Whether you are taking pictures with a $2,000 DSLR or your smartphone, there are some basic steps you can follow to ensure crisp and memorable pictures. With a modern smartphone, you have a camera that is capable of taking amazingly sharp pictures, but you need to understand how to find the right conditions (contrast, focus, lighting, etc.) for the perfect shot. Here’s six essential tips:
1. Focus Properly
The perfect shot isn’t perfect if it’s not in focus. Most cameras are “auto-focus”, although you do want to be sure the camera has a second or two to properly focus on your target. It’s easier to focus on surfaces that have contrast and details, so the camera’s technology has a reference point. Some cameras have a two-stage focus feature that can help you setup the shot properly. When focusing on a subject, remember the “rule of thirds” which basically means imagining three horizontal and vertical lens over the picture frame and then aligning subjects or the horizon along those lines. And don’t forget to hold the camera still, as shaking will cause the focus to move and result in blurry pics.
2. Lighting Matters
You want to have depth in your lighting and also use it to spotlight certain colors. Using a spot light is a classic photography technique to emphasize a certain color so that it stands out in a photo. You also want to consider the color of the lighting and the effect it has on the overall picture. Warmer lights in the orange or yellow spectrum for example tend to work well with warm-colored objects, especially if you need them to stand out from a “cool” background.
3. Avoid the “Washed Out” Look
If you have tried to take a beautiful night picture with a flash, then it’s likely the picture had that dreaded “washed out” look where the colors are off and there’s no dimension. This can happen because the camera doesn’t properly estimate the amount of exposure and/or because flat lighting takes away any depth. Most smartphones allow the user to manually compensate for the exposure, so images have proper contrast. For the flash, the trick is to not have it be the only light source for the picture. It should be a source of ambient light, added so the shutter speed isn’t too slow. If the flash is the only light source, your main option is to bounce it off a reflective surface, otherwise you can’t avoid a flat picture.
4. Setup Properly
The pixels on a smartphone’s camera sensors are very tightly packed, which limits their ability to capture fine details and means they are affected by “noise.” You can setup a scene for smartphone photography by avoiding low-light situations, avoiding backlighting, and low-contrast lighting that won’t allow your subject to be front and center. You also want to avoid a moving subject, and should focus on people’s faces as the focal point when taking shots of individuals.
5. Capture the Perfect Moment
Photographers know the benefit of catching that one perfect moment, and understand that preparation and patience are the keys to capturing perfection. When armed with a smartphone, you should be sure you understand the most commonly used camera application settings, and have in place good default settings. For example, you can set a default to have the flash turned off, the exposure compensation to “0” and your white balance set to “auto.” Then it’s all about developing an eye for crucial moments, which will take practice to develop the right composition and lighting that will turn a mere picture into a “moment.”
6. Creating your own “Look”
As your smartphone skills progress, you’ll want to develop your own photography “brand” that sets your photos apart from others. Creating a persona means consistently composing images a certain way, or using reflections in exciting ways. You ultimately want to be creating a story with your images, where the pictures evoke strong emotions or propel the viewer to ponder something or challenge them in some way. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the smartphone’s settings and effects to create some overexposed or unconventional photos to help you develop a style.
Leveraging the power of modern smartphone cameras can also mean using special lenses or extensions such as wide angle and fish-eye lens attachments. You can create very distinctive photos and videos with these tools, and they can turn a smartphone camera into a near-DSLR device. By combining a higher-end smartphone camera with these six tips, even the most novice photographer can create spectacular and memorable shots.
Pratik is a Professional Photographer at Dreamstime.com. Motivated by purpose and driven by passion, Pratik is an embedded developer, writer, photographer, and graphics designer who believe that a blend of creativity and skills create the most spectacular outcomes. Visit his personal page at http://www.pratikpanda.com/