Get better results with your camera phone: 10 top tips
In an ideal world the best quality cameras would be tiny, light and cheap… We’d all be wandering round with them tucked in our pockets, merrily snapping away at whatever we liked, whenever we liked… We’d churn out incredible quality images on a daily basis… We’d capture everything that’s precious to us, never missing a moment…
Reality is in some ways nothing like that… but in other ways it’s exactly like that.
Yes, the absolute best quality cameras are too heavy and large to fit in a pocket, or to take everywhere with you. Not all of us know how to make amazing images. Sometimes we’d rather be IN the moment rather than photographing it. Sometimes we forget to take pictures, or can’t be bothered.
MAKE THE MOST OF THESE NIFTY LITTLE GADGETS
But nowadays many phone cameras ARE great quality and produce fantastic images.. or at the very least are good enough. They DO fit into our pocket. Sometimes you can remain in the moment but still manage to grab a couple of quick pictures of it. Making great images is of course a skill, but it’s also something that can be learned and improved.
As such, we’d be nuts not to make the most of these nifty little cameras we have in our phones. We can all rave about the evils of mobile phones till the cows come home… But there’s no denying that they enable us to document the magic in our daily lives much more easily than ever before, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a brilliant thing. I use mine all the time and have some really precious images from it.
So, here are my 10 top tips for getting the most out of your camera phone… They’re all super-simple, quick and easy little things but it’s surprising how many people don’t know about them, and they can make so much difference to the results you get.
1. CLEAN THE LENS!
You’d be surprised by how many people wonder why their images are blurry but haven’t wiped the lens. Look at the camera lens on the back of your phone. Chances are it has lots of fingerprints and smudges on it at the very least. Often mine ends up with jam, hummus, snot and god knows what else on it too if my 4 year old’s decided to get involved. Parents of young children are especially susceptible to lens-gunk! Give it a wipe on your t-shirt and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much crisper and clearer your photos are!
2. TAKE THE SHORTCUT
Most phones have a shortcut to take you straight to the camera from the lock screen. I didn’t realise this for years, and missed loads of ace moments spending too long faffing around unlocking my phone, finding the camera icon etc. On an iPhone you can just swipe left from the lock screen. Different Android phones work in different ways but just Google ‘shortcut to camera [your phone model]’ and you’ll find it.
3. CHANGE THE SHAPE
Lots of people stick with holding the phone upright, taking rectangular pictures in portrait orientation. Not everything looks best like this. Experiment with turning the phone on its side into landscape orientation, or switching it to a square. Personally I shoot most of my phone photos in square format just for consistency so they look better if I want to display them together, and so they have a different ‘look’ to my DSLR images.
4. STEP AWAY FROM THE ZOOM!
With camera phone photos don’t ever bother using the Zoom function unless it’s absolutely essential. On any camera a zoom degrades image quality, but on a phone it’s really really crap. So crap that you should honestly just stay away from it altogether. You’re much better just walking nearer to what you’re photographing – you can easily zoom with your feet! Exceptions are clearly lions in a safari park, things on the other side of a motorway. Common sense prevails.
5. TURN ON THE GRID
Most phones have a ‘grid’ function that you can turn on, which overlays horizontal and vertical lines onto the image on your screen. It can really help you with your composition and to keep your angles correct and avoid wonky images. Again, just Google ‘turn on grid [your phone model]’ to find out how to turn yours on.
6. NAIL YOUR FOCUS
Many otherwise great images are spoiled by crappy focus. It’s especially easy to lose focus if there’s a lot going on in the frame, as your camera’s autofocus will decide for you which thing to focus on and it may well not be the thing you wanted it to. With camera phone photos it’s super-easy to tell the camera where to focus. Just tap on the relevant spot on the screen and you should see a focus square appear over your focus point of choice. You can change focus by tapping other areas at will. If you want to lock the focus so it doesn’t move even if your phone does, then just tap and hold. Ideally focus on eyes, face or whatever the point of interest is in your photo.
7. CONTROL THE LIGHT
When you point your camera phone at something, it will measure (meter) the light and will adjust the exposure automatically to what it thinks is the correct level. Unfortunately, clever little contraptions though they are, phones often get this wrong and the image on your screen can be far too dark or bright. All you need to do to override this is lock the focus (as explained in point 6) and then if you drag your finger up or down on the screen next to it, you’ll ‘drag’ the exposure up or down with it, making the picture brighter or darker, as you wish.
8. ALTERNATIVE SHUTTERS
On many phones, you can press the shutter (ie take the picture) by using the volume buttons on the side of the phone instead of the usual ‘shutter button’ on the front of the phone. I didn’t realise this for ages and it makes taking pictures so much easier sometimes.
9. EASY ON THE FILTERS
There are so many filters you can apply to your photos nowadays that the temptation is to knock yourself out testing them all. You might like heavy filters now but these images will date quite quickly and you could end up not liking them so much in 5 years’ time. Ideally try to use them with a light touch. Also, mixing up lots of different ones isn’t a great idea, as if you ever want to display them next to each other (either on a wall or on Instagram) it’ll look messy. Try to stick to just 1-2 favourite colour ones and 1-2 favourite black and white ones, ideally ones that sit well next to each other. I like to use VSCO for mine, they’ve got a great selection.
10. PRINT YOUR PICS!
It’s so easy to take and store photos on your phone and computer, but what about in the future when technology updates and you can’t access your camera phone photos any more? What about losing your phone or your computer crashing? Aside from avoiding image loss, it’s such a pleasure seeing your favourite photos on your walls and in your home. They’ll bring you no joy forgotten on a USB or hard drive. Photos are supposed to be printed. Make a regular commitment to print them regularly. Personally every 6-12 months I print off a load of my phone photos using Inkifi – it’s really cost-effective and they look great. This is my dining room wall – I just get a new batch printed every few months and switch them up or add to it – the novelty of walking past this wall never wears off, it brings me so much joy every day 🙂
So there you go! I hope these tips are useful and help you to capture a bit more magic on your camera phone photos.
MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU
FREE PDF: 5 TIPS FOR TAKING GREAT PHOTOS OF YOUR KIDS
A little pdf I put together containing some simple techniques to get better photos of your kids – these are applicable not just for camera phone photos – doesn’t matter what camera you’re using, phone, DSLR, compact, anything 🙂
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