Taking great pictures isn’t just for the professionals anymore. Thanks to the ever increasing power of cell phone cameras, capturing great images is at our fingertips. Even with this type of technology, however, there are photography rules, practices, and tricks that will help take your pictures to the next level.
The first, and by far most important aspect to mastering phone photography, is lighting. Light can set the mood, add drama and create a sense of quality that otherwise is unattainable. If you are having a hard time getting rid of grain or blur, you need to be in an area with more light.
On the flipside, if your images are so bright that you are losing the details of your image then you need to look into diffusing that light. Let’s go over how to get MORE light, and how to REDUCE light depending on your location situation.
Find the Light
Find an area that has light coming in through the windows, or go outside if needed. You’ll often find that special room in the house that has the best rising sun and the best setting sun. Take note of the times where the light is strongest, and shoot during those hours.
If your home or office doesn’t have the lighting needed, take everything outside. On the edge of an open garage or the porch.
Face the phone in the direction the light is going, not towards the light. Take note not to cast shadows (unless that is what you are looking for) by using angles and shooting from above or the sides.
If you need to shoot in a situation where natural light isn’t possible, there are a few phone accessories that may just do the trick. Ring lights are a portable way to add some extra brightness to yourself or another object. You can find pretty affordable ones online. Simply clip to the top of your phone, and click.
If you have more room and want something more powerful, look into box lighting. There are tons of affordable ones online. A good idea would be to get two small box lights, allowing you to light your subject material from both sides. If you can afford it, a tri-light starter kit is a great solution.
Look for lights that are labeled “continuous lighting”. These will work best for your photography needs.
A great trick for well-lit subjects is finding a way to bounce the light to all sides. Light boxes are white rectangles with an open top (or a diffusing material on the top) and open front. They allow the light in, then direct it to bounce off the sides and towards the center where your subject is. If you don’t have a photo box, you can buy a presentation board or poster boards and position it to be in the back and sides of your set-up. White will brighten your subjects, while black will add drama and depth.
Reflectors are also another way you can bounce light. Often used for sunlight, reflectors are round boards positioned to reflect the sun much like a mirror. You can even cover the reflectors with colored sleeves that can warm or cool the light being bounced.
Avoid Wash Out
Sometimes the problem isn’t the fact you don’t have enough light, it’s that you have too much. The first thing you want to check is the brightness on your phone camera. Most cameras display a brightness bar on the screen that you can slide up or down. Try sliding it all the way down and see how the image turns out. It may help take away some of the blinding white that washes out details.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you need to find a way to diffuse the light. For a DIY approach, try using a bedding sheet or something of similar thin fabric to place between the light and your subject. This diffuses the light, breaking it apart and dispersing it more evenly on your subject.
If you want to buy an actual diffuser, once again you can find those online. They have round or rectangular options that fold up compactly for easy storage.
Another important aspect to photography is the focus. What are you focusing on, and how clear is it? Most phones let you tap directly on the screen where you want to focus. Use this feature to try and get your main subject the sharpest.
Have a protective case on your phone to keep your camera elevated and less likely to scratch on surfaces. Also, clean your camera lens using a soft cloth or lens wipes. If your lens is scratched or dirty, your images will never come out feeling in focus and clear.
Along the same lines of ‘focus’, is blurring. Newer phones have “portrait mode” or similar mode that blurs out the background behind your subject. This is an awesome feature to use, and I recommend utilizing it! It doesn’t just have to be for people, try it on products and flatlays. Bring your viewers eyes to the product you want them to focus on, by blurring out the rest.
One rule you need to know, is the rule of thirds. Turn the grid feature on your phone so you can see the lines across the image. You should see columns and rows. When taking your picture see where you are lining up the main subject. Balance it by placing it in one third and using white space in two thirds OR have the subject take up two thirds with one third open. This applies to people or objects, using thirds to fill the composition.
Bring interest to your photos by trying different angles. Get low, or get high, maybe even tilt your phone. Experiment with the image you are trying to take. Photograph multiple options so that you can use them throughout your feed.
Edit the Photo
Not every picture is going to be perfect straight from the camera. Download and use photo editing apps to enhance the images you capture. Don’t OVER edit or OVER filter, which can start to look amateur. Instead, use basic color correction and lighting correction to enhance the picture. There are a lot of great natural filters too that can enhance the mode or color, as well as turn it black and white.
Our two favorite apps: Snapseed and VSCO
With these tips you are bound to create great images for your Instagram feed or online store with JUST your phone. Don’t let anything get in your way of accomplishing your goals and chasing your dreams.