It’s not always practical to have your “big boy” camera with you.
Fortunately, we live in an era in which our phones make pretty darn good cameras that are more than adequate as backup to shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
But I’ll be honest – there are occasions when I actually prefer to use my smartphone over my “real” camera.
Quick portraits of my family, macro shots, and maybe even an occasional selfie too…
And those types of photos (and more!) are made much easier by the incredible variety of apps you can download for taking and processing photos on your phone.
With all that in mind, I invite you to consider these top smartphone photography tips to try in 2017.
There have been plenty of times in my photography career that I’ve hesitated to take a shot for whatever reason.
Maybe I thought it wasn’t pretty enough. Perhaps I thought that my phone just couldn’t handle the situation, like a wide dynamic range.
As with so many things in life, though, the things I regret most are the things I never tried. In hindsight, I wish I would have just pressed the shutter just to see what would have happened, rather than just giving up from the get-go.
If there’s any doubt about how a shot will turn out, just take the shot anyway.
There’s no harm in having a photo that doesn’t turn out – you can always just delete it.
But if you never take it in the first place, you’ll never know what might have been!
Actually Do Something With Your Photos
A great way to improve your smartphone photography is to actually do something with the photos you take.
It’s easy to never progress your craft if all you do is let your photos sit in your camera roll.
Instead, challenge yourself to find ways to share your photos. Get them in front of other people’s eyes, because nothing makes you strive to be a better photographer than having other people check out your work.
Share your images on 500px or Instagram. Upload them to PhotographyTalk’s galleries. Share them with friends and family on Facebook. Print a few shots and send them to people.
However you do it, try to elicit feedback from the people you share your images with.
No one sees the same image exactly the same way, so something you completely miss in your shot that’s really excellent (or, maybe even not so great) can be pointed out to you and you can use that information to make the next shot better.
Create Black and White Images
Going with black and white smartphone photos will help you become a better mobile photographer for a couple of important reasons.
First, when creating black and white photos, you have to learn how to see the scene a little bit differently.
That is, you have to train your eye to see things like texture, patterns, light and shadow, and structure, as these features help make for a more dynamic black and white photo.
By changing the way you look at a scene, you’re forced to slow down a little bit, examine the scene more closely, and the images you take as a result will be improved.
Secondly, shooting in black and white means you have to spend more time in post-processing.
Even though processing an image on your phone is a bit of a different animal than it is on your computer, it’s still necessary to get familiar with editing apps like VSCO or Snapseed because having that post-processing know-how will open up many more creative opportunities for your smartphone images.
Believe it or not, your smartphone might just be an excellent option for macro photography. This is especially true if your phone was released in the last couple of years.
When taking a macro shot with your smartphone, it’s important to bear a few things in mind.
First, try to get your phone about two inches away from the subject. More or less, this is as close you can get and still get the subject in focus.
Second, look for macro scenes that have good indirect lighting.
“Good” is hard to quantify here, though. Too much light makes it hard for your smartphone to handle the brightness of the light and darkness of the shadows. On the other hand, not enough light means you won’t be able to capture enough details.
Lastly, outfit your smartphone with a macro lens, like the one shown above by Kenko.
The beauty of this lens is that it’s not complicated to attach to your phone like so many other smartphone lenses.
Instead, it simply clips on, and you’re ready to take macro photos.
The lens is made of fine-processed glass, so you’re assured that the image quality is spot on. What’s more, it offers a 120-degree view, giving your a wide-angle perspective of your macro subject.
Speaking of wide-angle, this lens is two-in-one so that you can shoot wide-angle photos and macro photos as well.
That gives you more capability to get higher-quality smartphone shots, whether it’s of an insect or flower, or a vast landscape like a mountain range.
Get Out of Auto
Just like shooting in fully automatic mode on your “real” camera doesn’t always get you the best results, letting your phone handle all the settings won’t’ get you the best results either.
Granted, not all phones allow you to shoot in manual mode, but if your phone does have that feature, learn how to use it.
After all, even on your least creative of days, you and your eyes are a far better judge of what a scene looks like (and should look like) than your camera and lens.
If you find that your phone doesn’t have manual exposure controls, download an app like Camera FV-5 Lite for Android or Camera+ on iOS. Both give you far more control over exposure than the native software on many phones.
Bonus Tip: Use Your Phone as a Mini Computer
Even on those occasions when you prefer to shoot with your DSLR or mirrorless camera, don’t discount the power of your phone to help you out.
You can do anything from find a dark spot for nighttime long exposures to calculate hyperfocal distance.
The point is that at no point in the history of photography have we had more powerful photography tools than we do now. Even if you don’t use your phone as a camera, it can still make the photos you take with your traditional camera much better.