How to capture the best photos with your phone

Smartphone cameras are getting better and better with each update released, so it’s no surprise that we are uploaded billions of photos to social media daily.

Whether you want to start a travel blog or just want to learn how to take better selfies, there are a few things to keep in mind as you progress.

The first step is to acquire a smartphone with a camera app: Oh, you’ve already got one? Perfect. Let’s start with some basics then.

Learn how your camera works.

“Go online and find out how your camera app works,” said Rob Comeau, creative media professional and photography teacher at College of the Canyons.

Learning about all the features offered can make a world of difference in how much you can get out of your phone.

Keep the lens clean.

Although this may seem obvious, this step often goes unnoticed.

Unlike professional cameras, your phone doesn’t have a lens cap to protect it from smudges and lint.

The buildup of gunk on your camera’s lens can lead to hazy photos that no amount of editing can fix, according to Tom Windsor, a local photographer.

“I recommend buying a lens cloth and some cleaner or wiping the lens with a cotton t-shirt if you’ve got nothing else,” Windsor said.

Turn your phone horizontally.

Not only do horizontal pictures take up the entire screen and not just a tiny sliver but we consume content horizontally, not vertically, so Comeau suggests turning your phone on its side.

Tap the screen to focus.

Be sure to tap the screen of your smartphone to focus the camera on your subject, which will ensure that it’s focused and the view is sharpened, according to Windsor.

Use the volume button.

Turning your smartphone on its side has an added benefit — now you can use the volume up button to take your photos.

Doing this will almost force you to use both hands, which will increase your stability and reduce the shaking, Windsor said.

Avoid zooming.

Instead of using digital zoom, Comeau suggests cropping your photos afterwards.

“It’s not really zooming, it’s just stretching the image,” Comeau said. “So your photos may lose quality.”

Learn when to use flash.

Comeau says that flash only works when your subject is less than three feet away.

“After that, it’s not helping you out,” Comeau said.

The fact that the light is so close to the the lens almost ensures a semi-blurry photo every time, Windsor added. Turning the flash off by default may also be good idea as it can cause harsh lighting.

Regardless, there are still instances where flash may be useful, including during the day when you want to remove shadows on your subject’s face, Comeau said.

Now it’s just a matter of learning a few professional photography techniques that can make all the difference in your results.

Try some weird angles.

“Taking pictures from weird angles can result in some of the best photos,” said Tammy Peterson, a local photography instructor. “It’s about seeing things from another perspective.”

Comeau agrees and suggests not just simply holding the phone at eye level, but trying something different like lying down or getting an elevated position and shooting downward.

Turn the grid on.

Grid mode turns on a three by three grid on your screen, which allows you to use the rule of thirds, according to Peterson.

“You want to place your subject where the lines cross and not in the dead center,” Comeau said.

The idea is that photos are more balanced and pleasing to the eye when their subjects align with the imaginary grid that divides the photo, both Windsor and Peterson agree.

“This is easily one of the most effective ways to improve the quality of your photos,” Windsor said.

Pay attention to the lighting.

Lighting is, without a doubt, the most important aspects of photography, Peterson said.

“Recognize where the light is coming from,” Comeau said. “You want the light to be at your back and shining on your subject.”

While you should try your best to use natural lighting, don’t be afraid to turn more lights on, Comeau said.

“The more light the better,” Comeau said.

At night is a different story. Because of the lack of light, it’s vital to keep the camera and your subject really still to get a clear photo, Comeau said.

You should also try to put your subject in the light at night, he suggests.

Using street lights, store signs or a passing car’s headlights can make for an interesting photo, Peterson added.

Learn the modes your camera has.

With new technology comes better quality photos, and your phone’s camera typically has a few different modes that can make your photos look even better.

For example, HDR, which stands for “high dynamic range,” means your camera will capture photos in a slightly different way.

“Turning on HDR will make the color and definition of your photos more vivid,” Peterson said. “This helps images better resemble how the human eye sees something.”

What about editing?

Although editing a photo can be a great benefit, less is more, according to Comeau.

Find a good photo editing application, but don’t spend too much time on it. Experimenting is fine, but too much editing can make a photo look unnatural, Peterson said.

Also, rather than using a pre-set filter, try editing afterwards. This gives you the chance to revert back to the original, according to Windsor.

The ability to take photos anytime, anywhere, is the greatest advantage to this technology shift, but Comeau suggests that it’s still good to ask yourself why you are taking this photo.

“Remember to put the camera down and enjoy the moment sometimes,” Comeau said.

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