7 Smartphone Photography Tips and Tricks

By Chantal Bechervaise

I remember growing up and using a 110 camera, and sometimes my parents would even let me use their 35mm camera. I think back to all those 110 film cartridges that were wasted;  I was lucky to get maybe one or two good pictures per cartridge, and quite a few 35mm rolls came back blank because they weren’t loaded properly.

The quality of the photos I took back in those days is nothing compared to the quality of the photos I take now – even with my smartphone or tablet. With every new smartphone and tablet that I try, I am amazed at the camera capabilities. My Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone and my Nexus 9 tablet can outperform my Canon DSLR that was purchased back in 2003.

Camera phones and tablets each have their own strengths and weaknesses but learning to focus on their strengths will help you to take better photos. Here are 7 tips and tricks to help you get the most out of them.

1.      Take Lots of Photos

Don’t be shy about taking a lot of photos. Smartphones and tablets generally have adequate storage or have an option to install and use a microSD card. Try taking pictures from different angles, experiment with different lighting and be creative. Take 10, 20 or even 30 shots and then go through and pick out your favorites. The others can be deleted if need be. Using a cloud storage service is great for uploading and saving lots of pictures. That way you don’t have to worry about saving them all on your phone, and you can access them from any computer.

2.      Ensure Adequate Lighting

When taking pictures indoors, try and stay close to natural light sources like windows and doors. Or move the subject outside. Photos of food and people (their expressions and faces) look better under natural lighting. Also, keep track of where the lighting is coming from. As in regular photography, taking photos of people that are backlit creates shadows and makes it hard to see their faces. This type of picture is great if you are only trying to capture silhouettes.

3.      Composition Matters

Everything from learning the Rule of Thirds to framing and taking photos of your subjects off center will help make your photos more interesting. Always check what is in the background too, as you may think you have a great shot until you realize that there was a truck blocking the scenic view behind your family and friends. I am often guilty of cutting off the tops of buildings.

4.      Use the Remote Shutter Feature

Instead of tapping the screen, which sometimes risks moving your phone or tablet from where it was originally focused, try using the remote shutter feature. On your iPhone or Android device try using the volume up button to snap your photo. You can even use a pair of connected headphones and use the inline volume control to snap pictures too.

Some Android devices, such as the LG G Flex, will let you snap a photo by simply saying the word ‘cheese.’

5.      Use Burst Mode for Fast Action Shots

Burst mode lets you capture those fast paced shots, such as children playing, pets running or sporting events.

iPhone: Tap and hold the shutter button for as long as you need. You will see the photo count indicator go up.  When you are done, let go of the shutter button and the images will be saved and shown as a thumbnail. You can then go through them and select the ones you want to keep.

Android: (Depending on the model of phone.) Tap the mode button and then select Burst from the options menu. Then hold down the snapshot button to take up to 20 shots in rapid succession.

6.      Lock Down the Focus and Exposure

If you tap on the screen when composing your shot, you will set the focus and exposure. But if your hands are not steady or the subject moves, then that setting may be lost. To force your phone to keep the focus and exposure, tap and hold down on the screen until the setting locks. Then even if you move or the subject moves, it will keep the same focus and exposure.

7.      Experiment with HDR Mode

This is a favorite setting of mine. I love taking landscape and scenic photos and the HDR mode helps to make them brighter and clearer. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and most new smartphones come with this option. HDR mode will take 3 photos with your camera at 3 different exposure levels (low, standard and high). It will then stack the 3 photos together to create one composite image that is much sharper.

HDR mode is great for taking pictures of landscapes. It will make the sky look more blue and will provide more details in trees and buildings. It is also great to use if the sun is right behind your subject.

Avoid HDR mode for action shots, as the image will come out blurry. Also avoid its use in portraits. It is great to enhance details on buildings and landscapes but you don’t really need to enhance wrinkles on a loved one’s face!

Have fun experimenting with your smartphone and tablet cameras. The more you practice, the better you will get.

Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

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