How to Get Great Shots From Your Smartphone Camera

The best camera for the job is the one in your hand. For many of us, that’s the one on our smartphones. Read on for tips for filling your albums with clear, well-composed shots.

Adjust Focus and Exposure

Although smartphone cameras can be pretty good at guessing what you’re trying to photograph, they aren’t always perfect, especially when it comes to determining the subject of focus in your image. That is why knowing how to manually adjust your focus can be a nifty trick!

Simply tap on the object you want to focus on when it appears on your phone screen. You can even press and hold the object on your screen to lock it in as your focus point. That way, if you or the subject moves, the camera still knows what you want.

You may also notice a little sun icon appear when you tap and hold to focus, and that is your option to manually adjust the exposure of your image. Tap and hold the exposure icon and that will open up a slider. From there, you can simply slide to either brighten your image or darken it.

Light Is Key

Whether you’re shooting on a high-end professional camera, or using your smartphone to snap pics, light is the key ingredient to a gorgeous image. Sure, you can manually adjust exposure, but that doesn’t substitute finding ideal lighting such as the golden hour after sunrise or before sunset. 

Not only should you play around with what time of day you’re shooting images, also consider playing with light and shadow contrasts. 

One exercise you can do to begin developing your creative skills is go out during a gorgeous bluebird day and place a subject somewhere. Then, walk in a circle around the subject snapping pictures and see how the angle you are at from the light source can change the overall image itself. How does shooting directly towards the light look compared to shooting from the side or with the light behind you? As you start to play with this understanding of light, your photography will only continue to improve, even on your smartphone.

Try to Stay Steady

Regardless of how great your light is or if your camera is focusing on the right subject, if your hands move too much when you try to take a picture, the image is going to come out looking fuzzy or blurry. 

The trick is to try and stay as steady as possible when taking pics, even on your phone. Now if you struggle with this on your own, consider what is around you that you could use as a make-shift tripod. Sometimes balancing your phone on a nearby table, fence, or even rock can help the image come out much more crisp and clear! Or, if you’re taking phone photos often, consider investing in an actual phone tripod or grip-holder to help out. 

Think of Composition

Just as discussed in Tips for Photographing Kids in Action, composition is the foundation upon which every great image stands whether it’s a professional fashion shoot or snapping pictures in your own backyard.

“Composition” is how the space of the image is being used. The more classic incorporation of composition is playing with that is known as the Rule of Thirds.  

In essence, what this principle is trying to have you think about is if you took the image and divided it into three sections both vertically and horizontally. Then, you want to place your subject of emphasis either on one of those lines, or at where they intersect.

Here are a few great visual examples of the Rule of Thirds from a Lightroom Presets blogger.

Editing Images

Nowadays, almost everyone edits their images. If it’s not your thing, that’s 100% OK! But if you’ve ever wondered how someone made an image look so vibrant, crisp, and contrasted, then learning a few editing tricks is most likely your answer. 

Almost every smartphone will have a basic editing option when viewing your images. Tap edit to see options such as adjusting exposure (how bright your image is), contrast (the intensity between lights and darks), saturation (how vibrant or not your colors are), as well as warmth (also known as white balance). 

From here, it’s mostly playing around and learning your style. Be playful and don’t be afraid to swing the bar all the way to one side and all the way to the other to see the total extremes. Sometimes we need to see how far things can go to find where we think is the happy balance for our image.

Beyond the Default Camera?

While smartphone cameras are only getting more and more impressive, there are still areas to grow. That is where apps come in.

There are multiple downloadable apps, both free and pay-for, that add in speciality camera features or enhanced control options when snapping pics on your phone. 

One great option to look into is $1.99 and called Pixtica. This app actually allows manual camera controls such as shutter speed, ISO, and real-time previews. If you’re considering making the jump from phone photos to a DSLR, playing with this app first will really start to familiarize yourself with the tools and skills to do so more seamlessly. 

Images by Rachel Auestad

Tips for Photographing Kids in Action!

 

Brooke Jackson

Brooke Jackson is an internationally featured writer and photographer based in Seattle. As the founder of Wandering Trails Media, she specializes in travel, outdoor adventure sports, and environmental studies. Brooke also instructs for REI Outdoor School, where she finds joy in educating others on how best to get outside in a responsible and sustainable way. See more of Brooke's work at www.WanderingTrailsMedia.com