If there is one thing that is critical to success with social media, it is using images to engage your audience. Since not everyone has access to stock photography, a fancy DSLR camera, or knows the difference between DPI’s and Pixels, I want to provide a few basic tips I got from some photographer friends, for taking great photos using your Smart Phone’s camera. With a Smart Phone in hand, everyone can take great pictures with little effort and quickly post them to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, while on-the-go.
Smart Phone Photography Tips
1. Get to Know your Camera App
Whether you are using an iOS or Android, get into your camera app and find out what all the icons mean and do. Learn how to turn your flash on and off, how to turn on gridlines, and crop. If needed, Google your phone’s make and model to find tutorials and how-to’s that will help you understand your options and settings. Test different settings and experiment to see what options work best in different scenarios.
2. Clean your Lens
Since your phone goes everywhere with you, it is safe to say that the lens should be cleaned often, despite the fact that you have a good case. Even if you don’t see spots or grime on the photo or lens, wipe it with a soft microfiber cloth periodically to keep your photos looking crisper and brighter. If needed, invest in camera lens cleaner from a photography store.
3. Avoid Zoom by Moving Closer or Cropping
Zooming will affect your image quality, so instead of zooming in or out, try moving closer to your subject or just crop the image. Moving closer to your subject will also help if you have too much light in the background (your subjects will turn dark) so get closer or find a different setting with more light.
4. Reduce the Shake
Sometimes photos taken with Smart Phones get “shake”, meaning that the phone itself moves slightly while the picture is being taken. One way to minimize shake is to find an alternative to pushing the button on the screen. On some phones, you can use the volume “up” button. You can also plug in Apple headphones to your iPhone and press the volume “up” button on the headphone cord to capture a photo without pushing anything on your phone. Setting the phone up on a timer can also reduce shake.
5. Minimize Blur from Movement
Sometimes having more light on your subject will reduce some blur from movement, so you may want to set your flash from “auto” to “on” or get more natural light if your subject is moving. You can also try moving with the subject. For instance, if your subject is walking, walk with them. Then the background will blur instead of the subject.
6. When you can, Skip the Flash
Whenever you can, try to use natural sunlight or another light source instead of the flash. Since the flash on your smart phone is not a real flash (it stays on too long and is more like an LED flashlight), it can cause color issues like yellow skin and red eyes. If you are unsure if you if you need a flash or not, try one photo with the flash, and one without, to compare.
7. Find a Good Photo Editing App
There are a ton of great photo editing apps out there: PhotoShop Express, Pixlr, Photo Editor by Aviary, Snap Seed, and VSCO Cam to name a few. You may also like PicLab or Over for adding text to your photos , or Instasize for sharing photos on Instagram as portrait or landscape instead of the typical square. When using filters, effects, or text overlays, remember to keep it simple. If you are taking photos for use on social media, this desktop app makes it very easy to get your image sized correctly for different uses online.
8. Frame the Photo to Tell your Story
How you frame your picture helps you to tell your story and make your photo stand out. Use the rule of thirds to help you find the focus of your photo. If using the rule of thirds is new to you, turn on the gridlines on your camera to remind you to look at your photo in equal parts. It is natural for us to want to center our subject in the photo but placing the focus on the left or right is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Here is a video that talks more about framing your subject into the rule of thirds.
When it comes to taking photos with your Smart Phone or otherwise, some advice that my friend Jamie told me stood out, “The ultimate thing to remember when taking pictures, is the best camera out there is the one you have with you.”
“The ultimate thing to remember when taking pictures, is the best camera out there is the one you have with you.”
I would like to extend a special thanks to Jamie van der Hagen, Mark Haen, and Karlie Mosher for offering me their photography insight and ideas for this post, as well as giving me the pleasure of enjoying their photography talents.
What other photography tips or photo editing tools have you found to be useful?