I used to take my big DSLR camera with me whenever I traveled or went to an event. But, since cell phone cameras and lenses have gotten so much better, I can often get the shots I need using only my phone. For that reason, the majority of people these days rely on their smartphones for most, if not all, of their photos. But, people can still take really bad photos if they don’t know what they’re doing. So, with it being the last day of National Photography Month, here are some simple mobile photography tips for taking pictures with your cell phone. (FYI, these can be used for taking photos with a regular camera as well.)
Quick and Easy Mobile Photography Tips
Before I go into these mobile photography tips, you should know that these are pretty basic tips that don’t require much skill. Yet, many overlook them and end up with hundreds of sad-looking photos on their camera roll. It may seem harsh to call people’s photos “sad-looking” but when you see how easy it is to make them look better, you’ll understand what I mean. I guarantee that following these nine mobile photography tips will improve your everyday photo-taking game!
- Oh, the horror! — Clean the lenses
The MOST important factor to remember when taking photos is to clean your front and rear phone lenses first. 90% of the people I know do not do this and all their photos are fuzzy and blurry. Why?! No one would take photos if their DSLR camera lens was dirty! All you have to do is wipe the lens with a soft clean cloth (even a part of your cotton t-shirt will do) until no spots or streaks appear on it. One of my biggest pet peeves is the easiest to avoid. If you want clear photos, clean your lenses. Period.
- Go towards the light — Use lighting to your advantage
This is pretty basic but many still don’t think about it. Before taking a photo, pay attention to where the light is coming from. The light should be facing you/your subject and not behind. If the light is behind, the subject will dark and unclear. All you have to do is, before tapping the shutter button, turn in different directions and use the preview display to determine the best lighting.
- Side-to-side — Portrait vs Landscape
Since we generally hold and use our mobile phones in an upright direction, people tend to take photos and video vertically (portrait orientation). That’s fine for showing photos to others on your screen or posting on Instagram, Instagram stories, and Snapchat. But, if you plan on printing photos out later, use them in a digital frame, or want to share them via email, Facebook, or Twitter, it’s good to get in the habit of rotating your phone sideways first. Since our field of vision is naturally wide, not tall, it makes sense that we better capture what our eyes see when shooting in landscape orientation (horizontal). You can always take a photo in both directions to make sure you get the perfect shot for whatever your needs are. For video, horizontal will always be more versatile.
- A little to the left/right/higher/lower — Angles matter
Photos can look completely different depending on which angle they are taken from. Don’t be afraid to experiment and move around a subject to get the best vantage point. Try higher, lower, from above, straight on, slightly to the left or right, or even at a minor slant. When you see which angle you like best, just delete the photos you don’t like as much. To take flattering photos of people, try not to shoot from below the subjects. I mean, if you want to take an artsy or abstract photo from a distance, that’s fine. Otherwise, you’re just asking for double chins and awkward shading. Instead, take the photos straight on or slightly above. However, taking photos from too high up will kind of squish their bodies in full-length shots. As a side note, I adore the “portrait mode” on my iPhone 8 Plus. It adds a whole other level to good mobile photography!
- Flashing friends — Low light solution
In a dark area or have a backlight you can’t avoid? Instead of relying on your phone’s flash (which often overexposes the subject or looks very unnatural), ask nearby friends for help. Ask 1-2 other people to turn on their phone flashlights and point them at the photo subject. The photo will be clearer and light will fill in the darkness better.
- Unintentional photobombers — Consider the background
When taking photos, don’t just look at the subject you are focusing on. A cute family photo is a whole lot less cute with an overflowing trash can glaring at you from behind. The same goes for random objects and body parts that might show up in various corners of your photo. Patience is key here. Just wait for the shot to clear up and take your photo before more things or people get in the way. If the person or object does not move, try adjusting your location or angle. This is also when “live” photos on an iPhone come in handy!
- Creating a personal gag reel — Timers and bursts
My daughter almost always closes her eyes in photos, even when there’s no flash. I have no idea why. When taking photos of people, take a few shots at the same time. This is in case someone has their eyes closed, is making a weird face, or you accidentally move your hand. Also, if you tend to be a little shaky when taking selfies, try using the 2-3 second timer. This allows you to stabilize your arm and prevent extra movement from tapping the shutter button. It will also create a burst of photos, from which you can select the best one to keep. The best thing about mobile photography is how easy it is to take photos and delete the less flattering ones. (Or, leave them be and use them to blackmail people later. Just kidding! 😜 )
- Throw some shade — Dealing with direct light
When facing direct sunlight or any other light source, reflected streaks or halos of light can wash out and darken the photo. First of all, try to move or angle the phone a little differently. If you can’t do that, place your hand slightly above the camera as if you were blocking light from your eyes like a visor. This acts like a faux camera hood, allowing you to take the photo you want but without the weird lighting. Make sure your hand or fingers are not in the shot, though. 🙂
- Slide, baby, slide — Adjust the brightness
When framing your shot, tap on where you want the focus. An icon should pop up that you can slide up or down to adjust the brightness. Doing this while taking the photo will give you a better result that you can use immediately. Or, maybe, that particular lighting or angle doesn’t work and you need to adjust your position. You can always edit the brightness in other apps later but this will give you a better starting point either way.
- Just Eyeball it — Align elements
Take a couple extra seconds to properly align your photo. Try to balance the space around the featured subject(s) so things don’t look off-balance (not too much sky, too much ground, don’t oddly cut off body parts, etc.). Or, you can use the rule of thirds to add a nice touch without centering everything. Rule of thirds is a common photography term that you can easily google. To help with making a photo straight or aligning elements, turn on the camera grid. If using an iPhone, go to settings -> camera -> then turn on “grid.”
Now, all these mobile photography tips might seem overwhelming to keep in mind at first. But, after some practice, it will become second nature. You’ll also see how much your photos improve, making the extra effort and attention worth it. If anything, only following the one tip to clean your lenses will make the world of difference. Not everyone can be a world-class photographer but, with such advanced phone cameras, we can all have the ability to take nice photos. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about memories those shots capture. So, don’t sweat it and enjoy being in the moment as much as possible.
I am being compensated for participating in the OM Media Group 2018 Influencer Program for Verizon Wireless for the #BetterMatters campaign. All opinions are my own.