Smartphone photography is often associated with quick and easy snapping away. That’s because you can just walk around, point at something, click – and there’s your photo!
I’d like to take a different approach to smartphone photography. It is amazing that modern technology has put a camera in the back pocket of so many people. But I also know that it takes a lot more than the push of a button to make a photo that has meaning.
Wouldn’t it be great if by just a few adjustments you could elevate your smartphone photos from a simple record of the events and people in your life to photos that tell a story, have meaning, and are still beautiful to look at years from now?
You know, it really doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have. It’s about the person behind the camera and what that person is capable of.
With these 5 smartphone photography tips, you’ll be able to go from quickly snapping away to mindfully shooting with intent so you can start making beautiful smartphone photos.
The first thing you should be asking yourself when you pick up your smartphone camera is, what’s my subject? And secondly, why do I want to make this photo?
When you have an answer to these questions, it becomes easier to make a photo that tells a story, is full of meaning, and is interesting for other people to look at.
This may seem a little complicated to you, and I get it. But there’s no need to overthink this. It can be as simple as the desire to photograph a colourful flower, an overwhelming landscape, or the gorgeous faces of your grandkids.
Just stop and think for a few seconds about what you’re about to photograph. Why does it touch your heart? Why did it grab your attention?
You see, the next step is to figure out what the best way is to show that. It’s a lot easier to do that when you’re aware of what delights you in your subject.
Once you’re used to photographing like this, I can assure you the process of taking pictures with your smartphone will bring you more joy and your phone photos will become a lot better.
A very important choice in composition is the orientation of the frame.
It’s very common for smartphone photographers to shoot in a vertical orientation. Probably because that’s how you normally hold your phone. It’s also quick and easy to take a picture with just one hand.
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with a vertical photo. It’s more about the somewhat automatic way most smartphone photographers shoot vertically.
Because the truth is, a horizontal orientation is a better fit for a lot of photos.
So I’m encouraging you to change your default ‘shooting vertically’ mode to a default ‘shooting horizontally’ mode.
Photographing in a horizontal orientation seems like a simple thing, but it will have an impact on your mindset while you are photographing.
Why? Because when you photograph horizontally with your smartphone you need both hands. And somehow it’s difficult to take a photo with both hands and keep on walking without tripping over your own feet.
It forces you to stand still and pay attention to what it is you’re photographing. Which is a very important aspect of photography.
Photographing horizontal also has a big impact on the photo itself. It influences your composition as well as how you experience the photo.
Because there is a difference in the way we perceive a horizontal and a vertical image.
A horizontal photo is usually more dynamic and engaging. It’s easier to connect to because we have a horizontal view ourselves.
A vertical photo is usually more formal and static.
Turning on the grid in your settings will help you to take photos with straight horizontal and vertical lines.
A smartphone camera has a small sensor, the thing inside that captures the photo like the film in the old days. Because it’s so small it loves to have a lot of light. And natural light is the best!
It’s full of mood, flattering and beautiful. It also influences the colours, it emphasizes textures, and creates attractive contrasts.
Natural light can give the most simple things a magical touch.
So, take advantage of the natural light whenever it is present.
It’s also a good idea to have your flash turned off by default. Because then you can decide to turn on your flash when there’s no way around it.
If you leave it on Auto Flash, the camera will make this important decision for you, and that’s not something you want to leave up to the camera.
Using natural light to your advantage is not something you learn overnight. And certainly not by reading a blog post. But you can start by becoming a student of light.
You don’t even need a camera to study light. You can do that all day long just by observing the light and discovering all the different ways natural light touches your surroundings.
I understand it’s very tempting to use your zoom when you want your subject to be closer. But the thing is your smartphone camera has a digital zoom and not an optical zoom like most regular cameras.
This means your camera is fooling you!
It ‘zooms in’ by showing only a part of the whole, making it seem like you’ve brought the image closer. But all it does is cropping the image on the sensor and showing you an enlarged image.
That’s why zoomed-in photos always look a little blurry and pixelated.
If you want your subject to be closer, it’s better to walk towards it.
Your photos will remain crisp and sharp, while also making you into a more active and involved photographer.
It becomes more natural to walk around your subject and try out different things. So not only will you keep the image quality high, it also makes you a more creative and intentional smartphone photographer!
And that brings me to my last smartphone photography tip.
A lot of beginning smartphone photographers shoot from the same eye level perspective all the time.
Eye-level is the way we usually see the world. It can work fine in a lot of circumstances but it’s not always the most interesting take on the world.
So, next time try a different point of view.
You can kneel down and photograph from a low point of view. You can hold your smartphone camera high and get a bird’s eye view. Or how about photographing someone at the back?
You can also walk really close to a subject and photograph an interesting detail.
Changing your point of view is a great way to create variety in your photographs. And you can infuse your photos with personality and meaning. Because your point of view in photography can say something about your perspective on life.
As you’ve probably noticed, every tip is about photographing with your full attention. When you shift your mindset to shooting intentionally, you can create wonderful photos with that seemingly common camera you have with you all the time.
If you want to go deeper with your smartphone photography, you’re welcome to enroll in my essential smartphone photography course Fabulous Phone Photography. It’s a great course for beginning smartphone photographers who want to take mobile photography to the next level.
How often do you use your smartphone as a camera? What’s your usual process of picture-taking? Do you ‘snap at it’ mindlessly, or do you carefully plan each shot? What can you do to make your smartphone camera work to your advantage? Let’s discuss below. Please join the conversation.