How Can I Improve My Photography Skills on My Phone?

How to Improve Photography Skills

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August 21, 2019

To gain solid photo photography skills on a phone, it doesn’t matter where you are taking photos, you will need to follow these guidelines. When taking photos on your phone, getting a great photo can be challenging. Where do you start? What are the beginning steps? Here are 10 easy tips to follow to give you the photography skills to take your photos to the next level.

This guide will help you solidify basic photography skills to help you get better images. Learn how to quickly master exposure, flash, burst mode, the rule of thirds and so much more.

10 Mobile Photography Skills to Improve Pictures

1. Exposure

Getting the right exposure in mobile photography can be a challenging photography skill to master. Have you ever walked outside and it is too bright? Or have you ever stepped into a dark room where everything seems pitch black and you can’t see anything? Then your eyes adjust and you can see clearly again. That is how exposure works. The black part of the eye is the pupil, and the iris opens and closes to let more light in. If I step in a dark room, the pupils are opened very wide to let more light in, and when I step into the sun, my eyes adjust and the pupil gets smaller to let less light in. Our eyes need a particular setting. When we move from one lighting to another, it takes time for our eyes to adjust.

A camera also needs different exposure settings depending on the light in the scene. As your eye has an iris to let more or less light in, a camera has an aperture that does the same thing. Your eye also has another way to control light. That is the eyelid that can be opened and closed quickly or slowly. This is a form of a shutter, and the camera also has a shutter. Exposure is controlling the amount of light that gets into the sensor in your camera. Therefore, too much light is let in and the image is too bright; the details are lost and the image is washed out. Too little dark, the shadows are black, leaving out significant details.

Smartphone exposure

Tap to find the right exposure. This image is almost right but the top right corner is a little overexposed.

This exposure has a very light background so the sky is overexposed.

Cell Phone Exposure

This image the sky is exposed but the foreground is too dark.

How to use Exposure on Your Phone

When you take a picture, exposure is the amount of light that is collected by the sensor in your camera. It is the way to control the light and darkness of the image.

You can do this by touching any part of the screen and a little circle or square will come up depending on the type of phone. This will adjust the focus and exposure. Getting the right exposure for mobile photography can be a hard photography skill to master, but here are a few tips for your mobile phone.

Explore each smartphone touch screen by just tapping anywhere on the screen to adjust exposure. By tapping on a dark portion, the image will instantly become brighter. Tap on a light part and the shot will become darker. The trick is to find the right spot where your phone will have lights and darks are even. There are no blinding lights and black blobs in your image.

2. Flash

Using flash for mobile photography has been looked down upon by many mobile photographers, but here are some new photography skills that will challenge that belief. With the flash, often you get bright, washed out images of people with red eyes. You may have taken a picture of that special event to later find the results were not that pleasing. The flash on auto mode will choose a fast shutter speed and will light up the subject brightly. Taking pictures using the flash for mobile photography will leave the subject bright and the background too dark. Most of the time, it is recommended to keep the flash option turned off, but there a few times with the flash will be boost your image. Here are some guidelines for when to use/not use your camera flash.

flash on with chocolate

With flash

no flash for mobile

No flash

Sparingly Use The Flash for Mobile Photography

The general photography rule of thumb for using these skills is to keep it off until you know it will enhance your shot. With your phone, you can keep it off and then tap on it to turn it on for a specific shot. Then auto flash won’t mess up a great image. Use flash for low lit photography if there is not enough light to get a good shot. Sometimes you can increase the ISO, but if it is too high then the image will be grainy.

Use the Flash in Daylight as a Fill-in Flash

One of the best times to use the flash for mobile photography is when it is bright and sunny outside. Your subject may have a few shadows, and a front flash will help lighten up the image. If your image is backlight or lit from above, you may have odd shadows. The ambient light that surrounds the object will be much less harsh than straight flash.

3. Burst Mode

Shoot in burst mode to get instantaneous shots. To shoot in burst mode, hold down your camera button for 1-3 seconds. As you hold down,] a number of shots will be taken. You can take many shots and then go into edit to choose the best one.

4. Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is the most basic guideline for composition in photography. By using the rule of thirds, you can quickly improve the flow and direction of your photography and create stunning images.Rule Of thirds mobile Photography

Step 1: How do I use the Rule of Thirds with Horizon Lines?

First, divide the image in thirds horizontally. Where do the horizontal lines lie? Are they on the top third, middle or bottom? It is more aesthetically pleasing if the lines stay away from the center and are either on the top or the bottom third. If you are shooting a sunset you want to make sure that the horizontal lines are on either the bottom or top third of the image. If the horizon line is in the very center then the image may look more flat.

Step 2: How do I use the rule of thirds with vertical lines?

To use the rule of thirds, vertically look at the object in the image and where it is placed. Often we frame them in the center of the image. This makes it so the eye does not have a journey to discover. You will want to look at the vertical lines and place the object on one of the vertical lines. It is best to place the subject on the left vertical line if the culture reads from left to right. This photography skill will create a flow for your eye and it shows direction and movement.

