By the end of the year, three-quarters of the residents of the United Kingdom are expected to own a smartphone. These devices don't just help users make and receive calls and entertain themselves while they're out and about. They're also turning many of us into keen photographers.
Every day 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook. An additional 40 million are posted daily to Instagram, and 4.5 million hit Flickr. With smartphone cameras occupying the top three places on Flickr's list of most popular cameras, we can expect the bulk of these photos to come from these clever devices. Many of the million snaps are average, but with a little knowhow you can take amazing photos on your smartphone.
Clean Your Lens
This tip sounds painfully simple, but many of us never think to clean our smartphone camera lens. However, with all the time our phones spend in our hands, purses, and pockets, there's plenty of opportunity for lint and oils to build up. When The Wall Street Journal tested random smartphones last year, they found each one contained between 2,700 and 4,200 units of coliform bacteria, a nasty which indicates fecal contamination.
For the sake of your photos and your health, clean your screen and camera lens with distilled water applied with a cotton bud. Distilled water is chemical free, unlike tap water, so it won't leave an unsightly film over your lens when it dries. Take another cotton bud and clean the keypad and hard plastic components with rubbing alcohol. Then wipe your smartphone down with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Make sure you turn off your phone and remove the cover and battery before you start cleaning.
Take the Best Shot Every Time
Several smartphones have built in features which help you capture just the right moment. Many camera apps mimic the burst and best shot modes found in high-end digital cameras. Burst mode shoots many frames in succession so you can choose the best one. Best shot mode is similar, but it automatically discards any photos which are out of focus or featuring blinking subjects. These apps work well for capturing action shots, but what if you're taking a group shot and someone blinks in every frame?
Ordinarily you'd have to start posing again, but not if you own a BlackBerry 10. This new smartphone features a Time Shift camera, which when enabled allows you to rewind and choose the best look for everyone in your group photo. Once everyone looks their best you can incorporate the images into one attractive snap.
Keep it Steady
Shaky hands are the natural enemies of any photographer. A screw-on tripod can keep your phone steady while you're snapping. This add-on is small enough to fit inside most handbags, but if you'd prefer to travel a little lighter can make use of what's around you. Leaning against a wall or tree will help reduce your trembles. Alternatively, you could balance your phone against a handy object like your handbag or a drinking glass to take a crisper photo.
Use Light Right
Image via Flickr by Josue Goge
Latin-American photographer Gerado Suter once said that "photography is the art of writing with light." However that doesn't mean that light is always a photographer's friend. Sometimes it'll cast pesky shadows, but you can remove these using your smartphone's flash. You can also resolve white balance issues by waiting a second or two after opening your camera app. Taking your time to compose a great shot will help your app adjust to the lighting conditions.
If you're still struggling to get the right shot, consider moving to a better position. Changing the angle you're shooting can often correct lighting issues. Snapping from a seated position or perched high above, for example, can also add interest to your photos.
Increase the Resolution
Set your smartphone to its largest resolution before you start snapping. This will help you capture intricate details crisply and clearly. Set at the highest resolution, your smartphone cameras performance is comparable to a good standalone camera.
Taking photos at high resolution is especially important for smartphone snaps which are often used digitally. High-resolution images maintain their quality when they're made smaller to email or post on social networking pages later.
High Dynamic Range imaging, or HDR as it's commonly called, captures the entire range of light in a single scene. It essentially takes three photos at different exposures and combines them into one image which has the best representations of both dark and light areas. Most new smartphones include a HDR feature in their camera programs, but if you're using an earlier model you can download a HDR app like TrueHDR or ProHDR.
Download the Right Apps
HDR apps aren't the only ones photographers will find in the online marketplace. Android and iOs app stores have a range of apps designed to make your average photos look amazing. They'll adjust the colours and contrasts, take away red-eye, and even apply artistic filters and frames. Many also make it easy to share your finished pieces over email or your favourite social networking sites. Plenty of photography apps are free or close to it, so experiment until you find the ones that work best for you.
Get a Protective Cover
Image via Flickr by Scarleth White
We all know a protective cover can shield your smartphone and its camera from the punishment of everyday life. But did you know it can also help you take better photographs? Waterproof protective covers allow you to take incredible photos in the water. Imagine taking up-close shots of your kids splashing about in the pool or capturing the aquatic creatures you see while snorkelling. With a waterproof cover, you can!
Keep Your Eyes Open
There are potential photo subjects everywhere. You just have to learn to spot them. Look around as you go about your day and think about what's beautiful or interesting around you. This practice won't just help you create an amazing photo portfolio. It'll also give you a deeper appreciation of the world around you.
Carrying a smartphone ensures you've always got a camera on hand to capture life's special moments. Remembering these tips will make sure your photos are just as amazing as the moments they reflect.