Saturday, 25 February 2017

Shoot like a pro: 5 tips for getting better photos from phone

Most of the phones nowadays come with fairly cool cameras. Even the relatively affordable smartphones like the Moto G4 Plus and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 pack in stellar cameras. Then there is the usage. Most of the photos clicked with smartphones are used on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, sites that mostly host low-resolution photos. Hence, even if your phone's camera can't match the performance of the DSLR camera, that is fine. You anyway don't need that kind of performance. However, what you do need is a little bit of extra care while clicking your photos.

Now, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that the photos that you take out of your phone are nice enough to get some cool likes on Instagram or Twitter. But here are five tips that are easy to follow and easier to apply. Just use them and you will see that the photos you are clicking with your phone are better and sharper.

  • Touch to focus

Phone cameras nowadays come with auto focus feature. This means as soon as a phone sees a face in the photo or an object that has enough contrast to standout in the frame, it will focus on that. this will ensure that your subject is right in the focus. But just like every other thing auto, the auto focus too may miss out the big picture. So, it is always prudent to tap on the area of the frame that you want sharpest in the photo. As soon as you touch an area in the frame, the camera will refocus. This trick works particularly great for macro photos.
Keep it steady
Holding the phone steady is the single biggest method to get better photos from your phone. Although the phone companies make big claims about how fast the cameras are in their phones, in reality it is different. The phone cameras, even those in the high-end phones are slow compared to regular cameras. Some are slow to focus while others have slower shutter speed. Also depending on how much light is in the scene, the phone camera may automatically reduce the shutter speed significantly to capture more light. So, it is a good idea to keep the phone steady and aimed at the scene for an extra second or two while clicking photos. Even after the phone shows that the photo has been clicked, keep it steady for 2 more seconds, particularly while shooting low-light scenes. This will increase your chances of getting sharply-focussed photos.

One of the coolest things about smartphones cameras -- something that you don't get even with DSLR cameras -- is the ability to set exposure in a very easy way. Exposure means how much light the camera is going to capture and for good photos it has to be optimal, which means neither more, nor less. Usually, phones set the exposure automatically. But this they do after calculating the light in the entire scene. What if you are clicking a lit signboard on a Friday evening in your favourite pub or a chocolate cake, which is dark brown, on a white table? In these cases, tap on the part of the screen where the subject is located. This will tell the phone to recalculate exposure on the basis of the main subject. See the image above for example. In this scene, the Nexus 6P originally calculated exposure for the whole scene. It saw there was very little light in the scene so it bumped exposure and in the process overexposed the signboard. Tapping on the signboard, however, told it only that particular area of the scene mattered. So, it then re-exposed. The whole image got darker but then the signboard was exposed perfectly.

Good photos have a sort of symmetry to them, some cohesiveness. So, take a look at the scene you are clicking and frame it in a way that makes it look good before you click the image. Now, composing is something that every photographer is going to do differently. This is the creative part in photography. But there are some simple rules that you can use. One of these rules is that you should get up-close, specially for macro photos or portraits. The idea is to fill the frame with subject. Second is avoid capturing too many elements. No clutter in images. Try to ensure that the subject or subjects in your photo stand out. Third is some degree of wholeness, symmetry. The image should feel complete, with no element cut abruptly, although, if you are following some geometrical lines, you can use them to fit in parts of the elements that are otherwise too big to come in the image (see the example above).

  • Use HDR

Although phone makers are still figuring out how to implement HDR mode properly, if you have a phone like the Nexus, which has an excellent HDR mode, you should use that. HDR mode often gives better contrast in images as well as may help you click usable photos in low light. Most of the high-end phones come with auto-HDR mode. Usually, you should leave it at default. But in case, the auto HDR mode is not there in your phone, toggle it manually every time you are shooting low light or high-contrast scenes (sunset for example).

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