18 tips for shooting with your smartphone


Smartphone, and increasingly also tablets, have very good cameras. By default, everything is automatically arranged for you and that is easy. But if you really want to make good photos and movies, then you better take matters into your own hands to give the camera a hand. With these 18 tips, shooting with your smartphone is a breeze.

Tip 01: Sturdy grip

You may not think about it, but you will visibly make better photos and videos by holding your smartphone firmly. If you pay attention, you can see that people often use their phone rather nonchalantly. For example, they hold the device with one hand loosely and take a movie or ‘pass by’ or shoot a photo. Chances are that photos are not quite sharp and videos are jerky because the device moves a little during recording. Keep your smartphone therefore preferably with two hands as soon as you take pictures, just like with a normal camera. Then the device moves or vibrates at least. In addition, make as little pressure as possible on the screen to print, because otherwise, you push the device off at the critical moment. A fleeting touch is more than sufficient because it is not a physical button. Even in less light, you get better photos and movies, because then the camera is ultra sensitive for even the slightest movement.

Tip 01 Hold a smartphone securely for sharp photos and stable movies.

Tip 02: Print button

To make a photo or film, you usually use the virtual print button that you see on the screen, but it can also be different. With virtually any smartphone and tablet, you can also use the volume button on the side of the device. Because it is (unlike with a regular camera) does not really matter in which position you hold the phone or tablet (upright, horizontal or upside down), you can also choose which method you find handy when. If you hold the unit upright firmly with two hands (to keep the camera as still as possible in low light), you can often press the volume button on the side with your thumb. In landscape mode, sometimes one of your index fingers is near the button in the vicinity, but it also happens that the virtual button on the screen is more convenient. In short, choose the most practical print button for each situation.

Tip 02 Choose the (virtual or physical) print button that works best for you.

Tip 03: Quickly ready

You put an ordinary camera on and are ready to take pictures immediately. With a smartphone or tablet, you can shoot and film through an app. You first have to unlock the smartphone and then search and start the app. If you take a picture of something quickly, the extra actions can be annoying. Fortunately, it can be faster and easier, because you can start the camera directly from the lock screen. On an iPhone, from iOS version 10 on the lock screen, you swipe left so that the camera slides in from the right side. With other tablets and smartphones, you usually drag a camera icon. On some devices, you can also activate the camera by pressing a physical button.

You can start the camera directly from the lock screen for even faster shooting

Tip 04: Technically good

When taking a photograph, there are roughly two things to take into account on a technical level. The photo must be sharp and the lighting must be correct. The great thing is that your smartphone automatically arranges all of this for you. Or at least, try to do that as well as possible. It is and remains a device, so it remains important that you keep an eye on whether everything goes according to your wishes. Where necessary you can intervene to correct the automatic. That is necessary for ordinary cameras, smartphones, and tablets.

Tip 04 Well lit and sharp, your smartphone or tablet often regulates it all by itself.

Tip 05: Focusing

Let’s start with focusing. As soon as you point your phone or tablet somewhere, the camera will focus at lightning speed. Older models needed quite some time, but especially recent devices are very fast. It can still go wrong sometimes, though. For example, is a tree in the distance sharp, instead of a person in the foreground? This is especially the case if you take a person or object more into the picture instead of exactly in the middle. The camera sometimes gets confused. Then touch the person on the screen to designate the main subject. The camera is now again sharp and this time in the right place.

Tip 05 Tap the screen to get the main subject in focus.

Tip 06: Lighting

Simultaneously with the focus, the exposure is also determined by the camera both if you leave it to the camera and if you point a point on the screen yourself. Especially if the foreground is considerably lighter or darker than the background, the image may sometimes become overexposed or underexposed. You can tap anywhere else on the screen to correct this, but the focus will change as well. So do not tap a distant mountain range if you take a portrait photo. It is better and easier to use exposure compensation. With that, you can make a photo or film lighter or darker to taste, without getting the focus. Often you first have to tap on the subject, after which you adjust the brightness via a slider bar. On Android devices, it can also be an option in the camera menu.

