1.2 trillion digital phone photos will be taken worldwide this year, that is roughly 160 pictures for every one of the roughly 7.5 billion people inhabiting planet earth! I will just leave that there for you to ponder for a second and then we should get right into it. If you have a modern phone then, by default, you have a modern camera, which means you have ‘no’ excuse but to take great photos. Here are my list of things you need to do before you take any picture and once you’ve stored these hints and tips in your mind, you will be firing off amazing pictures every, single time.
Clean your lens (front and back), just use your t-shirt/glasses cleaner – anything clean and soft you’re wearing. Very gently rub/wipe the face of the cameras.
Choose your frame! Portraits you would normally hold your phone upright and landscape you would normally hold to the side in landscape mode, BUT don’t be afraid to break the rules. Why not try a portrait in landscape mode, slightly off frame, or a fragment of a vast landscape in portrait mode? The most important thing is choosing a composition that ker-pows! A photo should always be memorable. Think about the last photo you took on your phone, can you remember what it was? Now think about applying this rule to every, single photo you take from this moment forward. If it looks crappy then move to the side, change the angle to a low or really high angle or wait for your subject to move and THEN capture the moment.
What’s your background? Is there a dodgy old bin in shot? A sign? A couple of people you don’t know? Is the telly on? Some litter, a dog walker, photo bombers??? We get so caught up in the moment of the subject we sometimes forget to study the surroundings. This double-checking can take a good shot to a great shot. Get clever with it and use what you have to enhance the entire shot. This can make all the difference chopping out the stuff that looks bad.
Find the light because light ‘is’ photography. Filling your picture with light, indoors and outdoors, be it a lot or a little – is what makes a photograph go from ok to wow. Where is the sun? Where is the light source? Is it shining on your subject too harshly, or not enough? There are no rules here except your brain telling you what looks good and to me that’s the most exciting part. You can just feel when something doesn’t look right and with just a few tweaks you can fix it. You shouldn’t shoot someone with a glaring window behind them as it will darken their face – BUT, if it’s drama and shadows you want then you would do just that. If you want a beautiful shot of someone in a room that’s sunlit, try moving them closer to the window so the light is now spilling onto their face and photograph them from there instead. Just try to find a balance from harsh light to natural light by angling them slightly. My main tip here is to move around. Try crouching, moving and kneeling (if you can) around the subject. What do you see? Where does the light hit the best? You might even want to bring in a light of your own – I’ve used table lamps before or shot through things with patterns and holes. If you’re doing natural, in-the-moment stuff of your little one walking for the first time or Grandma belly laughing then you need to get right in there quick. In that split second when you’re pulling your phone out of your pocket and about to take the shot – just think, where is the light? It could make the moment even more magical.
Focus Tap on the phone and you should see the auto focus box kick in. Tap on the exact place you want the viewers eye to be drawn to. Landscapes are different as you want the whole shot in focus so that wouldn’t apply so much here, unless you want the viewer to zone in on a certain part of the landscape. Have a play with this. You might find you want to intentionally put your subject out of focus. Also if you touch your iPhone/android in camera mode all sorts of great things happen – you can adjust the exposure on areas of the screen by sliding your finger up and down. The best way to do this is just experiment and see what your particular phone has to offer. My phone has Portrait mode, which I love, and that creates depth and Bokeh, which is the aesthetic blur when the camera is rendering out-of-focus points of light. It’s one of my favourite ways of taking photos. Why not try square mode and pano mode too – there is so much fun to be had with settings.
Edit You could just add a filter, but you can also adjust manually, which is exciting! Once you’ve taken the photo – hit edit. Here you have the ability (in most modern camera phones) to adjust exposure, saturation and contrast etc. You can add a vignette and tilt shift to blur out some areas. You don’t have to edit a single picture because you may have captured it exactly as you meant to, but the options are there and sometimes just a tweak and a little highlight lift or shadow lift can really look incredible. Again this is experimentation. Take a photo in good light and have a play with each edit option so you can see what the parameters of each one does and then in the future you might just intuitively start to know what a picture needs.
Housekeeping Now we are right in the midst of a visual revolution so this one is a bloody nightmare to be honest. I love going to my mum and dad’s house and looking through the family albums. We just don’t seem to be able to action that so much these days for time and sheer saturation of photos. I could write for hours on this but I will keep it simple. Housekeep straight after you’ve taken your picture. If you just have one good one – keep that. Delete the rest. You could get so overloaded with 1000s of photos and then you won’t know where to start. Focus on getting that incredible shot that sums up the moment rather than 50 average shots that don’t.
Kit You can buy a camera phone tripod for around a tenner – short or long legged. It’s great for group shots, going live, landscapes, buildings – you won’t look back. You can also get a little ring light for your selfies that clips on to the front of the camera. There are loads of little add-ons you can get if you want to get a little more serious or simply make life a little bit easier for those more adventurous shots.
So there we have it. If you can try to think about all of these little tips you will see a big difference and if you’re already actioning all this then give us some more tips and tricks – I’d love to hear them.