If there’s one thing we all love about our phone camera, it’s the ability to seize the moment and be in that moment. Yes, you can do it with your DSLR but it just takes that extra second. Smartphone cameras have quickly moved from a convenient option to a serious alternative to pro cams. Lowlight photography, one of the traditional weak links of a phone camera, has got better. The iPhone Pro series is a case in point. Brands have also upped their zoom photography game. You can shoot on 10x optical zoom with devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.
It's not just the hardware. Google’s Pixel smartphones have led the way in computational photography that uses advanced machine learning to produce better images. But ultimately it’s you who has to click the image. Ask any pro photographer, and he or she will tell you that the best camera is the one in your hand. It’s all about how you use some basic hacks with the smartphone camera in your pocket. Want to know how to take better pictures with your phone? These smartphone photography tips are a great starting point:
Clean that lens
Surprised when you see an alert (on some smartphones) that it’s time to clean your lens? You shouldn’t be. This might seem like a no-brainer, yet it’s something most of us hardly ever do. Most rear camera lenses have an affinity for dust. All it takes is a quick wipe with a micro-fibre cloth or even your cotton shirt or top. You can use a cotton swab to remove small dust particles on the edges of the lens.
Not for movers and shakers
Your buddies who take their photography seriously might recommend a tripod, but you can’t always lug one around. But do remember that even the slightest shake can adversely affect your images. Watch out for those shakes and tilts, especially when you’re shooting in lowlight.
The grid and the rule of thirds
Use the grid option on your cam – the horizontal and vertical lines that divide your phone into nine squares. This allows you to apply one of the golden rules of photography - the rule of thirds where the most important subjects of the picture need to be placed along the gridlines and the intersections.
Make light your ally
You will find that you can shoot more dramatic images of people in the dark than in broad daylight. Lowlight photography doesn't usually translate to shooting images in pitch darkness. Try and use any other source of light (like streetlights) to your advantage to create dramatic silhouettes and shadows. Using a mix of brightly lit and darkly lit spaces creates some cool images especially when the dimly lit space can function as a border while your brightly lit subject is in the centre. We’re not fans of flash photography, especially when you’re shooting in lowlight.
When in doubt use HDR
HDR mode (available on many mid-range and flagship cams) adds more dynamic range to your images. HDR is designed to capture what your eyes see and not what the camera lens sees. HDR is particularly handy when you are shooting landscapes and lowlight images. We’d also recommend choosing the highest possible image resolution on your device unless you’re short of device storage.
Most of us have been shooting with mobile shooters for a while now. Go beyond your cam’s Auto Mode especially if you have an extra few seconds to capture a brilliant image. Switch to manual or pro mode and play around with the settings. From ISO settings that control sensitivity of your camera sensor to the light, to white balance to the Exposure Value setting, get a handle on your settings and unleash the power of your mobile shooter. Also remember that unless your smartphone has an optical zoom option, using digital zoom is the equivalent of trying to zoom in on a picture on your desktop screen. Shoot images on ‘RAW’ mode if your smartphone supports it; look for this option in your camera settings. In simple terms a RAW image is an unfinished and unedited image that gives you more control over how you edit it.
Don’t just aim and shoot
Especially if you want to ace your Insta game. Look for leading lines that draw the viewer’s eye towards a certain part of the frame. It can be anything from staircases to curving paths in the wilderness. These lines add depth you your image. You can play around with macro mode to capture textures or patterns for dramatic, abstract images. Use ‘negative spaces’ to your advantage. Adding a large expanse or an empty space – like the sky or a water body in your frame always makes your subject stand out.