Using a smartphone is a great way to take pictures on the go, but are you getting the most out of it? Photographer and CAE tutor Jacob Nikoracy gives invaluable tips on how to maximise your success with your smartphone camera.
Smartphone photography, just like traditional photography, is governed by a set of basic rules required to create quality images. As photographers we want to achieve images that are perfectly exposed (light), but also pin sharp (focus). This may sound difficult but with a few tips below we will help you to achieve fantastic results.
Capturing a great photo starts with your framing. When shooting landscapes you need to decide whether you would like to emphasise the foreground or the sky. If the sky is more prominent then set your composition to cover most of your frame with the sky. It will affect the way your phone’s light meter measures the light and therefore exposes for different elements within your frame.
Make sure you use the composition guidelines (grid) available in your smartphone camera’s settings to get the best results. This will allow you to explore fundamental theories of composition like the rule of thirds and golden ratios.
TIP 1: On an Apple iPhone you can enable your grid in your phone settings (found in Settings -> Camera)
Finalise your exposure reading by tapping the screen where the light meter should read the light and where the focus needs to be established. You can always overwrite it if necessary or lock your exposure to recompose it.
TIP 2: To lock your screen’s focus in place, press and hold your finger for a few seconds on the area you’d like to focus.
Your camera then sets the plain of focus, which you can expand to a wider ‘range of focus’ or so called depth of field by using simple techniques that are also available on smartphones. Since more smartphone cameras use additional lens with variable apertures you will be able to control your depth of field with the full range of the range of focus. It means you will be able to shoot perfectly sharp landscapes with a focus range spanning over all of your visible area. Also you will be able to create professional-looking portraits with limited depth of field magnified by your aperture and optical zoom.
If you want to take that elusive photo at dusk, you can frame the sunset with your phone and note the difference between if you press your finger on where the sunset is located as opposed to the ground below it. Your phone will attempt to compensate for the often drastic difference in light.
TIP 3: Clicking right on the horizon will often find that perfect middle ground, but experiment!
One element that many photographers forget about is to stabilise the camera. With a digital SLR camera it’s essential to hold the camera with both hands due to its size; with smartphones it’s always tempting to take photos, particularly selfies, with one hand only. However, this can lead to blurry images, especially when photographing in low light conditions.
To ensure all images end up perfectly sharp make sure you stabilise your phone by holding it with both hands. If that’s not sufficient explore other means of stabilising your hands. The alternative solution is to use third party tripods and gimbals (or a trusty selfie stick), particularly for videos. You can then utilise these different techniques to trigger the shutter.
TIP 4: It’s still great to experiment with various levels of focus, particularly if you want to simulate a movement type effect.
The combination of all these will help you to achieve perfectly sharp images, and great smartphone photos.
Jacob Nikoracy is a Melbourne-based photographer and CAE Tutor. All photos are copyrighted to Jacob Nikoracy.
Check out Jacob’s upcoming short courses Photographing Melbourne: A Walking Tour with a Difference and Smartphone Photography: Get the most from your Phone.