8 Tips for Taking Better Pictures with Your Phone
The mobile photography explosion has revolutionized the way we capture the important (and not so important) events in our lives. Smartphone owners (and a great many “dumb phone” users too) now carry cameras with them everywhere they go, cameras with the ability to share photos with the world in an instant.
As a result, people today take many more pictures than we used to. We take photos of ourselves, our kids, and the big and small events in our day, right down to what we ate for lunch.
While camera phone technology is continually improving, these devices do have their limitations. Still, the best camera is the one you have with you. An iPhone is better than a Canon DSLR when the Canon is at home in a bag!
With that in mind, here are some tips to make the most of your camera phone and take pictures you can be proud of!
Zoom with your feet.
Whenever possible, don’t use the built-in zoom on your camera, just move closer instead. Relying on your phone’s zoom will often give you disappointing results – think grainy, pixelated, and unfocused. Since the lens can’t actually move like a real camera’s zoom, when you use your phone’s built-in zoom, you’re essentially just making the image larger and cropping, and as a result, lowering the image quality.
Use natural light.
Lighting has a HUGE effect on your results. Whenever possible, head outside or shoot near a bright window. In a pinch, you can turn on a light, but make sure your subject is facing your light source to minimize dark shadows.
Try not to use the flash, especially on people. The unnatural, bright lighting often makes for poor results. Imperfections can end up magnified and harsh shadows often result, not to mention the dreaded red eye. However, if you absolutely must use the flash, editing your photo to black and white can minimize the harshness of the lighting and give your photo an artsy look.
Parents: Get down on their level.
This one is especially for the parents reading. When photographing kids, the best thing you can do to improve your photos is to get down on their level. Shooting at eye level, rather than looking down from above is a great way to get beautiful, intimate shots of children. You might have to sit or lie down on the ground, but the results can be worth it.
There are exceptions of course, I’m sure you’ve seen lovely photos of kids taken from above. These work because they emphasize just how tiny little kids are compared to the world around them. Shooting up at kids gives a photo a similar fun effect by making them seem taller.
But photos taken at eye level generally do a better job of capturing a child’s world. However, this doesn’t mean your child has to be looking at the camera in every photo. Often the sweetest moments can be when they aren’t – when they’re just playing or watching the world. Photos from the side or taken from behind can be just as sweet, but it’s still a good idea to get down low.
The same holds true of animals by the way. Want to take a great photo of your dog? Shoot at eye level, not looking down.
Hold your phone at waist level and snap away while kids play.
The camera is at eye level to them, and your shooting is less conspicuous, meaning more natural photos. Posed photos are nice, but candids capture those moments of everyday life and can be even more beautiful than posed, professional-looking portraits.
Take LOTS of photos.
Don’t be afraid to snap a ton of photos and sort out the good ones later. This is true for everyone, taking lots of photos with different angles and settings can’t hurt, and you can always delete. But it’s especially great for parents. Kids are wiggly and busy and constantly moving. The best way to capture good photos of them is to take a lot of them! Most of them will wind up blurry, and you can delete them, but you will usually also end up with a winner or two. With mobile photography we don’t have to worry about developing film or even uploading to a computer to edit. So just snap away!
Try a camera app.
Non-native camera apps allow you more control and editing options than your built-in mobile camera. Camera Awesome is a great free option for iOS, while Android users can try the free Camera 360. These apps have many great features, like filters and editing options, and give you more control of your results.
Use an editing app.
Snapseed is a great free app for iOS and Android. It lets you add filters and frames, adjust the brightness and color saturation, add a soft focus or sharpen up the details, and crop your photos to perfection. There are auto adjust settings for quick edits, or you can get really detailed and adjust every detail .
Make a collage. A photo collage is a great way to share several photos at once, or show a sequence of events. You can also add a frame or use the text options to add a message or caption. Pic Stitch is a good option for Android and iOS that’s free and simple to use.
Share and follow.
Photography is more fun with friends! There are thriving online communities of photographers, both amateur and professional. I’ve talked before about Instagram, a photo app and a rapidly growing social photography network. The app offers fun filters and a square format that give your photos a vintage feel. Hashtags make it easy to label your photos and find the things you’re interested in. Find your friends or photographers you like, and follow them. It’s a great way to share your own photos and a wonderful place to gain inspiration from others for your own photography.
Instagram is available for free for iOS and Android. Be sure to follow K12 on Instagram, where we share lots of great photos, from fun school events around the country, to inspiration for your day, and peeks behind the scenes at K12.
Watch our recent Understanding the Internet and Its Tools workshop, discussing mobile photography:
Understanding the Internet and Its Tools: Say Cheese!