TheSTGuideTo... Taking pictures with mobile phones

Getting a good shot with your phone

(Above) Look for interesting composition and include layers in a frame to make the image visually interesting. (Left) Understand the light, and play with lighting and shadows.
(Above) Look for interesting composition and include layers in a frame to make the image visually interesting.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
(Above) Look for interesting composition and include layers in a frame to make the image visually interesting. (Left) Understand the light, and play with lighting and shadows.
(Above) Understand the light, and play with lighting and shadows.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN

Tips include asking your subject to turn to the light source and avoiding zoom

The barriers to entry for photography have been lowered so much that many amateurs always have a camera at hand.

However, a good camera does not guarantee good photographs.

It just guarantees high-resolution images and more control over image-making, which is what professional photographers want. Here are some tips on taking good pictures with your phone camera.

UNDERSTAND THE LIGHT

Avoid shooting into bright lights because you will end up with subjects in silhouette. If you are shooting a portrait, ask your subject to turn towards the light source instead of standing in front of it.

Some mobile cameras come with built-in flash, but they are usually not powerful enough if you are shooting from a distance.

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Direct flash from the mobile camera is also not very flattering, because it is a harsh and direct light that washes out the subject.

If you are indoors, turn on the lights. Or if you are in a dark area, you can always have some fun lighting your subject with artificial lighting from an angle, such as a powerful torchlight or a phone with a good flashlight app.

CONTROL YOUR EXPOSURE, FOCUS

Your mobile camera automatically exposes for the environment in the frame, so tap on the subject on the phone screen and let your mobile camera adjust accordingly so that your subject will be in focus.

LEARN BASIC RULES OF PHOTOGRAPHY

The "rule of thirds" states that you do not place your subject squarely in the middle of your frame, but a third of the way in.

A subject in the middle of the frame looks static. An off-centre composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural.

Do not tilt your images unnecessarily. Keep your horizons and lines straight. Make sure that you keep your phone steady when you take the pictures to ensure the images are sharp and clear.

BREAK WITH CONVENTION AND EXPERIMENT

 

Basic rules of photography are like guidelines for beginners learning about visual communication.

But the beauty of photography is also about breaking the rules and experimenting with angles, light and colours.

Shoot from the floor level, or go higher and shoot from the top.

You may be surprised by how certain scenes look totally different from another perspective.

Watch out for light and shadows, lines and textures, framing structures, reflection, high and low angles, colours and depth of field.

AVOID DIGITAL ZOOMAND CROP INSTEAD

Images degrade when we zoom, so the more you zoom in, the worse the image becomes.

With today's improved technology, mobile cameras can take images with 8 megapixels of resolution or more, which means you can crop the image and still have a decent photo to display on the website.

But do that only if you cannot get closer to the subject.

If the subject is too far away to be seen properly, you will not be able to get a decent shot anyway.

WATCH OUT FOR CANDID MOMENTS

If you are lining up a group of people for a photograph, shoot some pictures before and after the actual "say cheese" shot.

Sometimes, you get better pictures from people when they are relaxed and not hamming it up for the camera.

EDIT AND USE FILTERS SPARINGLY

There are plenty of good free and paid image-editing apps like Snapseed, Adobe Photoshop Express and Filterstorm.

You can use these if you need to make minor adjustments like cropping, contrast, colour temperature and sharpness.

While filters and effects are fun to play with, editing apps and filters are not magic tools that can salvage bad composition and major flaws.

Also, if you do not want blurred pictures, keep your phone camera lens clean by wiping with a clean cloth occasionally.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Getting a good shot with your phone'. Print Edition | Subscribe