How to master smartphone photography

This guide is designed to be your smartphone photography kit - with everything from getting started with photography to how to edit and share your photos.

To make things easy for your scrolling - here is what we will be covering in this guide:

  • Get to know your camera
  • Getting things right from the start
  • Do’s and don’ts when it comes to photography
  • Editing when it comes to smartphone photography

Get to know your camera

The camera function is, without a doubt, a big part of the smartphone experience. An average iPhone user takes 2100 photos a year whereas Android users take an average of 1332 photos - which means smartphone users use their cameras a lot. However, it can sometimes be daunting understanding the difference between the various smartphone cameras so here is a quick 101.

Smartphone cameras are supposed to be the most versatile camera without getting too complex. Although there are multiple different layers and complexities to camera lenses - most people want to be able to understand and compare the different smartphone cameras using few parameters.

One commonly used component when it comes to comparing smartphone cameras is megapixel count. The higher megapixel it is - the more detailed it will be. A high megapixel count will make cropping or zooming way better because the camera has managed to capture more details. However, megapixels do not tell the full story. For your convenience, we made a list of the six most important camera features which you can find here (link: six different features...)

Getting it right from the start

Ok, with the different components being straightened out - here is how you set yourself up for a good start!

Getting things right from the beginning will always be better than hours of editing. Learning some smartphone tricks will help you avoid for example the classic mistake of accidentally shaking your camera (Link to: How to hold you camera to avoid shake movement). Another key component to getting it right from the beginning is to pay attention to the composition. For example, make sure you straighten up horizontal lines, make use of the rule of thirds and focus on simplicity.

If you are completely new to the photography scene, maybe consider following:

  1. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight

    Getting good photos in direct sunlight is close to impossible. The sunlight is often too harsh and will give you weird shadows on your subjects. Instead, step away from the sun and find the closest shade. Cloudy days also serve as the best photographing days!
  2. … But find the closest light source when indoors

    If you’re shooting indoors, look for the closest light source (such as a window or a lamp) - but don’t shoot towards the light. Instead, shoot with your back or side to the window. Adding more light indoors means you decrease the risk of having your photos blurry. Artificial light will not produce as great results as natural ones will - but if you’re faced with photographing at night indoors then switching on the lights will be much better than no light at all.
  3. Don’t rush off to get fancy camera equipment.

    Camera equipment can really improve your photos and videos - no doubt. However, with less equipment, you tend to use other kinds of tools to make your content stand out. Composition, light, colors - are just some example that any photographer can use to improve his/her photos, regardless of equipment. Without any fancy camera equipment means that you will have to learn and get good at these photo fundamentals.
  4. Shoot. A LOT.

    By taking lots of photos, you start developing an eye for what makes a good photo. You get better at the technique and you start seeing more photo opportunities. In many ways, photographing is like any other sports or skill - the more practice, the better you get.
    Check out this post (Link to existing post:7 tips to master smartphone...) to find out more tips and tricks when it comes to smartphone photography.

Check out this post (Link to existing post:7 tips to master smartphone...) to find out more tips and tricks when it comes to smartphone photography.

Accessories for your smartphone

Case and screen protector

A very small investment in the grand scheme of things - a phone case and a screen protector. Also, get it the same day as you get your phone. There’s really no time to be wasted!

Portable chargers

If you are often out and about - this an absolute must. An extra portable charger will especially help you who often are out hiking, camping or traveling.

Lenses

Some of the main reasons why an external lens might be a good idea are:

  • Your phone only has a tiny lens and therefore can only let in a limited amount of light.
  • The software is not advanced enough…
  • Most phones only have digital zoom - which is only scaling up the picture. This essentially means that you get the same result using digital zoom as you do taking a photo without zoom and just cropping it.

There are so many options out there in terms of smartphone camera lenses. Telephoto, wide angle, macro, fisheye - there are many out there. For more information click here to read an extensive list of lenses.

Stabilizer

A stabilizer helps you avoid getting those shaky video clips. Besides removing all bumps in your video - they also create a more cinematic feeling. However, you might need some practice to really master this smartphone equipment.

Tripods

Tripods should be your go-to when you want to get more stable photos. There are so many different variations so it depends on what you want to use it for. Online reviews seem to praise the Gorilla Tripod - one of the reasons being it is very good with uneven surfaces. However, there are lots of other options - so perhaps check out some reviews that are out there.

The dos and don'ts

There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to photography - we listed the most essential ones:

DOS

  • Use something that stabilizes your shoot
  • Take multiple shots
  • If possible - shoot in RAW (link: how to shoot in RAW)
  • Know when and when not to use portrait mode (link: portrait post)
  • Make sure your camera lens is clean
  • People love people so include people!

DON’TS

  • Take photos of kids without their parents’ permission
  • Use the digital zoom instead of getting closer to the subject
  • Over-edit
  • Be too rushed so that your camera does not get enough time to adjust the exposure = too dark or too bright photo
  • Not allowing the focus to set itself - be in charge of the focus!

Post-production editing (especially when it comes to news photography)

You can do pretty much anything when it comes to editing your photos. There are endless options - fixing a tilting horizon, a wall or maybe some buildings. However, it is almost impossible to edit your way out of a poor photo. There is also such thing as over-editing, especially when it comes to news photography. What is true or not in a photo can sometimes be tricky to tell when you have so many photo editing options. We listed some good pointers what kind of editing is okay when it comes to news photography (Link to: How to enhance your photo in post production)

Some of the most common mistakes in photo editing:

  • Just saving the edited photo and not keeping the original
  • Getting stuck in one specific kind of editing - especially when it comes to colors
  • Relying too heavily on filters - when instead should play around with saturation, brightness, contrasts

So with this in mind, there are some apps out there that are particularly good when it comes to photo editing. Here are our favorites:

Lightroom

Lightroom Mobile is, perhaps not so surprising, the mobile version of Adobe Lightroom. It is for free - unless you want the option of synchronizing it with your desktop version of Lightroom. If you want the two connected then you will have to fork out a smaller price for it.

Lightroom Mobile acts like a one-stop shop, where you can shoot, edit and post content - all with one app. You can play around with advanced adjustments or go down to nitty-gritty details by doing local adjustments where you can change the exposure, brightness and many other editing tools. The local adjustments tool, however, is a paid feature.

VSCO

VSCO is another popular photo app. In fact, VSCO expands from just an editing app - it is also a photography community (much like Instagram). Whether or not you engage in the community or solely use the application for editing purposes - there is a lot you can do! Some features are subscription-based, meaning you would have to pay to get access to some of the exclusive options. However, even with the free version, you get a lot.

Snapseed

Depending on the level of time and effort you want to put into your phone editing, Snapseed allows you to dig real deep into their tools and helps you create the best possible photos on the go. Some say that it is a service more so for professional photographers - but really anyone can with time and trials get comfortable with Snapseed.

Slow Shutter

A great tool that helps you capture movements! Perfect for when you want to capture subjects in motion - maybe a train, ocean waves or maybe a crowd of people walking. If the 2€ cost makes you slightly hesitant - check out the hashtag #slowshuttercam on Instagram. That should solve your worries.   

To sum it up

Boom, now you’re all set to put your work out in the world - or at least you have something to start with. Check out Byrd - where you can make money from your photos (and videos!). Download the app today.

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