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Using Smartphones for Photography

Smartphone photography

A good photo is a good photo, yes? So who really cares what it’s taken with? these days people take more photos using their smartphones than using a digital camera. And some of these people are able to take some really eye catching and incredible images!

There a some basic things that you can do to improve the quality of the images that you take with your phone, and the best thing is, they don’t cost you a penny, just a little time. Surely that’s worth it to take some better photo’s, yes?

There are some Instagram, Flickr, twitter accounts (any social sharing site in fact) that we all envy so much. How do they capture such totally killer photos with just a random Samsung phone? Can I do the same as them? Hopefully this post will help you to take better photos with your smartphone. Most of us have phones with cameras, which are good enough that they can promise us good Instagram photos, right? – not necessarily.

Here are some tips to help you improve your smartphone photography.

Use smartphone photography to capture some stunning images
Use your phone to capture some stunning images

Learn about your Phone’s Camera Settings:

When using our smartphone to take a photo, most of us think that all we need to do is open the camera, hope for some good light and we will get that perfect picture. Not true. Unless you have studied your smartphone camera’s settings, you will have no real idea of just what your phone’s camera is capable of.

If you find that your images are not as good as you expected them to be, here are a few suggestions which may help you to improve your photos. Be sure to read the information which came with your new phone, open the camera app and look at the settings for it. You can also learn about your smartphone camera’s capabilities by Googling your phone, and checking through the results.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with it. Once you have looked at the basic settings, the easiest way to see what they do, is to experiment with them and see what effect changing the settings makes. Look into all the features that it has. Some of our phones have the HDR (High Dynamic Range ) feature as well and yes, we are totally unaware of it.

Don’t Think the Grid is a Waste:

If you think that the camera grid is there for no reason, then you need to think again. The grid is going to help you break the image into equal sections, both horizontally and vertically. This helps with composition, and allows you to correctly position the main subject in your photograph for maximum impact. If shooting a landscape, it will also help you to make sure the horizon is level.

If you don’t have a grid in your camera, not to worry. You can think of creating your own imaginary lines on the screen, and then click the image. It might take some time but you will get there sooner or later.

What is Light?

To capture great photos, we need light. But the way you see light – or the effect of it, is different to how your smartphone image sensor records light. Our eyes adjust automatically to whatever light source is lighting our subject. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny, overcast, or artificial light providing the lighting, our eyes record the colours correctly.

The image sensor in a device used to capture digital images (digital camera or smartphone camera) however works in a different fashion to our eyes. In basic terms, an image sensor converts light energy to electrical energy.

Most image sensors are designed to capture images using normal daylight. (average daylight “temperature” is between 5500-6500K this refers to the “temperature” of the light in degrees Kelvin.) You may have noticed that when taking a photo under artificial light, or mixed light sources, there is sometimes a colour cast on the image.

This can be an orange/ yellow cast if shot under tungsten light, or a bluish cast if shot under fluorescent lights. (This is because each source of light has a different colour temperature.) 

If you check your smartphone camera settings, you should be able to set the White Balance (WB). Set on auto, the camera will try to adjust the WB to correct for the light source. You maybe have to ability to manually adjust the WB on your phones camera to select the most appropriate for the shooting conditions, or to create a certain look to the image.

Here’s a quick test exercise for you.

Set the WB of your camera to auto. Take a photo. Now change the WB, and see the results on the image captured. Make a note of the settings to see which setting produces which result.

Most mobile phone cameras capture images as JPEGs. JPEG is a common method of what is know as lossy compression. What this means in basic terms is that your camera takes the information about the image captured by the image sensor. This is then processed to produce the image you see, but with a loss of some of the raw information from the image.

The amount of compression applied to the image can generally be adjusted in your cameras settings. There is a trade-off between storage size and image quality – the higher the quality selected, the larger the image file is. However, by capturing the most information in each image, any editing, or cropping of the image will still result in an image that is better quality than if you start with a lower resolution image.

If your phone’s camera is capable of shooting in RAW, this option gives the best option for image editing since you are starting with a file containing all of the original image information. The file size is considerably larger, and most smartphone cameras do not have the ability to capture RAW image files.

Shooting indoors produces it’s own challenges. Not just because of the artificial lighting, but there can be detail lost in the shadowed areas of the image. Using flash can give more light, but it can be quite harsh, and unflattering, especially if taking a photo of a person. Try changing the ISO (increasing the ISO makes the image sensor more sensitive to light)

The “Golden Hour” This refers to the time around sunrise, and sunset. At these times, because the sun is lower in the sky, there is more reflected light. This gives a more diffuse light, which gives a “softer” feel to the image. Because the sun is lower, shadows are longer, and if there is a little mist, this can make your image more atmospheric.

Nothing beats these two times of day for shooting, and your images appear to be more amazing than they might be later in the day. Good light is vital in any sort of photography, use these tips and images you capture should improve.

Smartphone photography does have limitations, but it is always worthwhile learning the basics of photography, so that you can capture more amazing images.

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