I’ve got some nice equipment. Cameras. Lenses. Lights. Many pieces are top of the line and cost me a lot of money. However, I can’t tell you how many excellent photos I’ve taken just using my cell phone.
Cell phone cameras have come a long way, rivaling even some of the best SLR cameras of only a few years ago. In addition, there’s no beating their compactness, ease of use, and downright convenience. For most people, a cell phone is all they’ll ever need for capturing memories.
With this post, and many to follow, I hope to make the photos you do take with your cell phone the best they can be. With this first post, I’m going to teach you how to prepare your cell phone camera for taking better pictures. Opportunities for taking great pictures happen often and usually without warning. Having your camera set up for greatness ahead of time means you’ll be prepared for those moments.
Step 1: Clean your lens.
Given your cell phone is ten times dirtier than a toilet seat, I’m not surprised at the state of some people's lenses. Use a micro-fiber cloth if you have one, or the softest cloth you have. A Q-tip also works well. Even a tee shirt will do. Just make sure you give it a give quick wipe. Don’t use paper-based tissue.
Step 2: Turn on HDR.
Set your phone to its highest picture quality and resolution and turn HDR mode (if you have it) to automatic. High Dynamic Range (HDR) attempts to keep the darkest and lightest parts of your pic balanced. It takes 3 -5 photos (in burst mode automatically) and slams them all together to get the highlights, low lights, and proper exposure into a single photo as the final version.
Step 3: No effects.
Turn off any add-ons, effects, and filters. Adding these things later is a whole lot easier than removing them. Take the shot as you see it. Don’t screw it up with gimmicks.
Step 4: Set to burst mode.
Burst mode will take several pictures in a row – one immediately following the other. Using burst mode increases your odds that at least one pic will be The One. Just be aware that each of these photos takes up space. On my phone, photos take most of the storage space, so once you decide which photo you like, you should consider deleting the others.
Step 5: Turn on Gridlines.
Turning on gridlines superimposes three lines vertically and three lines horizontally on your screen to form 9 individual boxes. This is based on a composition principle based on the “rule of thirds.” Simply put, the Rule of Thirds says you should put points of interest along the lines, or where they intersect. It’s Feng Shui for your pix. You will see the “rule of thirds” in MOST things you see either on television or in print. Until I started getting serious about photography, my mindset was “Wow! That's a great shot!” Now, I look for it (literally) in everything I see.
Step 6: Turn Off Your Flash.
Phone cameras have come a long way, but phone flashes have not. You should be shooting in natural light anyway. If you’re taking photos indoors, try to have as much light as possible.
Step 7: Turn Off the Digital Zoom.
Actually, this isn’t something you usually turn on or off. It’s typically invoked when you use your screen to zoom in on your subject. Don’t. If you can’t move closer, find a way to make the shot interesting without using the digital zoom. If you absolutely must zoom, then don’t do it more than say 1/4 . The quality of your photo will take a dive that you cannot fix because of pixilation.
I hope these tips serve you well and make you the best photographer you can be. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. So check back often for new posts.