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En Focus: Impressive Photos from your Smartphone
How To

En Focus: Impressive Photos from your Smartphone 

All photos in the article were taken with smartphones

The best camera is always the one that is with you. For most of us, that means the camera on our smartphones. It is small enough to fit in your pocket and lightweight enough to take everywhere.

Smartphone cameras have advanced to the point where stunning photographs can be captured at anytime and anywhere. Whether you’re into landscapes, architecture, food, street, macro, or fine art photography, smartphone cameras can handle the job. 

Taking impressive photographs is easy once you’ve grasped a few things. Whether using a smartphone camera or a DSL, a great photograph relies on some basic skills. Using the following tips should help you create award winning photographs.  

1. Good Light for A Great Image

First things first, check your lighting. Is it coming from lights, a window, or just direct sun? Look at how the light is falling on the subject and equally important, look at what the shadows are doing.

When shooting outdoors, as a general rule of thumb, shoot early in the morning or late in the day and keep the sun at your back. But there are instances where a back lit subject is more appealing. There is sometimes as much beauty in darkness as there is in light. Once you know the direction and quality of the light and shadow on your subject, you’re got a good start.

2. Composition, Perspective, and Leading Lines

In general, don’t bullseye your photos unless your subject is symmetrical in nature or its key to the feeling or message behind the image. Use the grid function in the camera settings, and place your primary subject along one of the grid lines. This makes for a much more appealing photograph.

Unless your subject is well above you or down below you, the horizon (visible or invisible) should remain level. A slanting horizon is visually disturbing. 

Just by changing your perspective, a basic photo can be turned into a work of art. Many people have a habit of standing and shooting from eye level. View your subject from different positions, possibly this will make a more interesting photograph.

When composing, look for lines (literal or figurative) in your subject, or lines leading to or from your subject. These lines provide a sense of movement and direction in your photograph. They help lead the viewers eyes through the photograph.   

Smartphone cameras come with a touch zoom feature. Don’t use it, zoom with your feet. The famous war photographer Robert Capa said, “If the photo isn’t interesting enough, you’re not close enough.”  This is a good general rule, but your decision has to be based on your subject and what ‘s needed to convey the intended message or feeling.

Use scale to add dimension to your photographs. Scale can turn an ok photo into a great photo. It usually entails people at the bottom of the frame. Stand back a good distance and allow a lot of negative space around them.

3. Focus, Exposure, and Flash

Rarely is an out of focus subject appealing. There are times, particularly with close-ups, when you need to focus on something in the foreground or background of the subject.  Just touch the part of the screen you want in sharp focus before taking the photograph.   

Similarly, exposure is a critical key to a great photograph. Although the smartphone has a very good sensor for reading light, it can only make an average reading for the scene. For the effect you want, you may need the photograph to be darker or lighter. As with the focus, just touch the part of the screen you want the sensor to read. Also check your setting. Some smartphone cameras come with a Pro setting that lets you change your exposures.

Experiment with the flash. It can help lighten shadows, make colors brighter, or even add other interesting effects. Just experiment by taking one photo without, then one with the flash. Make notes and compare the differences.

4. Use the Panoramic Feature to Capture More

For linear subjects such as landscapes or cityscapes, try the panoramic feature. It allows you to take in much more of the subject. It takes a bit getting used to because there is some distortion. But with practice steadying the camera as you turn, you can make breath taking photographs.

5: Enhance Your Photographs by Using the HDR Feature

High dynamic range (HDR) is a term that may need a bit of explaining. For every scene, there is an area with the greatest brightness and also one that is the darkest. The camera exposes the scene so you can see detail in the brightest and the darkest areas. It takes a couple exposures, one darker than normal, and the other brighter than normal. The final result is a merge of the two images resulting in an overall enhanced photograph.

In the end, learn to use what’s in your hand. The new smartphone cameras, if used creatively, can cover most of your photographic needs. 

All photographs used in the article are strictly for educational purposes

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