Would you buy a phone worth $500 or $1000 and never use it to the fullest? You do that exactly, isn’t it? You never use your phone to the fullest, forgetting that it has a highly developed camera of its own.
You can travel without a camera these days and do landscapes, street, food, lifestyle, and portrait easily with smartphones. Don’t you need high-end cameras for photography, you may wonder! Well, not until you are going to have large prints.
And some of the modern-day mobile phones carry pretty powerful cameras on their own, even in terms of MegaPixels and large printability.
Some of the ideas to consider while shooting on a smartphone make use of the available features while understanding the limitations and not trying too hard. Some of the factors are below:
Do Not Zoom In
Unless there is an optical zoom, one must never zoom, whether it is a digital camera or a mobile phone. Remember, digital zoom is equivalent to cropping the image. The issues with digital zoom are multiple.
The shake in the image is directly proportional to the digital zoom
The photos are digitally enlarged to maintain the size in some of the cameras. This results in softer pictures.
Move-in Closer and Shoot
Move-in closer and shoot. Treat your smartphone as a camera with a prime lens
Crop the images later. This gives more leeway while quality is not compromised
Have one of the smartphones with two or more cameras of different focal lengths, which allow for the optical zoom
Use the grid in the smartphone is even more critical than in the DSLRs. DSLRs provide us with scope to do corrections later, including the perspective and distortion corrections. The straightening of the images is absolutely no problem at all.
In smartphone cameras, every pixel becomes more important, and hence you don’t want to lose them for these common issues which can be fixed while shooting. Also, you won’t usually get the proper lens parameters like the DSLRs do that allow for lens corrections.
How to use the grid on Smartphone Camera
Make sure the horizon is properly straight and matched with either the 2nd or the 1st horizontal line in the rule of thirds grid
Make sure the angles that you choose are straight. Unless you are sure of the creative angles, try to keep the horizon straight and don’t have converging parallel lines like those of high-rise buildings
The grid also helps in better framing so that you can reduce wastage of pixels while cropping
Photography becomes more straightforward when you can go close to the subjects and offer an unparalleled view. Focusing on details and filling the frame makes it easier to focus on the subject. It brings a natural depth of field into play, making certain parts of the frame naturally blurred out.
The macro mode of phone camera especially allows us to go really close. Going close will enable us to explore an almost inter-personal angle where we find details as well as a very shallow depth of field.
The language of macro photography is beautiful when explored carefully, and smartphones make it much easier to shoot macro as compared to DSLRs because of the extra cost required. A great tool to use while shooting portraits, food, or even some products, going close brings out the best of the phone camera.
Go Wide – Smartphone Camera
Precisely the opposite side of the spectrum, going wide allows one to have a pleasing view if appropriately used. Think of all the landscapes and city-scapes and how they leave us wide-eyed with wonder, quite literally.
Also, the ability to use negative space properly will come in handy when going wide, especially when shooting portraits and landscapes.
Remember using the grids while shooting with negative space, and you will have better compositions every time. You must remember the good old rule of thirds; major subjects must be placed near one of the four points of intersection when a frame is divided into nine equal parts using two pairs of parallel lines.
The rule is especially more useful while shooting from a smartphone camera.
Look Into the Eye
Well, not literally, but looking into the eye is general advice for shooting portraits. Unless you are sure of why you are shooting a top angle or a bottom angle, or some other different angle, it is best to shoot from the eye level of the subject. It is difficult to go through all the photos where the kids are shot from a top angle, and puppies are shot from a drone (or so it seems).
Getting down to the eye level of the subject lets us interact with the subject up close, and have the most essential part of any portrait, the eyes and the lips, speak. It also works in terms of shooting buildings; wherein, we need to maintain comfortable distance and try to shoot from almost straight on, which helps us make the architecture talk.
Unless we want to break this rule, which is very brave and creative and also allows us to use the wide-angle distortion of the smartphone camera creatively.
Smartphone Photography – Edit it Well
Editing a picture doesn’t mean taking away the natural look of the photograph. In fact, it is straightforward to increase the contrast and saturation sliders, or the HDR preset, and have a unique picture in front of you. Editing an image correctly involves getting the colour tones correct.
Remember, colour correction comes before colour toning. So to give the tone properly, in case you wish to, you first need to correct it. Snapseed provides with a brilliant White Balance tool in Tools menu. There’s one dropper/sampler icon there which is for manual selection of white balance.
We need to use that more often and select the non-coloured portions of the image. For example, the eyes of the humans, white walls of a building, etc., are generally without any tone.
In case it doesn’t work well, auto white balance is a great tool. Or you could manually adjust using temperature and tint, just like you would do in high-end images shot using DSLR.
Smartphone Editing and Filters
There are styles which may be used, but better avoided for a natural look. They are like VSCO filters. What you would like to use is the tune image, details, and curves menu. Tuning allows you to adjust exposure, contrast, colours, highlights, and shadows.
Exposure helps in correcting any exposure errors, contrast gives the image a punch, details help in enhancing the texture, colours can be either over-saturated or desaturated, highlights help in getting the details from or burning the details from the lighter parts of the image and shadows help in getting the details from or darkening the details from the darker parts of the picture. Curves menu does the same thing as contrast, albeit with greater and more varied control.
Smartphone photography clubs, contests and exhibitions are not a rarity anymore. Also, we have our smartphones everywhere, and we can not miss a scene because of this amazing beast, only if we put a little more effort in hitting the shutter.
I started the road of photography, repairing some film cameras. But soon I've realised that I need some knowledge on how the photos are formed inside the camera. This road is tougher than I thought, but life is always a learning experience, and I am hoping that you could join me in this wonderful world of photography.
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