“The best camera is the one you have with you”, goes the mantra. You can lust after a high-spec Nikon that could cost thousands of pounds but it’ll be no use at all if it’s sitting at home at the moment you spot that perfect photo opportunity.
There is a camera that you always have with you though, the one built into the smartphone in your pocket. Here are some tips on getting the best results with your mobile photography.
5. Use a third party camera app
The native camera apps that come with the major smartphone platforms are mostly pretty powerful affairs, with features being added constantly. Some even have distinctive features, such as BlackBerry 10’s Time Shift and HTC’s Zoe that let you tweak images in unique ways.
However, for straight up, standard mobile photography there are several apps which work better than their native equivalents. Camera+ on iOS is just one of these, adding extra features such as focus and exposure lock that can help you to create some dramatic effects. CameraZoomFX is a useful one for Android, and there are many others which offer different features. Browse through your platform’s app store and see what comes up.
4. Avoid digital zoom
One of the most impressive things we noticed when testing the Android Jelly Bean-running Samsung Galaxy Camera was how much of a difference optical zoom makes on a camera. Many smartphones only have digital zoom, which vastly reduces the quality of images taken.
Rather than using lenses to magnify the image that is coming into a camera, what digital zoom does is simply enlarge an area of the photo being taken. The result is that the number of pixels in the final image is reduced, making for a lower quality photo. Using digital zoom effectively reduces your 8 or 13 megapixel camera to a 4, 2 or even lower megapixel count. Instead, just try moving closer to whatever it is you are photographing.
3. Go black and white
Even the best smartphone cameras can have trouble with colouring and white balance, sometimes making for final images that can look either garish or underexposed.
Switching to black and white gets around many of these problems, reducing the number of factors that your smartphone camera has to deal with. This isn’t just a get out clause either; in many cases black and white images can have more intensity than colour equivalents, making your pictures even more dramatic.
2. Use natural light
The kind of smaller digital cameras that feature in smartphones perform far better under natural light. While Nokia has made some brilliant advances with its PureView technology to bring better low light performance to its Lumia range, there is no substitute for strong, natural daylight when taking photos with your phone.
This may not be much use if you plan on snapping your friends in some darkened nightclub but where possible, taking photos outside will get the best results. Maybe these are the ones you should save for your Instagram feed.
1. Think about composition
You can follow all of the advice above and do everything possible to capture your shots with the best tools available but if you point your camera so that the top of someone’s head is missing it will still look odd.
Unusual compositions can create some brilliant images and even waving your camera about without looking can get you the occasional decent image. However, if you want reliable results when taking a photo of something specific, just spare a few seconds to look at your phone’s display and see how everything is positioned, working out whether or not it lines up well. A little bit of effort here goes a long way to creating great mobile photos.