Mastering Your Cell Phone Camera

In keeping with my promise to offer photo tips and tricks once a week  I have few tips that I shared on Periscope last week about mastering the camera on your cell phone. If I’m not using my DSLR camera (team Nikon) I am using either my iPhone or my iPad, and believe or not, they both take really good photos. Here’s what I shared,

null1. Up and tilt. When you use the camera, hold your camera slightly above your subject and tilt it forward. It is a slimming effect and it also get a wider vantage point for your background.

2. Use the square mode for Instagram. When you get ready to take pictures with your cell phone, use the square mode. I use Instagram frequently, and nothing is more frustrating that trying to resize your photo to fix into the Instagram box. If you shoot on the square mode, you’ll be able to bring those photos into Instagram seamlessly.

3. Use the grid. Professional photographers think in thirds. When we look at a possible shot, we often have a grid on our viewfinder that allows us to make sure our subject is centered properly. I have found this tool to be very helpful when using my cell phone and iPad as well.

4. Remember it’s purpose — sharing — not necessarily printing and framing.  Cell phone and tablet  photos  are typically low resolution. Low resolution photos are great for sharing electronically and posting to social media sites,  but not necessarily good for printing and displaying in a frame. I have heard that canvas prints can be made from low resolution photo and look good, but I’ve never tried it myself. I do plan to try it during the holiday season for possible gift for family members.

5. Let your feet be your zoom. Smartphone cameras are cool because of the zoom capability. While our phone cameras do allow us to zoom in on something far away, it makes our photos grainy and “noisy.” If you can, the best thing to do let your feet be your zoom and just get closer to the subject if at all possible.

6. Get used to natural light. Simply put, I hate to use the flash on a mobile device. The lighting is just, for lack of a better word, icky. One I realized that, I started embracing natural or ambient light. And once I started taking more photos in natural light, I learned how to use it to my advantage as a photographer — even on my cell phone. And by the way, the best time to take photos using natural light is from 7-9 am, between 6-8 pm (just before dusk), or anytime during the day if it’s cloudy outside.

7. Let kids be little.  If you’re using the grid and applying the rule of thirds (see #3), and if you taking photos of small children, why not highlight their size? If you  keep them in the bottom one or two thirds of the focus area,  then they look even smaller and more adorable against the background of the photo. I did this once when Jada was in kindergarten and its fun to look at the photo now that she’s 12 and dramatically see how she’s grown.

8. The front camera has less resolution than the back camera. Remember when I talk about low resolution photos? Well, the front camera on your device has even lower resolution than the back camera. Which really means that the photos are meant for sharing, not printing and framing.

9.  Immediately upload to the cloud. In order to save space on your phone, immediately upload to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive. I use Dropbox, and the peace of mind that I have knowing that my photos automatically go there make it east for me in case something ever happens to my phone.

10. Learn the difference between vertical and horizontal shots. Just like on a point and shoot camera and on a DSLR camera, some shots on a mobile device are better horizontal and some are better vertical. The rule in filming video has always been that you hold the camera horizontal, with the exception of some live streaming apps like Periscope.

Do you have any secrets for your cell phone camera? Share them in the comments below!

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