7 tips for great shots using your smartphone
Michel Proulx, photography instructor
More and more powerful, smart phones let you take high quality photos. For even better results, follow the advice of a professional!
A few years ago, professional photographers like me viewed cell phones as second-class cameras. But did you know that in 2023, professional camera manufacturers like Nikon or Canon will be copying digital sensor technologies from phones, not the other way around?
Nowadays, we use our “phone cameras” when we travel, during nature walks, to immortalize our grandchildren’s antics, and to photograph loved ones on important occasions. In short, we have all become photographers. In fact, 20,000 billion photos are taken every year on the planet with cell phones alone.
Tips to put into practice
Small details will help you really enjoy taking pictures with your smartphone and be prouder of the shots you get. The following tips are the result of my nearly 40 years of teaching and lecturing about photography, first with cameras and then with smart phones:
- Increase the brightness of your smartphone’s screen when taking pictures outdoors to better see details, especially in the sun.
- People always take their pictures too fast with a smartphone. Slow down and frame your shot properly. Beware of the “wow” effect that makes you take pictures on the fly without composing the image.
- Speaking of framing, you can activate a grid on the screen (1/3 grid), which is accessible in your camera settings. It helps you to make the elements of a landscape or architecture more harmonious, giving you an unobtrusive marker to shoot straight.
- Your phone is very good at accurately focusing on subjects that are at different distances in front of you. But if you are close to something, such as a flower or a face, you can simply touch the subject you want to prioritize on the screen and force the computer to focus on that particular spot. Often, a nice blur will appear behind the subject. This very popular effect is called “depth of field” and directs the eye to the main subject you have chosen.
- Don’t hesitate to get close to your subjects to take close-ups. The great photographer Robert Capa said, “If you don’t like your pictures, you’re not close enough. Smartphones have a feature called “macro” that allows you to get much closer than you think. Test this with your plants.
- Concerning the flash, you should know that the best flash photo is taken . . . without a flash. This tip will surprise you, but never use the flash on your phone. Never! What is called a flash is in fact a small, very weak flashlight that gives poor quality light. Taking your photos in ambient light (even if it is dark) is far and away the best choice, as this preserves the atmosphere. Support your elbows on your body and hold the phone firmly, without flash. You’ll see the difference in your images. The sensor is very powerful even in low light. The greatest professional portrait photographers work without flash.
- When your photos are done, view the “gallery” in the comfort of your home by clicking on “edit” at the top of the screen. You have access to multiple editing and enhancement tools directly in your phone. You can crop, correct the exposure and apply creative effects such as black and white and warmer and more saturated colours.
Your phone’s camera is a high-performance device. You’ll get amazing pictures by putting these tips into practice. You can print them in large format to frame them for your daily enjoyment. Give these frames as gifts or make digital albums. The photo quality is great, so why not enjoy it to the maximum?
Last suggestion: a phone is actually a computer. And we all know that computers, even in photography, require a time investment to learn their intricacies. But it’s definitely worth it. With a little help from your peers or an instructor, you’ll discover the pleasures of taking pictures creatively, everywhere and everyday.
Photos: Michel Proulx