I have been making a conscious effort to use my DSLR more in day to day life. This is the reason I started my 365 days of Riley project. I wanted to take more high quality photos of Riley since many of his first photos were taken on my cell phone. But the truth is, sometimes a picture presents itself and I just don't have by big camera on hand. They say that the best camera is the one you have with you. Often times that means a cell phone.
With this in mind, I'd like to share some tips for shooting better pictures with your cell phone.
Lighting is Everything
This is one of most important tips I can give you. Nothing will improve a photo better than finding good light. Smooth, even light will smooth a persons skin, hide wrinkles, and make eyes bright and sharp. Look at the photo above. See how in the first picture there are shadows around Riley's eyes and face and he is not sharp? In the second picture I turned around so he faced the light. It made a world of difference.
The basic rule while shooting people is that you want a large light source that is not straight above you. The hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise are called "the golden hour" and are the ideal time of day for photos outdoors. Indoors, look for large natural light sources like windows and pay attention to the direction the light is coming through the window. If you do happen to be shooting midday outside in the sun, look for a shady spot.
Another thing to look for that can make a big difference is catchlights. By having someone looking at a light source, their eyes will contain a small white or light point in the photo. This gives eyes a sharp, bright look. See the white spots in Riley's eyes in the photo above? Thats a catchlight.
Change Your Angles
Ask any person to take a quick shot of something, and most will hold the camera (or phone) out in front of them and snap. That usually won't make for a very interesting picture. Try getting high up and shooting from above, or laying on the ground and shooting from below. You can make a subject look bigger by keeping your lens closer to the ground (this can be accomplished by flipping your phone upside down) and you can make your subject look compact by shooting from above. Move closer to the subject and further away for different effects (use your foot zoom by walking around, not using the zoom on your phone, which is the same as cropping a photo and will reduce quality). This is something you can really experiment with to see how it effects your photo.
Focus with Intent
Most cell phones do everything automatically for you. This can be convenient, if the camera is smart enough to know what you want. It can be frustrating if it doesn't. One thing that most cell phones will allow for you to change on your own is the focus. Try getting really close to something and focusing on it to create a blurry background. Now try focusing on the background and see what happens. This is called depth of field and can help your photos not to look flat. As a general rule, if you are shooting people, make sure your focus point is on the eye closest to you. Playing around with focus is an easy was to dramatically change the look of your photos.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a fundamental photography rule that basically boils down to this- don't put your subject in the center of your photo.
The slightly more complicated explanation is this: if you divide a photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically, you want the point of interest in your photo to fall on the intersecting lines. See the photo above and how his eyes fall on the intersections? That's what we are going for.
Watch for the Perfect Moments
The most important thing that makes up a photo is the subject that is captured. The photo may be out of focus, badly composed, or taken in terrible lighting, but if it is a special moment then none of that matters. Some of my first photos of my son were taken in those kinds of conditions, but I cherish them nonetheless. These times are so important, and are what I base my business on- capturing them in other people's lives. So my number one cell phone photography tip is this- always watch for the perfect moments, and use whatever you have in terms of gear and lighting to capture it. You will never get the chance to catch that fleeting shot again, but you will always want to remember it.
Enjoy these tips? I will be hosting a photo 101 class soon for those who want more detailed information regarding the use of DSLR cameras. Please follow my blog and facebook page for the upcoming details.
(all photos in this post were taken with my LG G4 cell phone)