I have a confession to make: I like Instagram. You’re probably thinking, “Of course you do. Who doesn’t?” The thing is, I didn’t think I would. I mean, the very concept is ridiculous: a social media platform where people can post pictures of food, random street signs and selfies (can we all just agree to ban this word and type of photography as a crime against humanity?).
Far and away, most of the pictures are mediocre at best, but every now and then you come across a truly impressive picture and wonder how they were able to take such a cool shot with a camera phone. While it isn’t impossible to take great shots with a camera phone, it does take some skill. So, without further ado, here are 10 tips for taking better cell phone pics
1. Know your camera. Before going out to conquer the tough shots, know your camera’s features. Know what it does well and what it’s not so good at. Learn if you can adjust white balance, exposure, or other settings. The better you know your camera, the better you will be able to put yourself in a position to take a great shot.
2. Lighting is essential. Position yourself in areas where you will get optimum lighting. Don’t assume because the light is good to your eyes that it will be good for the camera. A good quick test is to squint your eyes and stare at an object in the distance. If it seems dark or out of focus, it will probably be similar to what your camera will take. While there’s not a ton you can about lighting, you can take some test shots before going for the real shot so you know what to adjust. You can often adjust exposure settings or add the flash. A word of caution though: do NOT use flash as a default or your pictures will come out looking weird. Save the flash for when you really need it.
3. Keep your lens clean. It’s something you don’t think about, but chances are you have fingerprints, dust or other smudges on your lens. A quick wipe-down with a soft cloth before taking a picture can make a world of difference. If you ever let your child use your phone, you can almost guarantee your lens is dirty.
4. Get close to your subject. Camera phones are not very sophisticated and don’t have a manual zoom lens, so you will need to get close to the subject to get any sort of good shot. Don’t be afraid to move close, even at a public event. If you act courteously and with confidence, you will rarely be questioned as you move to the front. Also, do NOT use the digital zoom feature on your camera. Digital zoom loses clarity, resolution and file size as you zoom in.
5. Keep the camera steady. So many pictures are ruined by shaking. Some cameras do better with this than others, but there are things you can do. Stand with your legs wide apart for more core balance. Then, there are different ways to hold the camera to gain stability:
– Hold the camera at eye level, with arms out parallel with camera.
– Hold your arms tight to your side and hold camera at mid-chest level, using your chest to balance.
– Sit down and place the camera on your knees as a makeshift tripod.
Along the lines of keeping the camera steady, the longer you take to make the shot, the more tired your arms will get and the greater the chance of a shaky shot.
6. There’s no such thing as the perfect shot, but you can get a good frame. Frame your shot first, well in advance of taking the picture you really want, and then fire away. It’s a digital camera – you can easily delete the bad pictures, so take a few shots. This is especially important if it’s a motion shot.
7. Speaking of motion, cell phone cameras do not handle motion well, but there are things you can do to potentially get a better motion shot. Position yourself ahead of the moving subject as it comes toward you, and angle yourself at a 15 degree angle from moving subject. This helps the camera find an angle to focus on and increases the odds of a clear shot.
8. Be aware of your surroundings. Before taking a shot, take into account the number of people, the background objects and potential distractions. So many good shots are ruined in the end because of extra noise that could have been avoided by taking two steps to the left.
9. Don’t take your pictures within an app. While it may seem like a time saver to take the shot within an app like Instagram, resist the urge. Take it with your default camera and then move the picture into the app. The native camera is faster and better. Plus, there aren’t the distractions that accompany the app, so instead of worrying about what filter to use, you can focus on getting a good shot.
10. Vary your angles. Try taking a picture at a higher or lower angle than you typically do (which is straight on). This makes for a more intriguing picture and will get your creativity going.
While these tips in and of themselves don’t guarantee you a great shot, they are the building blocks of good photography in general. Mastering cell phone pictures takes practice. So go out there, have fun and take some amazing pictures. Just please, no more food.