Seven Tips for Better Smartphone Photos

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While no one would argue that a smartphone can entirely replace a quality DSLR camera, our phones these days can take remarkable pictures. Such good pictures in fact, that many travellers are opting to leave larger cameras at home, and rely on their smartphones to capture their best travel moments.

For those of you who like to travel light, and who like the convenience of being able to share a photo directly from your phone, we’ve put together seven tips to help you get the most from your smartphone camera.

Be mindful of composition
Every great shot begins with a moment’s thought about composition. Don’t just snap a photo of what’s in front of you: think about what it is you’re looking at that you want to convey to the viewer. You can add interest to a shot by including an object or subject in the foreground: for instance, include a boat that’s sitting on the beach, rather than just the sand, water and sky. Create interesting angles, consider using the rule of thirds to place your subject off-centre, and shoot both vertically and horizontally.

Seek inspiration
Of course, consistently good composition is easier said than done. So learn from the pros! Check out popular shots on Instagram, or the images in your favourite magazine. What are the photographers doing to grab your attention? Notice how they’re composing their shots, then try similar angles in your own photography.

Understand what your camera can do
Take a few minutes to research online what your particular model can do. There might be shortcuts or tricks you don’t yet know about. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has an “eraser shot” feature that lets you remove that tourist that just walked into your perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower.

Watch for contrasts in light

For all their great qualities, most smartphones don’t perform exceptionally well with direct, high-contrast light sources. For instance, shooting a sunset will work best if you shift your composition to move the light source just out of the frame. This will create more balanced light, and an effect of softness.

Another suggestion: try using the HDR setting when your photo has both very bright and very dark areas, such as people’s faces in shadow with a bright sky behind, or a darker foreground and bright background.

Don’t zoom
A smartphone camera (digital) zoom isn’t a real zoom: it’s just a preview of what your picture will look like cropped. For the best quality image, snap your photo without the zoom, and apply cropping afterwards.

Avoid flash
The flash will add a harsher light that rarely improves a photo, and often overexposes them. Stick to natural light whenever possible.

Improve by editing – with a light hand
Use the built-in software on your phone to gently edit photos. Start by slightly adjusting brightness, contrast and sharpness, then compare with your original. Try not to lose the sense of the scene with some of the more digitally enhanced filters available. We road-tested a few fun photo editing apps: you can read about it here: Fun and Easy Smartphone Apps.

A final tip: remember to slip the camera in your pocket sometimes and enjoy getting caught up in the moment without worrying about capturing it! The photos you end up taking will be richer if you are genuinely engaged in your surroundings.
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