10 (mostly) universally true tips for getting
great photos from your smartphone.
By Jennifer Ragan-Fore and Heidi Ellis
It happens more
often than you’d think: You need to take a photo—a good photo—and the only camera anyone has handy is in their
smartphone. Here are 10 tips for improving your smartphone photography skills.
for ways to use natural light whenever possible, with the sun behind you or
over your shoulder (shooting directly into the sun is seldom a good idea when
you can help it).
shooting indoors, find the brightest spot in the room and position your subject
directly under it.
you need to use flash, try to ensure there’s still some additional light so the
flash can fill-in/add detail, but doesn’t serve as the only source of light.
the rule of thirds
your screen is a tic-tac-toe board and position your subject or main focal
point along one of the vertical or horizontal lines. Try to avoid placing your
subject dead center.
smartphones (such as the iPhone) have an option to "turn grid on.” This will
help you follow the rule of thirds and also will help ensure you keep the
horizon steady and straight—or the opposite approach when you want to shoot a
"dutch angle” or "jaunty angle” for visual interest.
a little closer
often get your best shots if you move in close. Try not to frame your shot with
excess dead space, and consider how small details (rather than a whole object)
might make your photo more interesting.
is the enemy of good smartphone shots—avoid it if at all possible. Because the
zoom is all digital, it doesn’t really zoom—it just blows up the pixels, which
you can always do later in editing software if you really want to crop out the
clarity of your photos is often related to how steady you kept your phone while
shooting. Keep it firmly planted in your hands, lean against something steady
like a wall, or use a small tripod if possible.
your ear buds
little known trick on iPhones running iOS5 is that you can use the volume-up
button on your earbuds to release the camera shutter. This is a great option
when you’re shooting in low light or unsteady conditions because it removes the
potentially shake-inducing touch screen tap when taking a photo.
time when you do want to tap the touchscreen is just before taking a photo. On
most smartphones, tapping the subject in your frame does two things:
adjusts the lighting to match the subject (which is great when you have to
shoot into the sun or when you’re shooting a dark subject in a bright space)
focuses on the subject (which is ideal when you have a long depth of field).
is high dynamic range imaging. In the simplest terms, turning this on means
that your camera will take two photos instead of one—one that focuses on the
brights and one that focuses on the dark areas of a composition—and then
intelligently stitches the two images together into a single good shot.
cameras tend to live in camera bags or cases, but smartphones get stuffed into
pockets and purses, and get pulled out for multitasking in just about every
situation. Your lens gets dirty and can degrade picture quality over time. Use
a Q-tip to gently clean your lens periodically.
use polarizing lenses to ensure the best outdoor shots, which remove glare and
soften harsh lines and shadows. To do the same, hold a sunglass lens over the
camera lens as close as possible. You can also achieve this in a photo editing
program, but this is a good, quick, on-the-fly tip for instant sharing.
10. Spruce it up in post-processing
of the best things about shooting your photography with a smartphone is the
wealth of camera, editing, and effects apps that allow you to do all of your
post-shot processing right in the field. Get really familiar with a two or
three that work for you, and edit your shots as you take them. It’s much harder
to find the time to go back and process dozens or hundreds of shots days or
weeks later, and you’ll be more pleased with your efforts if you have a photo
roll full of great shots.
1. Camera Pro
Preaches Smartphone Photography
2. Favorite iPhone Apps
Instagram—social/sharing app with multiple filters
and editing options; can shoot or edit directly from app,
Hipstamatic—camera app (no post-editing) customize
the film, type of camera, and flash; great for people who already know
something about photography or want to learn; lots of sharing options including
CameraBag—post editing app, can also shoot from
app; easy to use, variety of filters, some similarity to Instagram but without
the forced sharing.
Novelty/Fun apps—FantasyLens, Comic Touch, ColorSplash,
Faces Wild!, GhostCam Pro.
3. Favorite Android Apps
Retro Camera—camera app (no post-editing), five
camera types, easy to share an e-postcard, review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC4oX1M5pnk
Pic Say—editing app, very easy to use to adjust
exposure, contrast, brightness, hue, etc. Easy to crop and add talk bubbles,
Camera 360—camera app and post-editing, nice user
interface, many filters.
Vignette—camera app and post-editing, time-lapse,
lots of filters, frames, settings, options. Does it all. Examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtMENEppw_Y
Other fun apps—PhotoFunia, PicPlz, MyTubo, Instagram.
4. Sharing Resources
Instagram—your only option on Instagram is to share
(photos are automatically uploaded); many other camera apps are building in
support to send their edited photos directly to Instagram.
Text message—easy, most phones reduce photo size or
give you a variety of size options.
Flickr—share with your Flickr friends, organize, order prints.
Facebook—share with your Facebook friends.
Twitter—creates a link where your followers can
view your photo.
Dropbox—easily upload to your Dropbox account to
access them anywhere (computer, phone, tablet, any internet connection);
limited storage space.
Tumblr—quickly post to your Tumblr blog.
Jennifer Ragan-Fore, director of new media and member communities, and Heidi
Ellis, membership program manager, are with ISTE, International Society for
Technology in Education.