Simultaneously with the focus, the exposure is also determined by the camera

Tip 07: Lock

In certain situations, it may be useful to lock the focus and exposure. For example, when you want to take multiple photos of the same subject in succession, or you are already ready because something will come into the picture that you want to record. You do not want to have to tap the screen every time to get the right sharp and well-lit. Then it is convenient that you can lock the focus and exposure. Usually, you do that by keeping a finger pressed on the screen for a moment until a locking message appears. From that moment on you can make carefree photos and films. The focus and exposure remain exactly the same all the time, even if you point the camera elsewhere. To remove the lock as soon as the light or the distance to the subject changes, otherwise, your photos and films will fail. You do that by tapping anywhere on the screen.

Tip 08: Continuous mode

Sometimes an event really happens very quickly. If you take one photo, then you may not just pick up the most beautiful moment, or you even get completely wrong. Think of shooting sports, fast cars, running animals, and children… all situations where you have little reaction time. With many smartphone and tablet cameras, the camera switches to the so-called burst or continuous mode when you press and hold the shutter button. The device then continues to take pictures in quick succession until you release the button. That way you have a much bigger chance. Afterwards, you only have to scan the photo series for the best photos. The rest may immediately leave. On some devices, you must first enable the function in the settings.

Tip 08 With action photographs, the burst or continuous mode comes in handy.

Tip 09: Face detection

Increasingly, there is face detection on a smartphone or tablet. With that, you can photograph and film a lot more carefree when you take people into the picture. As soon as one or more faces are detected, the camera will automatically follow them through the image. So if you aim the camera a little differently or someone steps aside a few steps, the detected people will stay neatly sharp and well exposed all the time. In those cases, it is not really necessary to tap the screen to indicate what the subject is. Unless the camera does not bake anything or suddenly a completely foreign tourist stands in front of that beautiful mountain, of course. Even if the wrong person is detected in a somewhat larger group of people, it is better to tap the right person for optimum attention. Some cameras also have a smile shutter,

As soon as faces are detected, the camera will automatically follow them

Tip 10: Composition

In addition to technical issues such as lighting and focusing, the composition is also very important. By that, we mean how you take a picture. It is a matter of taste, but there are some rules. For example, a picture looks nicer if you do not place the main subject exactly in the middle. For example, leave some space in the viewing direction with a portrait photo or if someone speaks in a film. The same applies when you photograph an object or film a moving car. Photograph, for example, diagonally from the front and leave some space for the object. If you capture a beautiful landscape, the horizon may be somewhere above the image. Is it just the beautiful cloudy sky or sunset, then turns it around? Not the image, of course,

Tip 11: Rule from third parties

Frequently used composition rule for both photographing and filming is the so-called rule of third parties. You divide the image by two imaginary horizontal and vertical lines in nine planes. The intention is that you place the main subject on or in the vicinity of such a line Or even better, at the crossroads of a horizontal and a vertical line. To help you with this, almost all smartphones and tablets can show a grid on the screen. That makes it a lot easier to position the subject. Again, you really do not have to stick to this strictly. Sometimes it is even very nice to place something exactly in the middle, especially to emphasize symmetry. Think of a reflection on a water surface, so that the upper and lower half is exactly each other’s mirror image. If you work through the third-party rule, it is extra important to pay attention to whether the focus is good. Cameras are indeed inclined to look for the subject in the middle first. You will, therefore, have to tap the screen more often to identify the right subject.

Tip 12: Light is everything

You make the best photos and movies in good light. Even simple subjects then come to life. Outside you are strongly dependent on the sun and the weather conditions. Especially when the sun is low, the light is beautiful and impressive long shadows arise. That is why the first hours after sunrise and the last hours before sunset are very popular. Inside we are often dependent on artificial light. Then make sure that the subject is clearly in the light. Do not use the darkest corner of the living room, but deliberately find a place where atmospheric light is. During the day you can have someone sit by a window, or place an object on a table. When the sunlight is bright, slide the curtains closed (not the curtains), so you soften the light. Then take place somewhere between the window and your subject,

Tip 11 Place the subject on or near the lines.

