How to take good photos with your phone – mobile photography guide
Great gatherings and parties, a lovely Sunday on the beach, or even when you happen to see a cool sports car on the street, one can take a photograph anywhere. Nowadays, everyone has a mobile phone, and every phone has a camera! It is always great if you can capture great moments in a great photo. Anyone who loves photography and has a smartphone with a camera and is planning to take some amazing pictures with it will find this article useful.
START WITH THESE 8 TOP TIPs
CLEAN THE LENS
Yep, it’s pretty obvious, but so many potentially great photos taken with mobile phones are ruined because someone forgot to clean the lens. Your phone is bumping around in your bag or pocket all day, picking up dirt, grime and greasy fingerprints.
Do yourself a favour and give your lens a wipe before you set out on a shoot. A soft lens cloth is best, like the sort you get for specs, but a t-shirt will also do.
HAVE A CLEAR SUBJECT
Ask yourself, “What exactly am I taking a photo of and what do I want my viewers to see? It might be a person, a piece of fruit or even just a wall, but you need to know what it is. Then you need to make sure it’s in focus without an explanation. So often I see photos in my workshops, and I have to ask the students “What is it?”
Most phones will focus on a clear subject automatically, while with others, such as iPhones, you can specify the area to focus on by tapping the screen where your subject appears for an ultra-sharp focus.
As written in my other article “7 Most Common Mistakes in Mobile Photography”, the digital zooming function on mobile phone cameras is still not so good. Whenever possible, use ‘leg zoom’ which means getting closer to your subject by using your legs! And in doing so, you get to work out a bit as well! If you can’t move any closer to the subject, I suggest you take a photo of the subject with surroundings from a distance and crop it into the size you prefer with photoshops.
You may even want to consider getting these types of mini tele lenses if you are looking for capturing something from a far distance. Just remember, the digital zoom in your phone’s camera will not give you super sharp images.
The top mobile lenses I highly recommend are:
- Moment – Anamorphic Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
- Moment – Wide Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
PLAY WITH LIGHT
Smartphone photography is tricky during low light, but you can brighten things up to a certain extent with editing apps afterwards. That said, you should always be aware of the light in your scene. Go out and shoot in the “golden hours” at sunrise and sunset. The light is more even at these times, making mobile photography much easier. Also, don’t be afraid to play with light. Look for shadows and reflections that can show an otherwise overlooked subject in a new light (excuse the pun).
One of my favourite lighting mobile photography products is Phottix Nuada R3 LED Light Twin Kit Set (PH81437) and Phottix M200R RGB Light (PH81419). I love that the Phottix M200R because it is powerful, comes and can serve as a phone charger!
If you are on a budget and want some colour effect, consider getting colour filters. Some of my photography students and colleagues like these colour filters and they are very happy with them.
If you’re taking photos in a city like Hong Kong, chances are everything you shoot has been shot a trillion times before. If you want to create pictures that are going to be more impactful for your social media such as Instagram, then you probably want something different.
The fact that you are reading this guide tells me that you are looking for something different and more creative. To shoot something original and interesting, try taking your photos from different and unusual perspectives.
Get high (responsibly), lie down (at your peril), and try as many different angles as you can. Sometimes you may want to get a little mobile tripod so you can try taking the images with different views and exposure too.
Mobile photography is all about experimentation, having fun and enjoying the creative process.
RULE OF THIRDS
The “rule of thirds” is a very interesting rule you need to know about photography composition. You might have noticed that a grid comes over your image when you use the “Adjust” function in Instagram. This grid is splitting your photo into nine squares, three vertical and three horizontal. When taking a photo on your phone, most mobile phones also allow you to turn on the grid function. Try to think of this grid and position important elements of the image where the vertical and horizontal lines meet.
The off-centre composition makes for a much more pleasing shot because we are making the viewer’s eyes ‘work’ a bit. If ALL your photos are centred all the time, then it becomes extremely boring. You can experiment to find the best composition by positioning the same object in different positions and taking multiple photos.
FILL THE FRAME
Whether you’re holding your phone horizontally or vertically, think about that grid of nine squares again and try to fill your frame. Get closer to your subject if it’s too far away or crop later. A photo should be a feast for the eyes, so use the space you have wisely.
The idea is to put as many interesting elements in your frame, so the viewer has more interest in the image.
CREATE AND EXPLORE
It sounds cheesy, but the only limitation in mobile photography is your imagination. Alright…, and your phone storage, of course! Snap away at anything and everything that catches your eye, take multiple shots of your subject, try new techniques and experiment with editing apps.
You may well take 100 photos in a day and find only 10 of them are good. But ten good photos is a day well spent if you ask me.
BONUS TIPS AND INFORMATION
- Bring along a portable power bank (or maybe bring along a portable light and power bank like Phottix M200R RGB Light (PH81419) if you love to shoot, it’s such a shame if you see something beautiful but run out of juice!
- Dual backup your photos on your cloud/ pc/ external hard drive. One of my students backed up all her photos on iCloud and then she forgot the passwords… she’s been crying for almost a week. When you do your backup to iCloud or PC, also back up with an external drive.
- Try to get a water resistance phone, when the weather is not that nice, it’s a great time to take photos because the cloud and rain are the best additives for moody photos!
- Did you know that you can use the volume buttons on your headphones to trigger the phone camera’s shutter? Try it out!
As always, please remember that I am sharing with you what I love, what I do and what I feel is important. The best advice I can give you is to go out and create images that make you happy, regardless of what anyone else thinks! That’s the most important mobile photography tips I could think of when it comes to taking good photos with your phone. Best mobile phones with excellent camera features:
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
- OnePlus 8 Pro
- Huawei P30 Pro
- Huawei P40 Pro
Ali G is a professional wedding, celebrity and VIP photographer in Hong Kong.
IG: @aligphoto Twitter: @AliGStudios
All photos are © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G
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