Smart Phone Photography Tips

This is an unabridged version of an article about phone photography tips I wrote for O2‘s in-store magazine. It came off the back of the video I made with O2 in 2012. I thought I would post it before it goes out of date. I don’t really take photos on my phone anymore even though I am an avid Instagram user (I’m @lomokev). I’ve been shooting a lot with the Samsung NX 300 (review) and Olympus  OM-D E-M1 (review) which I can wirelessly transfer photos to a smartphone for easy posting. I have also been taking it one step further with the Android powered Samsung Galaxy NX which you can post directly to the internet from (review coming soon).

o2 guru article

Apologies for the dodgy scan I was sent by O2!

Shot in the shadows

If direct sunshine is hitting someone’s face it can make them squint and cast harsh shadows on their features. For a more pleasing portrait move your model into the shade for softer light. To get a good exposure try not to have sunshine hitting anything in the background of the scene, that way the exposure won’t be thrown off by brighter points in an image.

shoot n the shadows

I shot this amazing pair separately for my street style montage portraits. You can see there individual portraits here.

Catching the action

Camera phones won’t take a picture the instant you press the shutter button / tap the screen. The delay is only a fraction of a second but if you are trying to catch action it will make a big difference. Try repeatedly tapping the screen to take multiple photos that you can choose from later. This tip is a little out of date now as the iPhone 5c/5s feature burst modes in the standard camera app. There is also an abundance of burst mode apps for Android and iOS but these tend to result in lower resolution images than the phone’s standard photos, for the most part that is fine for posting online though.

Catching the action

In case you wondering this was shot with the aid of a water proof housing.
I have reviewed the DriSuit water proof iPhone case on my blog.

Different angles

Taking pictures from your view point or head height is the obvious way to take pictures. Why not try shooting from the hip or low down? When shooting from the ground set the focus to infinity if the phone allows it. Setting focus to infinity will prevent the camera from focusing on the ground in front of the camera.

Different angle

For this shot I rested the camera on a rock in stream.

Getting focused

Snapping a photo and not getting your intended subject sharp can be frustrating. On most touch screen phones you can tap the part of the screen that you want to be in focus to take a picture.

Getting focused

The fake depth of field in this image was achieved using the fake tilt shift in Instagram.

Keeping your images safe

You can replace a phone but if your photos are on a missing phone there is no getting them back, some moments are to precious to loose. Make sure you download images regularly onto a computer or better still store them in the cloud. The free version of DropBox on iOS and Android enables you to backup your photos as and when you take them.

Simplifying compositions

The simplest things tend to be the best, lots of elements in an image can be distracting. Try and shoot subjects against simple backgrounds, for instance when photographing architecture try moving closer to what you are shooting, so as not to include anything that might steal the limelight from the subject of the image.

simplifying compositions

The subject is framed by white part of the moving train (bit of fluke if I am honest)!

Shooting in low light

When shooting in low light it is essential to keep the camera as still as possible to avoid camera shake, try resting the camera on a table or on another solid surface. LED flashes on camera phones can be a little overpowering. Try using the flash from another phone at a different angle from the camera taking the a picture, you could also use the light from the screen of a second phone as a light source.

Getting the creative edge with apps

One advantage smartphones have over other cameras is that the user has the ability to install apps to give the phone greater functionality. Most people will use Instagram but it’s worth delving deeper into the world of camera apps as incredible things can be achieved with apps like double exposure, panoramas or multiple frame apps that. One of my favorite apps at the moment is Snapseed which I sue for subtle image adjustments, it’s available for both Android and iOS.

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