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13 tips and tricks for perfect photos with your smartphone

Sterling Keys (translation)
2

The smartphone is becoming increasingly important not only as a mobile computer, but as a camera as well. Why carry a bunch of electronic devices when you’ve got one in the palm of your hands capable of doing everything?  While it may be the best tool for the job, you can make sure that your photos turn out great every single time you take them with some of our tips. 

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The Galaxy S4 Zoom is a king amongst smartphone cameras. Help turn your smartphone into a camera power house with a few simple tricks. © AndroidPIT

Clean the Lens

This sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s important. Many photos are ruined by the fact there is a cloudy film on the lens of your smartphone. While you may not think that your lens is dirty, the constant touching and moving around of your smartphone during the day can leave unwanted streaks across your lens. Always be sure to clean the lens with a soft fabric, such as a t-shirt, before each photo. Be careful when at the beach or dusty locations as sand grains can easily leave permanent scratches if you’re not careful.

Set your focus manually

Almost all current smartphones have an auto focus feature that takes the think work out of taking photos. However, this is not always the best case for your photos to turn out. As such, you can usually use your own wits to make sure that your smartphone knows what should be in focus and what shouldn’t. Simply, hold down your finger on the focus point for each photo itself and make sure you’ve got a nice clear image every time.

Use both hands

While it may look cooler and in many cases more convenient to take pictures with one hand, it is much more advisable to use both when you’re taking a photo. Not only does this increases the stability of your smartphone but also reduces the risk of producing a blurry image. An additional tip: if you can, stop and take a breathe before taking your shot and try to lean against something to provide additional support.

Zoom with your feet

At all times, try to stay away from using your digital zoom. Unlike optical zoom on most cameras, on most smartphones when you zoom the image is just enlarged digitally which reduces the quality of the photo and produces a pixelated mess. Therefore, if you’re using your smartphone to take a shot the simple rule applies: if you are too far away, zoom with your feet and move closer to your subject.

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A quick contrast on what happens when you use too much digital or optical zoom on different devices. Sony Cybershot QX10 (left), Xperia Z1 (center) and LG G2 (right). © AndroidPIT

Foreground imagery

Even the most simple photography courses hold this rule true to standard.  While most photos can be spectacular on their own, such as an open expanse of landscape or a city scene, they can be dramatically enhanced by having an object in the foreground to give the images more depth.

Rule of Thirds

This golden rule is followed in many different aspects: from painting to photography.  In the simplest terms, an image is divided both vertically and horizontally into imaginary lines that divide the image up into third. Important objects are therefore place into where these lines intersect to ensure a harmonious image construction. Some smartphones even have grids that can be made visible to help with framing a picture in this way.

Straight horizons

Yet again, another simple rule and one that goes a long way when taking photography on your smartphone. When taking photos of the horizon or of a landscape, having it off center or crooked can easily ruin the image. If you have a clear view of the horizon, it is helpful to either use a grid (such as mentioned above) or some kind of pinpoint to help line up your shot.

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In this picture, the plant gives the foreground in the left third of the image recording depth. However, the crooked horizon seems annoying and disturbs the picture. / © AndroidPIT

Make a note of lighting

Light is the best friend and the greatest enemy of the photographer. This is emphasized particularly for people taking photos on their smartphone. So before taking the shot, try to avoid harsh shadows or direct light front the front, such as the sun. Basically, the photographer should if at all possible take a shot with your back to the light source.

Sun and shadows

Contrary to popular belief, bright sunshine can be extremely unfavorable for photos because bright sunlight also brings along with it strong shadows. The human eye is able to compensate for these type of brightness differences, but smartphone cameras fail at doing this. In order to combat this, find a shaded spot to take a shot or wait for a passing cloud.

Wait for the right time of day

When the sun is at the highest point during the day, it’s time for a siesta in most places of the world. This is true even for taking photos. For landscapes and cityscapes, early morning or early evening are the best times and provide more attractive photos. With less glare, but still having light out, it provides long shadows and more interesting accents.

Use flash sparingly

Sure, the flash brings light into the darkness, but in most cases it destroys any type of mood created by lower light conditions by providing a bright contrast. The foreground is mercilessly lit and the background sinks into the dark. So, use flash only when you absolutely must or it fits what you’re looking to get. If your smartphone allows it, pump up the ISO setting if you must. A noisy image with natural light is usually better than a photo taken with a flash.

Playing with perspective

Most people who use their smartphone to take photos hold the device at eye level when they’re snapping away. Playing around with how you’re holding your device, at what angle, and the perspective can give a new spin on how your photo will turn out.

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The perspective has been chosen to be closer to the ground in this photo, which promotes a more dramatic and sweeping composition. / © AndroidPIT

Edit effectively

Post-editing can do a lot for your photos and can often bring or correct things that you may not have noticed when you first took the photo. There are numerous photos apps for smartphones that can fulfill this. And while they can definitely be powerful tools, they shouldn’t be used as a one-stop solution for photos: an excessively edited photo can come out artificial and fake and most of the times, less is more. Check out our following guide on some of the most popular editing apps here. 

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