10 Tips On How To Make Your Phone Photos Fabulous!

We're coming into the time of year where there is lots of parties and get togethers with family and friends. Some, you may not have seen for quite awhile, especially considering the year that has been 2020. These are the times we want to capture and remember. Today almost everyone has access to a phone camera. Taking great photos though, involves a bit more than just pressing the button. But if you take just a few seconds setting up your shots, you can take your okay photos and turn them into great ones. And I am here to help, with a few tips and ideas.


1. Use the grid lines.

One of the easiest and best ways to improve your phone photos is to turn on the camera gridlines. These lines use the photographic composition principle of the "rule of thirds". Where the photo is broken down into nine equal parts.

Following this theory you place your subjects or points of interest at the intersections or along the lines, which gives the photo balance and creates a visually appealing aesthetic for the viewer.


To switch the grid on...

Iphone:

  • Open the Settings app.

  • Tap Photos & Camera (or just Camera if using iOS 11 or later).

  • Find Grid and toggle it on.

Samsung:

  • Open the Camera app.

  • Tap the Settings cog.

  • Grid lines and toggle it on.


2. Set your camera's focus.

Today's phone cameras automatically focus on the foreground of your frame, but not every picture you take on your phone has an obvious subject. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, open your camera app and tap the screen where you want to sharpen the view.

If you're taking a photo of something in motion, for example, it can be difficult for your camera to follow this subject and refocus as needed. Tap the screen to correct your phone camera's focus just before snapping the picture to ensure the moving subject has as much focus as possible. A square or circular icon should then appear on your camera screen, shifting the focus of your shot to all of the content inside that icon.


3. Look for the light.

One of the most important aspects in all photography is light! Finding and using the right light source makes all the difference. Avoid using the phone camera flash - they never flatter anyone and will more often than not give your images a harsh odd coloured look. Instead use natural light. Golden hour is the most perfect time of day (hour before sunrise and sunset). Look for positions that create warm soft light and avoid harsh shadows.



If you are out in the middle of the day, find a shady area. Under a big tree or behind a wall. If you can, place your subjects with their back to the sun, to avoid squinty eyes. Avoid harsh shadows crossing the body and face.


4. Ditch the digital zoom.

When you take a photo from a distance, it's tempting to zoom in on something specific you're trying to capture. But it's actually better not to zoom in — doing so can make the photo appear grainy, blurry, or pixelated.

Instead, try to get closer to your subject — unless it's a wild animal, in which case we would advise keeping your distance — or take the photo from a default distance, and crop it later on. That way, you won't compromise quality, and it's easier to play around or optimize a larger image.


5. Use leading lines.

In some photos, there's a line that draws the viewer's eye toward a certain part of the frame. Those are called leading lines. They can be straight or circulinear — think staircases, building facades, roads, or even a path through the woods.

Leading lines are great for creating a sense of depth in an image, and can make your photo look purposefully designed — even if you just happened to come upon a really cool shape by accident.



6. Find different perspectives.

Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable — it tends to create an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out, since most mobile photos are taken either straight -on or from a bird's eye view.

Try taking a photo directly upward and playing with the sky as negative space, like in the first photo below. Or, you can try taking it at a slight downward angle. When photographing children, try to always be at their eye level or just slightly above.



7. Straighten that horizon. While taking photos from different angles can make them more memorable, as mentioned above. We still have to keep those horizontal lines straight. Why are horizons and lines important in photographs? Because we as human beings generally prefer straight, levelled lines instead of odd angles. We like things straight and if things looked crooked, it throws our sub-conscious perception out of balance. We seek visual balance in everything we do, including photography. That’s why looking at a photo with a crooked horizon does not feel natural. We have a built-in ruler in our brains that makes us want to tilt our heads to try to align those lines. If you forget while taking your photo, it is an easy fix in your phones editing software, using the ruler slider in the crop feature.



8. Look for symmetry.

Symmetry can be defined as balanced proportions.

A simple photo of a set of stairs can turn into an exciting composition with the help of symmetrical photography knowledge. Symmetrical photos stand out because they’re attractive to the eye. Humans are drawn to visual perfection and compositions that work in harmony. There’s a certain kind of comfort in photos that are almost perfect.

Attraction isn’t the only thing that makes symmetry so important. With symmetrical photography, you’ll be able to find potential in the simplest things. Your knowledge of symmetry will help you improve your imagination and find opportunities in many places.

Symmetry can be found "in the wild," as per the staircase picture, or you can set up your photo accordingly, with strategically placed items or subjects.



9. Clean the camera lens.

This is a big one for me, I always forget. A smartphone camera might be more convenient to carry around than a full-fledged photojournalist's camera, but it comes at the cost of protection. Your phone is usually in your pocket or your bag when you're out of the house. All the while, the device's camera lens is collecting all kinds of dust, lint and worst of all finger prints. Be sure to clean this lens before taking a photo. You might not be able to tell just how dirty the lens was until you start editing your picture, and making sure the lens is crystal clear before taking a shot can keep you from starting from scratch.


10. Make 'em laugh.

When you're photographing people asking them to smile sometimes creates the most awkward looking facing expressions, especially kids. Almost everyone can identify when someone is faking a smile. Capturing genuine emotion is what you want in your photos. Real joy, fun and laughter. Using simple prompts to get your subjects to display those true genuine smiles can work wonders. In sessions, I say things like 'who likes smelly socks for dinner?' or 'who does the loudest farts?' Fart jokes are especially great for getting the younger ones to smile. Please, don't get them to say the word cheese. Read more about that on a previous blog post.



Bonus tip: Don't be afraid to edit.

Composing and taking your smartphone photo is just the first step to making it visually compelling. Editing your photos is the next step — and a very critical one, at that. Editing can be what takes your photos from good to great, particularly when it comes to three goals: 1) Straightening that horizon 2) Removing blemishes from a picture, and 3) Making your colours more vibrant. Keep in mind, a lot times less is more. You don't want to make the photos appear too enhanced. Just enough to highlight your subjects or interest points.


Subtle changes are typically all you need.