Phone Photography To The Next Level

Phone Photography To The Next Level
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[10 minute read]

Most of us have some sort smartphone in our pockets, and odds are that its only a few years old at the very most. That means that you h ave a half-decent camera with you at all times. For some of us, these cameras just act as a point and shoot while at a your kid’s soccer game. For others, however, these cameras will be in our toolkits for our passions, businesses, or hobbies. This blog is for you.

If you don’t care about using your phone as a professional tool for photography, then stop reading this post right now and keep on snapping as usual.

If, however, you use your phone camera as a large part of what you do on a daily basis, then follow along…

Processed with VSCO with e2 preset

Why You Shouldn’t Care About MEGAPIXELS

For years, megapixels were the only thing that were advertised in relation to a phone’s camera. 5 megapixels, then 8, then 12, then 40? Yes you read that right. The majority of phones, however, have either a 5, 8, or 12 megapixel camera. To be honest, who cares. Here’s why.

Megapixels are great if you want to blow your picture up and print it to the size of a billboard. For the majority of our phone photography work, it’ll pretty much stay the same size as it is on the phone. So, don’t worry too much about that. (Read: Phone Camera vs DSLR)

What You SHOULD Care About

Overall, you need to care about two things. Light and Composition. Light will help to ensure that you reduce the amount of noise (or rough grain) in the image. Composition will give the image a nice flow and human feel to it. For example, typically it’s awkward to put a person in the middle of the frame. It’s more natural to put a subject off to the side, known as the rule of thirds. More on that in a later post…

Light

I won’t sugar coat anything, a phone camera sucks in bad lighting. This is because the small physical size of the sensor that captures the image. The phone can’t possibly process an image in poor lighting properly. In good lighting, the phone can be a dream.

LESSON: Try to only use a phone camera in good lighting conditions. If you must use it in dark conditions, try the camera’s flash to give a cool and harsh effect.

iphone grid lines

Composition

You know those annoying grid lines on your camera when you preview the shot? Those are magic markers, don’t neglect them! They help with everything from fitting people into the frame to making subtle use of negative space.

I could go on for hours about the science behind composition but just know that it is extremely important. To shorten this topic, here are my top tips:

  1. Use the rule of thirds to add eye comfort and a natural look to the image
  2. Use the grid boxes as positioning places for objects
  3. Use the gird lines as a way of checking for well-placed horizon lines, straight lines, and angle correction

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Third Party Apps? Use Them! But Wisely…

There is a plethora of free apps out there to help you turn your images into completely unique works of art. Almost all apps, however, do something slightly different, better, or worse than the rest. This is why you need to edit and use these apps wisely.

My go-to apps for editing photos (in order) are Snapseed by Google and VSCO CAM.

phone photography - snapseed

Snapseed

Snapseed is by far my favourite app for tuning an image right after shooting. What do I mean by tune? I mean the nerdy photographic science stuff. white balance, exposure, saturations, selective edits, contrast, highlights and shadows, etc…

The reason I like Snapseed the best for this is because it’s not too complicated, but yet offers a perfect level of precision that any photographer can appreciate.

phone photography - vsco

VSCO CAM

I like to think of VSCO as the centre of the universe when it comes to filters. When people say the word filters, they automatically think of trashy over exposed Instagram pictures. I’m here to tell you that VSCO promises more!

Initially, VSCO gives you a bunch of filters for free. The real magic is that they have their own store where you can purchase bundles of filters that are centred around specific artistic styles! They typically start around $1.29 for a bundle of 2-3 filters. If used often, they are totally worth it.

VSCO also have photo tuning tools like Snapseed, but not nearly to the same level of precision.

phone photography - photo apps

My Workflow

First, I take the picture using the standard iPhone camera app, or the VSCO camera built into their app. Then, I open the image in Snapseed and tune it to my liking. Finally, I throw it into VSCO to add an artistic and stylistic touch to my photos. This last piece adds flow to your pictures, especially if you’re looking to upload them to a grid platform like Instagram.

Use this tips, tweak them to YOUR liking, and make great work.

J