Step 3: Using Intersection Lines for Great Composure.

To tie the rule of thirds together, both vertically and horizontally focus on the intersection of the lines. To make the image even more visually pleasing, you will want to place the subjects on the intersection of the lines. Your eyes naturally go to one of the intersection points when they view an image. By placing the main subject on an intersection point creates balance, flow, and movement.

5. Add Gridlines

Cell phones have made the rule of thirds easier to implement the rules of thirds by adding a grid line feature. This feature is easy to add and takes the difficulty out of using the rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds Smartphone Photography

How to add grid lines with my Samsung?

  • To add Grid Lines the Camera ModeTap on Settings and scroll down to Grid Lines.
  • Tap on the option and there are three options: off, 3×3, and square.
  • Then choose the 3×3 option.
  • The grid lines will automatically come up each time you open the camera mode until you decide to turn it off.

How to add grid lines on my iPhone?

  • Go into the Settings app and tap on the Photo and Camera option.
  • Toggle on the Grid option
  • Open up the camera mode to test to see if the gird is on.AE/AF Lock Mobile Photography

6. Lock the Focus with AE/AF Lock

The AE/AF lock stands for auto exposure and auto focus. The auto exposure adjusts the brightness of the image and, the auto focus adjusts the sharpness of a photo. Locking the focus means that you are setting the focus and exposure to a specific point. This can enhance your mobile photography by getting the correct exposure for your image. Also, when taking pictures of subjects that are static may be blurry, and affected by changing conditions in light or activity. This feature is also important if you are taking images in low light or there is high contrast in light conditions. When you have locked the focus you shouldn’t change the distance between the subject and the camera or, your image will be blurry.

How to use the AE/AF Lock?

  • Open up the camera from the camera app
  • Tap the screen to focus and expose your image
  • Hold on your focal point until you see an AE/AF Lock banner on the screen, to lock exposure and focus.
  • Press the shutter button to take a photo
  • To unlock, tap anywhere on the screen

7. For Steady Shots use a Tripod

Trying to get an image flat with overhead shooting can be very challenging without a tripod. There are many options of tripods that will work to improve your image. If you don’t have space and can place your phone above on a shelf or a bookshelf. Also, a small tight grip one tripod will work well. If you have a tripod you can get an attachable mobile phone mount that will help you take amazing pictures.

Here are a few things to look for when buying a tripod. First, is the size. With mobile photography size matters, the smaller the better. Joby makes a small tripod for your smartphone that is 7 inches long and can fit into any bag or purse. The GorillaPod comes with adjustable legs that balance on rocks or can wrap around a tree.
Next look for a sturdy tripod. When taking pictures outside something sturdy is important for balance. A cell phone could tip over and get scratched. The Manfrotto Pixi is one of the best small tripods. It is very sturdy and can even hold a regular digital camera without falling over.

Manfrotto Pixi Mobile Tripod Front

8. Foreground, Middle Ground, and Background

When you go to improve your mobile photography skills look at the composition of the shot. What are the interesting elements that you see in the background, middle ground, and foreground? Try to incorporate something interesting in each area to invite the viewer into the photo.

If you were taking a picture of a baby holding a raddle. You may want the background out of focus. This will bring the viewers eye to the center of the photo and will focus on the baby or the raddle. If you focus on the raddle then the baby will be slightly out of focus. This can tell an interesting story of a favorite toy. If you want to show a happy baby laughing with a toy focus on the eyes of the baby and then the raddle sinks into the picture as the babies toy.

This can be done with portrait mode. This feature adds a blurring effect to the background of the photo. This leads the viewer to look at the subject. This creates a shallow depth of field and is visually pleasing.

Instagram Mobile Photos Like a Pro

9. Edit with a Photo Editing App

Photo editing is an easy photography skill to do on your phone with an app. There are many editing apps but Snapseed is a free app that is easy to use and has many features to improve your photography skills. To learn how to use these tools you can tap on the tutorial option. Also, you can explore by tapping on tools. Quickly adjust the detail, saturation, curves and much more. To learn more Snapseed editing apps check out this blog post on Snapseed. Other editing apps like Lightroom and VSCO provide tools for editing your photos.

Snapseed Best Editing App

10. Quality over Quantity

One of the advantages of mobile photography is that you can quickly take photos. You can snap great photos with less hassle. If you need to take a photo focus on quality over quantity. Take fewer photos but always be on the lookout for a better shot. Therefore you will be able to capture the essence of the experience with less hassle. This is one of the simplest photography skills you can implement when taking photos.

Want more inspiration? Here are some additional resources that can help you:

How to Take The Best Selfie? 10 Tips for Photos With your Phone

15 Flower Photography Tips: How to Take Photos with a Phone

How to Take Instagram Photos Like a Pro With a Phone

Give those tips a read and you’ll be ready with new hacks and tips to help you make the most of your phone’s camera. See our photos on Instagram at @picxtrix

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