So many times I have heard the question of why are my photos coming out so terrible. Most people just assume the camera isn’t good enough. While that may be true, it may also be with just a bit of understanding you can achieve the photos that you want with the phone camera that you have. I think the answer to the question can be found in these 10 suggestions on how you can improve the photos you take with your phone.
- Understand the limitations of your phone
- Clean your lens
- Shoot in the best lighting conditions
- Set focus manually
- Use gridlines (Rule of thirds)
- Find unique angles
- Use leading lines
- Don’t use Zoom
- Don’t use Flash
- Edit - but keep it simple
- Be creative
Understand the Limitations of Your Phone
Many people just look at how many megapixels the camera on their phone has and assume the higher the number the better quality the picture will be. Now, this is generally true, but you need to take into account the hardware-software compatibility. If you have a very high megapixel camera but the software powering the device can't handle the megapixels you will not get the full quality that the hardware offers.
In addition, sometimes the hardware and the software are not perfectly aligned. This can happen when the company that makes the software doesn't make the hardware. A good example is Apple. Apple makes both the hardware and the software, so they are perfectly aligned. While all android companies usually have their own software, they very often outsource the hardware. That is why people often think that iPhones have superior cameras. Even though the cameras on iPhones don't have the highest megapixels.
Clean Your Lens
Your phone is with you all day and is handled quite a lot. This means that it is common for the phone to get dirty. The first thing you should do before taking any photos is to wipe your lens down with a soft cloth.
Shoot in the Best Lighting Conditions
Despite the technological advances in mobile phone cameras there still is much to be desired. The sensors on mobile phones are nowhere near as powerful as a DSLR or a Mirrorless and can’t compensate as well for poor lighting. Therefore it is very important when using a mobile phone camera to shoot in the best possible lighting in order to maximize the possible quality of the final photo. The best times of day to shoot are in the early morning and in the evening when the sun is not so harsh.
Set focus Manually
The majority of people who use mobile phones for photography use the automatic mode. As technology gets better and better the automatic mode gets smarter and better. But as of now we still have a ways to go. The automatic mode isn't perfect and sometimes it focuses on something that you don’t want it to. So tap the screen to tell the camera where you want it to focus. You can also achieve a more unique shot by focusing properly and creating more depth in the shot.
Use Gridlines (Rule of Thirds)
Every phone has in the camera menu an option to display grid lines. When you do this you can line your shot up much more efficiently. You can easily ensure that your photo is not crooked. In addition, you can use them to help you use the rule of thirds. Most people tend to place the subject of the photo directly in the center, but sometimes the center is not the nicest layout for your photo. Imagine a grid of four lines, two running horizontally across the image and two vertical creating nine even squares. If you want to center the subject you place the subject in the center square, and if you want to apply the rule of thirds then place the subject so that its center is aligned with one of the intersections between a vertical line and a horizontal line. The idea is that an off-center composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame.
Find Unique Angles
Whenever I see something that is common to be photographed like an iconic building or a beautiful landscape, it is quite common to see many of the same angles. Sometimes you can even see this in action, like a group of people photographing the same thing from the same angle. In this and every scenario I encourage you to think of an angle or a view that you haven't seen before. Even if it requires some maneuvering and extra setup, the results will likely be worth it.
Use Leading Lines
Leading lines is a composition technique where you utilize items that have been placed or that are already there to guide the human eye towards the focus point of your photo. For example, a person standing in a path the lines of the path guide your eyes towards the person at the end. Other examples are walls, fences, train tracks, and much more.
Don’t Use Zoom
There are two kinds of zoom. Optical zoom is an actual lens adjustment where digital zoom is done using software. Digital zoom is basically the software of the camera enlarging the middle section of what you are photographing and trimming the sides of the image. Mobile phone cameras use digital zoom. So when you zoom you are actually decreasing the quality of the photo. If you need to zoom it is better to take the picture without zooming and then crop the picture yourself that way you can see the effects of the cropping and try and use editing tools to achieve what you want.
Don’t Use Flash
Why do we need flash? Because often what or where we are shooting has poor lighting. The idea of the flash is to give a burst of light at the moment of the capture. A mobile phone camera gives off a direct flash aimed at the subject however, this is often quite harmful. The harsh light should not be aimed directly at the subject. A flash is meant to illuminate the space around the subject without shining directly on it. You will notice that any professional photographer with a flash attached to his camera has it pointing away from where he is shooting. In addition, most professional photographers will have external lighting. This is a much better approach even for mobile photography. External lighting is easily doable with plenty of small portable lighting options like here.
Edit - Keep it Simple
I am not talking about Instagram filters here. Ditch the easy filters and get yourself adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Learn how to properly edit your photos. Experiment with exposure, noise, clarity, lighting, and color. If those terms were gibberish to you check out this article. In short, a lot of work goes into cleaning up pictures post-shooting and it's a really good skill to have. Just remember not to overdo it. Keep it simple and let the photo talk for itself.
Lastly, it is very important to remember that despite all these tips and tricks you still need to be creative and try out new things. Experiment and bend the rules. Have fun and let the creative juices flow!