Updated: Feb 3
Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. Your smartphone is a versatile device that is capable of so many things. Obviously it’s designed around being a phone but it has become a multimedia device over time. It can play music and movies, take photos and videos, share to social media, and edit for further use.
Taking photos with your smartphone has become as common as using the smartphone to make a phone call. The smartphone has effectively killed the compact point and shoot camera, so the smartphone camera will likely be the first introduction to photography for most people these days. Although a smartphone can’t ever replace a proper camera with interchangeable lenses and a larger sensor, you can get some high quality casual photographs of family and friends. However, under the right circumstances you can get professional work done as well.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your smartphone camera.
Use available light
Smartphone cameras have really small sensors so they are not great in low light situations. As soon as you are lacking light the quality of the image will drop dramatically. Light is the main resource of a camera sensor and if you lack the light you will introduce grain and noise into your image. However, when you have good light it can take amazing photos.
Make sure when you are in low light situations you light your subject with the available light around you. This can be from your camera’s flash, natural light from a window, lamps nearby, or carrying around a selfie light or other portable lighting.
Concentrate on composing your image
Beside having a certain amount of megapixels or other fancy bells and whistles it truly comes down to composing a great image. The camera can’t do all the work for you to create something interesting or memorable. Technology changes rapidly so having the best smartphone camera will not make you a better photographer. It’s going to come down to the human element of capturing the scene, using light, composing, and framing.
Another good idea is to control your subject. Smartphones don’t do very well with fast moving objects in its default auto settings so you have to be a good director. This won’t be a problem with landscapes or cityscapes where objects are not moving, but if you’re taking pictures of people get them to hold still. The camera’s default auto settings will adjust to produce a good image given any other factors.
Take advantage of the small sensor
The small sensors in smartphones means nearly everything in your scene is in focus. This is due to the depth of field that a small sensor inherently has. It’s a matter of physics. So without bothering you with the science it allows you to be close or far away from your subject without having to adjust your focus much at all. You literally can point, shoot and nearly everything will be sharp depending on the distance from the subject.
Bigger sensor cameras like interchangeable mirrorless or DSLRs will struggle to have everything in focus because you would need to close your aperture value which would darken your scene and require more manual adjustments to achieve the same look.
Learn to edit your photos
After you’ve taken some quality photos you may want to put some finishing touches on your work. Editing is like seasoning food. You don’t want to overdo it and degrade the image. You can crop, brighten, and do simple edits that can take your images to another level. You can find plenty of apps that you chose from on Google Play or Apple App Store.
Some apps to consider are Lightroom Mobile, Inshot, and Snapseed. They are very powerful but be sure to try a few to make sure you get the one you like.
Unlock pro features
Almost all smartphone cameras are set to auto mode by default. This means that the camera will evaluate the scene and determine what your image should look like. Another good idea is to take “pro” level control of your smartphone cameras by enabling the “pro” mode on your native camera app or getting a third party app. The purpose is to manually control the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. Having this level of control will allow you to get the specific image you want.
Remove all the technical aspects and just have a lot of fun. Take plenty of shots and learn as much as you can. Capturing the moments are going far outway any photographic expertise. It’s natural to go down the rabbit hole of learning your craft but don’t forget the core of why you chose to take photos in the first place.
Jason Logan is a Jersey City, NJ based photographer and co-founder of JMT Photography & Media. You can check out his work at www.jmtphotographymedia.com. You can also follow him on instagram @jmtphotographymedia.