I see so many people posting awesome pictures from their smartphones, but mine all seem to come out terrible. Can you help?
This question was answered on July 29, 2021. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
The sophistication of today’s smartphone camera is mind-boggling but you need to understand the basics of photography to help them take the best pictures.
Case Lens Distortion
I’ve seen so many images that have been impacted by the plastic layer that many inexpensive smartphone cases incorporate. If you have a case that includes this layer of plastic, try taking images without the case to see if they’re better.
Most of today’s smartphones are waterproof or at least water-resistant, so using a case that doesn’t cover the lens at all is recommended. It’s also important to always make sure the lens is clean before taking your pictures.
Lighting is one of the biggest elements that will work for or against you.
If the background of your subject is very bright, it will either cause the background to be blown out or the subject to be too dark.
In the age of Zoom calls, you’ve probably seen lots of people that are nothing but a dark silhouette because they have a bright window behind them.
Oftentimes, simply rotating so the source of light is on your subject instead of behind them will dramatically improve the picture.
On-Camera Flash Mistakes
It may seem counter-intuitive, but turning on your phone’s flash is one of the best ways to destroy your pictures.
Depending upon how close you are to your subject, it can cause colors to be washed out, introduce red-eye and make the image look rather flat.
Today’s smartphones are getting much better in low-lighting situations, so try to find another source of light (street light, candle, floor lamp, etc.) before opting for your flash. Make sure you hold still longer when taking low lighting shots because the shutter will stay open a bit longer to allow more light to come in.
If you do use your flash, experiment with taking the picture from a little further back to reduce the harsh impact.
Give It A Chance, Then Tell It What You Want
The intelligence that exists in your smartphone’s camera is amazing, but if you don’t give it enough time to evaluate your shot, your pictures can suffer.
When you first point your camera at your subject, give it some time to automatically adjust for the lighting, focus, etc. Once it seems to have settled down, make sure you tap the screen where you want the camera to focus.
You can also try tapping on other items on the screen to see if the image comes out better, especially when there’s a lot of light in the background.
Most digital cameras have both optical and digital zoom options. I would recommend disabling digital zoom if possible, so you never use it by accident as it’s just cropping your image.
This will result in grainy images, so do your cropping after you take your picture.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Every photographer started from knowing nothing and got better through learning how their camera worked and experimenting. You can easily delete anything you take, so the more you snap, the better you’ll get.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 29, 2021
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