Back in the “olden days” when we were limited in our picture taking by the number of exposures remaining on the roll of film, and by the fact that we would need to pay to develop even the terrible pictures, we were very careful about the pictures we took. Sometimes, it seems that now that we are free from those constraints and can take a many pictures on our smartphones as we want with no financial downside, we have become less careful about the pictures that we take. If your photo stream is anything like ours, chances are that you have hundreds of shots of nothing at all special or memorable. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a professional photographer like Joshua Manocherian to take photos on your smart phone that make you go “wow!” Here are a few tips.
DO Clean your Lens
Think about the care that went into protecting the lens of your old camera. You had a lens cap most likely, and a special cloth and spray for cleaning it before you started taking pictures. Now think about the lens of your smart phone – not only does it not have a cover, but it spends a significant amount of time collecting link from your pocket, bits and crumbs from the bottom of your person, grease from the chicken wings you were eating when your phone rang, baby slobber, suntan lotion, and any number of other substances that have no business on a camera lens if a clear picture is your goal. Make it a habit to clean the lens every time you get picture happy with your smartphone!
DO Use the Gridlines
Virtually all smartphone camera apps will offer you the option to use the gridlines – and you should say yes! These gridlines follow the law of thirds which professional artists use to compose pictures and paintings. The basic idea is that a “canvas” can be broken up into 3 rows and 3 columns and that the best pictures will organize the subject/focus of attention at the intersection of a row and column. The gridlines option on your smartphone gives you a handy cheat by allowing you to visualize these intersections. It takes only an extra second or two to shift the focus a bit so that you follow the rule of thirds, and you will see right away that your photos have a better “flow”.
DON’T Use the Flash
Just don’t! If you need any convincing, go back over photos taken on your phone or even on a standard camera to see how unflattering flash photography almost always is. Between unnatural shadows, ghastly complexions and the infamous red eyes, it is almost never worth using the flash. Instead, try to find an alternate source of light to illuminate your subjects, and if your phone can adjust to low light settings, be sure to take advantage.
Your smartphone will almost certainly allow you to zoom from a considerable distance, but the reality is that you probably shouldn’t. Pictures taken with a zoom are notoriously blurry having been taken by an unsteady hand, and are almost always a such a low resolution that you can barely tell who is whom. Try to move closer to your subject so that you don’t have to make use of the zoom, or alternatively, take the pic at the highest resolution your phone will allow and crop the image.
Your smart phone won’t ever be as versatile as a standard camera, but there is no reason that you can’t take excellent, high-quality pictures on your smart phone.