it in your photos, but often a deep clean will make a difference. 

5. Don't Forget The Rules Of Photography 

This is by far the most important suggestion of all. The rules for taking a good picture don't change when you switch between cameras. Just because the camera can also make calls, doesn't mean you should ignore everything you know about balanced composition and expressive lighting. If you need to keep the rule of thirds or golden ratio layover on your screen at all times to help remind you, certainly turn it on. 

While the tips I've outlined here will help you maximize the strengths and minimize weaknesses of a smartphone camera, it's ultimately your skill, knowledge, and eye that will make photos worth looking at.