The camera app on your smartphone comes with a bunch of features. But maybe you don't care what they do - you just want to take a good photo.
We hear you! Here's a short primer on features and jargon that pop up all the time. Rather than feel intimidated by what you aren't familiar with, get stuck in and finally understand the difference between your ISO and your elbow.
Most smartphone cameras adjust ISO automatically. But if you want to get your hands dirty, tweaking the ISO setting adjusts your camera's sensitivity to light.
A higher ISO means more sensitivity, and a lower ISO means less sensitivity. More sensitivity comes in handy in a low-light area, because it means the camera can suck in greater amounts of light without holding the shutter open for too long (shutter open for too long = blurry photos, because you can't keep your hands still).
There is a downside to increasing the ISO, however: it'll also increase the amount of noise in pictures, which makes them look grainier, dirtier and less detailed.
TIP: Keep this setting as low as possible. As noted above, a higher ISO is not always a good thing. If you notice a grainy effect in your photos, then your ISO is too high. But hey, maybe grainy's your thing.
Ever wonder why your skin tone in selfies never looks quite right? It usually has to do with the colour of light.
Say what now? Light has a colour? Sure! Everything looks more yellow under sunlight. But all natural light has a tinge of colour to it, even when the sky's overcast.
Artificial light can have a yellowish tinge, too. When this light mixes with your skin colour, like mixing paints in a jar, you're going to see a difference in your photo.
Your camera's white balance setting is usually taken care of automatically; it'll attempt to make your image look more neutral and less affected by the type of lighting. But you can often manually override these settings if you're not convinced your smartphone's brain can handle it.
Or you may not care. #YOLO
TIP: You obviously can't control the colour of light, but you can use a filter to neutralize its effects. Instagram users can directly adjust this setting with the "warmth" adjustment
AF stands for auto-focus and AE stands for auto-exposure. And locking these settings can be helpful in certain situations. For example, when taking a panoramic shot, your camera needs to lock these settings to make it easier to stitch the photos together.
TIP: AF/AE lock also helps when there's too much light in the background and the thing you're shooting looks dark. One solution is to use flash, another solution is to use AF/AE lock on the thing you're shooting. You're almost certainly going to get better results.
What is the deal with that 9-square grid? You know, the one in the camera settings under "Guidelines" or "Gridlines." Why does it make the photo look like an Excel spreadsheet? They don't appear in the final image, so what's the point of enabling this feature?
It's a tool to help you take better photos, by giving you a gauge to frame your subjects properly.
TIP: We often take photos where the subject is in the center of the image. What about a shot where the subject is slightly off-centre? Say, at the point of intersection of one of these gridlines? Bonus points if you can hit more than one point at the same time.
Hitting these points often produces images that are more aesthetically pleasing, due to them fitting with the principles of the "Golden Ratio". At the same time, some of the best photos ever taken totally ignore the so-called "rule of thirds", so don't be afraid to go "off grid" at times.
Photo size refers to the size or resolution of the photo. For example, my banged-up Samsung Galaxy S4 gives a few numbers for each option (see pic). The first number refers to megapixels. The second refers to photo resolution in pixels. The third refers to aspect ratio.
TIP: Suffice to say the higher the megapixel count, the sharper the image. A higher resolution translates into larger images. These photos will take up more space on your phone though, so keep an eye on that.
Aspect ratio refers to the shape of the image. A 16:9 ratio might be familiar to you DVD heads as the widescreen format, making images wider than longer. A 4:3 ratio is a portrait format, a size that's more suitable for selfies. 1:1 is square format - handy if you're going to import photos straight into Instagram or another program that requires square pics.
TIP: We recommend keeping your phone in 4:3, unless you're planning on shooting a movie.
And there you go. A few tips to help you master smartphone photography. And see below for more guides along the same lines. You'll be a David Bailey-bothering snapper in no time.