Camera phones have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point where some artists have exhibited collections of images captured using only their phone. Here are my tips for getting the best out of your phone camera.
1. Know Your Camera:
Learn about the capabilities of your camera phone: read the manual, look for a guide on the internet or simply play around with the settings. Is is set to record the highest possible resolution images? Does it have an optional flash? Can you touch the screen to select a focus point? Does it have a panoramic mode? Is there a short cut to open the camera? Practice using the different features and settings so that you know where and how to access them quickly; you don't want to miss the shot whilst trying to work out how to turn the flash on or off. Knowing the features of you camera phone and how/when to use them will ensure that you are using it to the best of its capabilities.
2. Think about composition:
You can instantly improve your photos by using some common composition techniques. Consider the format - would the subject be better suited to a square or rectangular frame? Where should you place the subject in the frame? Images are generally more pleasing to the eye if the subject is placed according to the 'rule of thirds' - imagine a noughts and crosses board and place the subject on one of the points where the lines intersect. Using 'leading lines' can help to draw the viewers eye through the image and to the subject... can you use paths or fences to lead the eye to the subject? Using simple compositional techniques can instantly improve your images. If you want to know more, do an internet search for 'photography composition techniques'. Learning a few basic techniques can make a big difference.
3. Zoom with your feet:
Most camera phones have a digital zoom, but zooming in digitally degrades the quality of the image. As such, it is preferable to 'zoom with your feet', ie. move closer to your subject in order to get the composition you want. This way you are not reducing the already limited quality of the image produced.
4. Use the light:
On camera flash, particularly on camera phones, can be very harsh and I tend to avoid it as best I can. It's a much better idea to use the available light. Consider where the light is coming from and place your subject accordingly. If the light is too strong, move your subject into the shade if possible. As with any photography, the best natural light is early morning and late evening. If you have to resort to using the phone camera's flash, try diffusing it with different materials to diffuse the light - for example, place a small amount of white tissue over the flash and see whether this produces a softer light. You can experiment with different materials, but remember not to cover the lens. Speaking of the lens...
5. Keep your lens clean:
Many of us throw our phones in our bags, put them in dusty pockets or let sticky fingered children play with them. This can result in dirt and grime collecting on the camera lens, effecting the images that we record. Wipe your lens regularly using a lint free cloth or soft duster to ensure you don't end up with unwanted marks on your photos.
6. Break the Rules and Experiment:
The rules of photography such as the 'rule of thirds' will help you to achieve pleasing images. However, if you stick to them consistently you will be in danger of producing images just like the other countless ones out there. The portability and accessibility of camera phones allows us to experiment with different compositions and lighting to achieve some unusual results, at no additional cost. So play around and try different things. Some things will work and others won't, but you have nothing to lose by trying!
7. Edit your images:
Now, I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with Instagram. I love this app; its great for adding retro effects to an image and sharing with your friends and followers. However, in line with the above point, if you constantly use Instagram filters to edit your photos, your images are going to look very similar to everyone else's. There are many different editing apps out there, so play around and find one that you like. My personal favourite is Photoshop Express. It's pretty user friendly and allows you to make adjustments to exposure, to sharpen your image and reduce digital noise (the grainy quality often evident when shooting in low light) and to add filters, amongst other things. When editing your images, however, remember that less is more - often small tweaks are all that is needed to make a big difference.
8: Share with the world:
I wont labour the point on this one; we are all familiar with sharing images on Instagram/Facebook etc. However, it is worth mentioning that if you upload images to Facebook from a computer, there is a 'high quality' box you can tick. Facebook compresses images, so if you want them to look their best, its worth ticking this box, although it doesn't appear to be available via the phone app. Another point worth noting is that there are many photography groups out there where you can share your images and ask for constructive feedback. This is a good way to learn from others, who might be more honest than your friends and family! We all enjoy getting the positive reinforcement of 'likes', but you are more likely to learn and improve if you consider constructive feedback from others.
9: Print your photos:
In the digital age, many of us are guilty of keeping our images on our phones and laptops, but there is nothing like the printed image. Numerous high street retailers now offer apps that allow you to upload images directly from your phone and collect prints in store or have them posted out to you. There are also services such as Inkify which allow you to order prints directly from Instagram. Some even offer products like fridge magnets! Just remember to stick to relatively small print sizes, as the resolution won't allow for huge wall prints.
10: Back Up!:
My final point is one that I should adhere to more myself... we all have many memories stored on our phones and if we should lose or damage the handset, our images will be lost forever. So back up regularly! You can do this in many ways... connect your phone to your computer and transfer the images to your hard drive or use apps which allow you to transfer wirelessly. Consider cloud storage too, such as Dropbox which offers a certain amount of storage for free. Although you may be able to recover lost images from social media, the image quality is often lower than that of the original image, so its worth saving copies of anything you want to look back on in years to come.
Below is my favourite image captured on my phone. Sadly, I didn't heed my own advice, and lost the original when I upgraded my phone. This copy is taken from Facebook and so the quality isn't great, but it evokes memories of a fantastic anniversary trip with my husband:
Do you have any phone photography tips you want to share? If so, comment below!