6 tips to take great pictures with your smartphone

The ubiquitous smartphone has become the fastest snapper in town. What you need, is some tips to turn your amateur shots into a professional spread
6 tips to take great pictures with your smartphone

While smartphones are not a direct replacement for DSLR cameras, they have steadily become the choice of weapon for snapshots. To date, smartphone cameras are equipped with sensors comparable to those on compact cameras. Done right, you might even pass off a shot from your smartphone as one taken by a DSLR. Once you have mastered the art of Instagram with our tips, it's time to level up with more rules to live by for smartphone photography.

[Image: The Independent]

Composition is everything


While clothes do make the man, a photographer's equipment does not differentiate you from the rest. Composition of the photo, or arrangement of the visual elements, is essential if you want a good shot.

The more, the merrier? Unfortunately, that's not true. Decide what you want to include in the shot - the mountains, the water, the sun on the horizon etc - and focus on the essential elements.

Once you look into the viewfinder, decide where the subject needs to be - the centre of attention, or relegate them to the sidelines.

You can also learn more from photo composition books such as The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman, and Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style by Alain Briot, for some theoretical tips.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Exploring different angles may yield interesting results.

[Image: Trey Ratcliff]

Tweak those settings


Not too sure if you should raise the ISO, activate face detection or change the metering? Fret not, smartphones have easy preset scene modes like Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Text, Fireworks, Night and Macro.

Auto mode tends to give optimal performance for most situations,  but make sure you actually are using the best scene mode for the situation. Sure, you can use a Portrait or Sports mode to shoot scenery, but let’s be discerning and use Landscape to get the best image.

Take no chances and go for the highest quality and pixel resolution available. A high resolution picture can be cropped and edited without losing the quality. Try blowing up a low resolution image, and you’ll be greeted with pixels.

Get high and dynamic

High Dynamic Range

If you have it, flaunt it. This is true for high dynamic range (HDR), a feature that combines images taken with different exposures into a single photo with greater dynamic colors and higher contrast.

HDR mode is great for landscapes with ample contrast between the sky and land, a subject with too much lighting, and in low-light situations. Always take a photo with and without HDR turned on and save the better image.

Most smartphones, including the Apple iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4, have HDR mode. If not, you can always download or purchase an HDR camera app.

[Image: Sony Mobile]

Zoom and shoot

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Unfortunately, most smartphones depend on digital zoom to close up on a subject. Digital zoom is essentially an interpolation of the image, enlarging the pixels and creating a mosaic effect due to the loss of resolution when an image is zoomed in.

Be proactive and walk up to your subject if they are too far. Put more significance on the subject, while also paying  sufficient attention to the lush scenery or backdrop.

Alternatively, get the subject to walk towards you, which allows you to get the full width of the scenery while the subject is closer to the lens. There’s always the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s optical zoom, or just manipulate the 41-megapixel image from a Nokia Lumia 1020.

Use your flash at all times


Keep the LED flash on, even for daytime shots. When you shoot against the sun, a quick flash will remove the eclipse effect on your subject.

Needless to say, under ambient lighting or at night, a flash is essential. If the short burst of flash is not sufficient for the camera’s white balance or shutter, activate the torchlight application, which is either preloaded or available as a separate app on the app store.

This app turns your LED flash into a constant light source, allowing the sensor to adapt and find the right white balance, shutter speed and ISO settings for the best photo. Do note that using it for long period of time will drain your phone battery faster.

For more tips about low light photography with your phone, check out our earlier guide.

Take more than one picture

Continuous Shot

Go nuts and take more photos. Utilise the burst shot mode, which captures at least five consecutive images, to capture the fleeting moment with the most candid shot.

Quality is still preferred over quantity. Do not take multiple shots with the same background. Instead, snap from other angles, and be creative with the subject pose. A wider variety always deliver better results during the choosing process.

Lastly, view the shots on a large display and catch any missing details from your shots. But, if you are using those insanely huge phablets like the Sony Xperia Z Ultra’s 6.5in screen, you’re good to go.

This article was contributed by freelancer writer Siang Liang Koh