How to take great holiday photos – on your smartphone
When Somerset photographer Deb Johnson is working – taking photos for family portraits, weddings and events (like yours truly and some of Somerset’s sparkliest business people at the Muddy Awards) – she uses an impressive piece of kit. But when she’s not, she uses her smartphone like the rest of us, and gets great results. I asked her to share her 10 top tips on using a smartphone camera. Here’s what she had to say….
It’s so easy when faced with a stunning view to pull out the phone, grab a snap and stick it on Facebook or Instagram. Tagged with dates, keywords, location data – even facial recognition – it’s a million miles away from waiting for that Fuji envelope to drop through the door. But just because you’re taking photos on your phone doesn’t mean it’s not real photography and many of today’s smartphones are far more capable than point and shoot film cameras.
#1 Get a clean shot
My phone goes everywhere with me, either in a pocket or my bag. Dirt and grime on the lens will make your photos look blurry and could potentially ruin your pictures. Use a micro fibre cloth or lens wipe to keep it grime free.
#2 Avoid the digital zoom function
Don’t use the digital zoom, go manual and use your feet! Digital zoom works by cropping and enlarging the image. You will be left with a lower resolution file. If you can’t move closer then take the picture and keep the option of cropping for later.
#3 Take the flash off Auto
In low light conditions try using ambient light. If appropriate, move your subject closer to the light source, be that a window, candle or desk lamp. Most camera phones are quite sensitive to light and have some sort of vibration reduction. There are mini tripods available to help or brace your self against a wall or place your elbows on a table; just do what you can to keep the camera phone steady. Weird though it sounds, you can actually use the volume control on your phone (or even the volume control on the headphones that were supplied with the phone) as a shutter release – experiment with it.
Phone cameras generally make a good job of working out what you want to be in focus. Taking control of this by tapping the screen to select the focus area can encourage you to think more creatively about how you compose a shot.
#5 Composition is key
There are countless tips and tricks behind composing a great shot. If you have the time, experiment with different approaches. It pays to work out what the star of your photo is and compose the shot to its best emphasis. Background is important, try and compose to avoid unwanted distractions. Finding something to add to a foreground can frame and add extra interest to a landscape photograph. For people, try out different angles – crouch down or get up high and stand on a chair (safety first, though!).
#6 Add effects afterwards
Filters are great but don’t get stuck with whatever special effect you applied when taking a picture. Take your shot and add any special effects or filters later. There are plenty of apps that can help you do this.
#7 Rotate your phone
Don’t forget that your phone works horizontally as well as vertically!
#8 Take lots and lots of photos
Take loads and edit down later. Sometimes you think you’ve got everything perfect, only to look at it later on the big screen to see you’ve missed some detail, or Aunt Betty has her eyes closed.
#9 Know your options
Get to know your phone’s camera options and explore the more advanced features like HDR and panorama.
#10 Find inspiration
Hit the internet for more super creative and off-the-wall inspiration. This is one of my favourites