Technology in smartphone cameras is getting better with every release. Between iSight, dual pixel sensors and optical image stabilisation technology, taking an impressive photo with your humble mobile phone is becoming increasingly achievable. This guide will introduce you to some tips and tricks to take your smartphone snaps from average to impressive.
Let there be light
While low light capabilities are getting better in smartphone cameras, like any camera they still don’t perform their best in dark or minimal light. The good news is that the best light source whether you’re a novice or a professional is both free and readily available – natural light! Filtered natural light is ideal; think next to a window of a bright room. If you’re finding your light is too harsh, you can try making a DIY diffuser with some light thin material or parchment paper. Try to avoid taking photos in direct sunlight, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon as you’ll get strong harsh shadows that take away from the detail of your subject – unless of course you’re looking to maximise the golden hour period!
These two images taken on an iPhone 7 demonstrate the difference lighting can make. The image on the left has limited natural light whereas the one on the right has a good amount. As you can see, with limited light comes loss of detail and sharpness.
Exposure and focus
These are two things very few good photographers get wrong. Phone cameras allow the exposure and focus to be adjusted with just a touch of the screen (that’s easier than with fancy SLR’s!). If you want something to be the focus of your frame, touch it on your screen before you take the photo and your phone will work out the rest. iPhones have the added feature of focus lock; you can press and hold your finger on your subject and even if it (or you) moves around, it'll stay in focus.
If you want to take your phone photography to the next level, apps such as VSCO give you the control to change things such as ISO (the measurement of light sensitivity), white balance and even shutter speed. iPhone photographer Ryan Pernofski has captured some really impressive photos by adjusting the shutter speed on his phone to capture a fast moving wave, frozen in motion.
Let's get editing!
Here are our top picks of editing apps that allow you to alter and enhance your shots like a pro. Our advice is to download these and experiment with their settings on a variety of different images to get a feel for what they can do.
VSCO – as well as its camera features, VSCO has a range of filters and editing settings which allow you to enhance and personalise your images.
Snapseed – this free app fantastic for its fine-tuning and retouching capabilities. Below is an example of an image where the white tablecloth has been brightened using the ‘brush’ and exposure tool. This tool is great for lightening or altering the background of your image to highlight or draw attention to the subject.
Snapseed also has some great built in text tools which allow you to easily put words on top of an image. These can be great if you're using social media for your business and you want to advertise a special or sale, as seen below.
Airbrush and Face tune – Useful for editing photos of people and correcting blemishes all from your smartphone. Our advice with this one: less is more!
Now a feature built directly into Instagram, Boomerang is a fun app that captures movement in a series of images and stitches them together. It’s great for showing dimension or bringing a scene to life.
- If the horizon or skyline is in your photo, make sure it’s straight! The editing features within both iOS and Android allow you to straighten images and the feature is built in to most photo editing apps too.
- When it comes to editing, use a light hand at first. Get a feel for the settings and filters and aim to keep the look of your images reasonably realistic, unless of course you're going for an intense look!