Especially when the sun is low, the light is beautiful and impressive long shadows arise

Tip 13: Do not zoom

There is a fixed wide-angle lens on a smartphone or tablet. This means that the camera has a fairly wide view and there is a lot to see at the same time on the photo. Many people are therefore inclined to zoom in immediately so that the subject becomes larger and any disruptive objects in the environment disappear. Unfortunately, this is not wise. With a rare exception, a smartphone or tablet does not have a zoom lens, but a lens that has one fixed position: wide-angle. If you zoom in on your phone or tablet, your device actually enlarges the digital image so that everything seems to be bigger. The stronger you zoom in, the more image material is cut away along the edges. The middle is thus constantly inflated. This is at the expense of image quality. It still seems to be noticeable on a telephone screen, but on a television screen or computer screen (or if you zoom in when looking back), little remains of the picture. Colors are faded, the image looks a bit grubby and there are no fine details to be seen.

Tip 13 Do not zoom in on a smartphone because it is at the expense of image quality.

Tip 14: Foot seam

If possible, do not use the zoom function. Then you maintain the highest image quality and you will soon be able to do a lot more with your photos and films. Think of viewing on a big screen or making (large) photo prints. Go rather closer to your subject if you want to have a bigger picture. Can or may not? Try to visualize the environment in such a way that it adds something to the photo or film and thus does not bother it. Most people tend to take the main subject too far into the picture, and the context is lost. For example, a Swiss cow is just a cow (with a nice bell around the neck) when you zoom in completely or are too close. You only show the real holiday feeling in your photos and films if you also take a picture of the surroundings.

Tip 14 Also show the environment, if that is relevant.

Most people tend to take a big picture of the main subject

Tip 15: Clear lens

Also look into the lens yourself literally. What we mean by this is that it is wise to regularly clean the lens of the camera. You have that phone or tablet all day in your pocket or on the table, so there will collect dirt and grease on the lens in no time. You do not see that easily because the lens is so very small, but it does have a negative effect on photos. Have you ever seen a weird fog around lighting or the sun or long stripes that run straight through the image? That effect is almost always caused by a greasy lens. Clean the lens with a soft cloth, preferably a special lesson cloth, although it can also be done with a lens cloth or a (clean) shirt. Not with a piece of kitchen roll,

Tip 16: Lens flare

Effects that you do not lose with a clean lens, arise as soon as you point a smartphone or tablet in the direction of a light source such as the sun or a bright lamp. You will then see colored spots that can take all sorts of forms or a color haze over the complete picture. These phenomena are called lens flare. With normal cameras, you have this less fast because often a large lens hood is included. Photograph or film in the direction of the sun or another bright lighting, then it helps enormously if you shield the light with your hand or something like a piece of cardboard. You immediately lose the flare again. Note: this only works if you can really shield the light. For example with a ceiling light or when the sun is at an angle above you. Incidentally, lens flare can also be quite beautiful, it is used a lot to get more atmosphere in photos.

Tip 16 Lens flare is sometimes undesirable, but often also desirable.

Tip 17: Which camera?

Phones and tablets almost always have multiple cameras. You make the most beautiful photos and movies with the camera on the back, so on the non-screen side. That camera offers the most possibilities and the highest image quality. The camera on the front (the screen side) is actually only intended for video calling and taking selfies. Then the quality counts less. The resolution is almost always lower, the lens is less bright and there is almost never autofocus (the focus is always fixed). So you can use the main camera at the rear much better, although you have to try a few attempts before you get up because you can not look at the screen now. Your self-portraits will progress by leaps and bounds.

You make the most beautiful photos and movies with the camera on the back

Tip 18: Better without flash

If it gets darker, the flash can automatically start. That is not always something to be happy about because photos are often a lot uglier. It is a light that puts everything in a (too) bright light at a short distance and does not reach more than a few meters. In most cases, you can switch off the flash better. Your photos will keep more atmospheres because you only use the available light and the cold flashlight cannot ruin this. Without a flash, it is more difficult to take photographs in dark situations without motion blur. Holding firmly as described in tip 1 no longer helps at a given moment. You should now also seek support to keep the camera really quiet. For example, you can lean against a wall, or place your elbows on a table, fence or low wall. It works best with a mini-tripod with a holder in which your smartphone fits. Then you can use the volume button of your earbuds as a remote control to shoot and film vibration-free, or set a timer. As it gets darker, it costs the camera more and more trouble to make a good photo. Smartphones and tablets are unfortunately not (yet) suitable for working in the dark.

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