Tech / Travel

10 Mobile Phone Photography Tips

February 8, 2019

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We have all heard the cliché saying “The Best Camera is the One You Have With You”, well although this is extremely over used, it is still true.

Not everyone can or wants to buy a camera kit worth £100’s & £1000’s to take photos but ALL of us have a mobile phone.

Mobile Phone Photography cannot fully replace a DSLR Camera, and it may be a long time till it comes close, however the quality of the cameras built into phones from brands such as Apple, Samsung, Google Pixel, HTC etc are now making it possible to capture incredible images. For example just try searching #shotoniphone to see some of the amazing photos amateurs are capturing from their iPhones, it is simply incredible.

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What I love the most about mobile photography is the way it gets you to THINK. Sometimes you see people using their expensive cameras and even more expensive lenses and assuming that BOOM… the photo will be the best, but that is not how photography works.

I have recently discovered some beautiful Instagram Accounts that only share photos shot on a mobile phone (I will share these accounts in a future blog post) and it inspired me to do a blog with some tips on what we can do to improve our mobile phone photography skills.

The 10 Points below are not an extensive list, but can help take some steps towards improving your photography.

1. Set the Focus:

Sounds like a basic thing, but if is so basic how comes there are SOOO many photos out of focus?
So take the time to decide what you want to focus on, then tap on that point on the screen, a square or circle will appear to confirm you have done this, then just wait a moment for the lens to adjust until taking the photo. It is good to practice this several times to get fast at it, because often we like to take photos in a special moment that will not last long, and the last thing we want is to end up with a blurry picture.

FOCUS LOCK – To be a little more advanced try Focus Lock. In some cases you want to take a photo but may need to wait a while for the perfect moment, but after focusing on the subject the “clever” camera will start to focus on other things it thinks you are trying to photograph. To stop this happening, instead of tapping, hold your finger on what you want to focus on after 2-3 seconds it will show a locked focus symbol, then no matter where you move the camera the focus will stay locked on that point.

2. Clean the Lens:

A camera always comes with a nice lens cap to protect it and stop it getting dirty, your mobile however does not have a cap, and is in and out of your pocket, bag, coat and easily gets smudges and dirt all over it.

So before taking a photo give the lens a quick once over (I use my T-Shirt) but you can use a fancy lens cloth to do this properly.

3. Exposure:

When you select a focus point as mentioned in point 1, the camera then adjusts the exposure to match that. Exposure basically refers to how light or dark the picture will be due to the amount of light that is being allowed in.

Often though you need to tweak this manually to suit the scene, For Example maybe it is very dark, say a photo taken in the evening, then you need to up the exposure to allow more light in and brighten up that photo, OR perhaps its a bright sunny day and the shot is overexposed due to the amount of light, then you will want to reduce it to allow less light in.
Doing this on your phone is simple, tap to focus, then swipe slowly from that point up or down to brighten or darken your picture, on iPhones you will see a picture of a sun on the slider.

4. Movement:

Keeping your camera STILL is vital, especially when trying to capture photos in low light. When there is low light the camera on your phone will need to stay open longer to let enough light in which means if you do not keep it still you can get motion blur. So dig your elbows in to your sides and don’t move ha ha.

An alternative option is to lean it on something static, use a glass or a tripod, like a Gorilla Pod.

5. Zoom:

Sometimes you are taking a photo and the subject is just that bit to far away, easy solution pinch the screen to zoom in… do NOT do this. On most phones this is called digital zoom, so all it is doing is cropping the image not actually zooming in.

Better option is: Walk Closer or Crop the Image when editing the photo.

Second Lenses: Many new phones now have a second lens, like on the iPhone 7Plus, 8Plus and X, they are a different focal length to the normal lens, using this is a perfect way to get closer to the action.

Another GREAT option for zooming is buy an add on accessory, look out for a blog post we do soon all about Lenses you can add to your phone.

6. Take More then 1 Shot:

You can never jump back to a moment, sadly. And sometimes you look back at your photos and wish you had just taken it from a slightly different angle, height, exposure level, focus point or maybe that 1 person has their eyes closed AGAIN!

Don’t let that happen, next time take as many as needed, explore those angles, play with the focus points, if taking photos of people take several and then later you can go through them and delete the ones you don’t want, and you will then be rewarded with the photo you wanted.

7. Thirds:

What does that mean??? Thirds???

It is all about the composition of your photo.

Imagine a Grid over your photo, with lines dividing it into 3 both vertically and horizontally, often there is an option to turn this on so you can see them whilst taking photos.

The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is something photographers have been using for years and years, basically you position the important elements of the photo along one of those lines or at the point where they meet.

8. Leading Lines:

Another great thing to do is using leading lines. How does this work?

You would use leading lines to bring the attention of the viewer deeper into the picture, placing your subject at the end of it. So for example this could be a photo on a bridge with the lines leading you along it to a subject, car or building, the lines would naturally lead your eyes along it to the subject.

9. Different Perspectives:

Most people when taking photos use the same angle, same distance, same everything. But experiment, try getting down low and shooting up wards, find a higher vantage point and shoot downwards, go near a tree or bush and shoot through the leaves so some of them blur out the edges of the photo which helps focus attention on the subject. Do anything to help find a different perspective, sometimes it will fail and not work but other times it will help you discover a new and exciting way of taking a photo.

Peter McKinnon is one of my favourite YouTubers and has a GREAT video explaining more about the last couple of points CLICK HERE TO WATCH

10. Lighting

Throughout the day the lighting changes drastically. The BEST time to take photos are traditionally After Sunrise and Before Sunset, this is referred to as ‘Golden Hour’ where the sun gives a beautiful glow and feel to your photos, it can also help create beautiful elongated shadows, especially when using a Drone. There are many photographers around the world who actually ONLY take photos at these times.

But there are many who also get very creative with artificial light sources, for example:

they may use fairy lights or sparklers keeping them close to the lens whilst focusing on the main subject, this can create beautiful soft dashes of light across the lens.

Neon lights have become very popular when doing night photography, no need to buy them, just head out into any town or city and you will see them on street signs etc, stand near them and use that light to create arty photos.

Another option is something like a LumeCube it is an LED light with various brightness settings, very durable and you can use coloured lenses to add different types of light.


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