Pro Tips: Take Artistic Photos With Your Cell Phone
Since the advent of cell phones with cameras, it has never been so easy to take good-quality photos. Pull out your smartphone, open the camera app, press the shutter button, done. It couldn’t be faster or easier, because after all, you always have your smartphone with you. But if you want to do more than just random snapshots or cursory photo notes, you should heed a few technical and design rules. So that you can take really artistic pictures with your smartphone in the future, we will make it easier for you to get started with these tips.
Here you can join the best photography workshops for 2023 to learn photography.
Taking Photos With Your Smartphone: 7 Tips to Get You Started
Landscape Instead of Portrait
The orientation of the smartphone has a major impact on how the image looks and how well you can view it later on as many screens, websites and apps as possible. Although we are used to using mobile phones in portrait mode, not least for the selfie function. But for taking pictures with your smartphone, you should hold it sideways. Landscape images look better on televisions and computer monitors because there is little or no distracting black border. If in doubt, you can always choose a portrait format image section from the landscape format image afterwards.
Many camera apps also offer a square aspect ratio because 1:1 images look great on Instagram. If you want to use the picture for another purpose, you should first take it in landscape format to be on the safe side.
By the way: the portrait format or aspect ratio of 4:5 is ideal for Instagram posts. The image is then displayed particularly large in the timeline. You can easily crop a portrait or landscape photo.
Never Use the Pincer Gesture to Zoom
Most smartphone cameras have a wide-angle lens that shows you a lot of the landscape but can’t zoom in on subjects. Of course you could use the pincer gesture on the display to select a smaller image section. But then you use the so-called digital zoom and this lowers the image quality because details and sharpness are lost. When it comes to high-quality photos that you want to keep, take the section that your cell phone offers you and, if necessary, crop afterwards using the photo app.
If you have a dual camera or even more sensors, you can of course use the zoom lens – the quality does not drop there. Only in low light conditions could the photo end up being very noisy and blurry.
If you notice that you want to zoom more often, choose a cell phone that has a dual camera with a second focal length the next time you buy it. The additional telephoto lens is particularly suitable for faces because it doesn’t produce “potato noses” and also offers a nice background blur (also known as bokeh). Or you use a teleconverter that you put on your cell phone. For good image quality, you should use high-quality lenses such as those from Exo Lens and Zeiss.
Better to Add Filters After Taking the Picture
The camera apps of many smartphones allow you to give your pictures a special look with filters. With many models, you can try out the image look templates before you press the shutter button. These live filters look fancy, but you can’t remove them after you’ve taken the photo. If you want to keep as much creative freedom as possible, you should first take the photo “normally” and only afterwards add filters or edit it individually to your heart’s content. We present interesting apps for editing below in the tips for advanced users.
Use the HDR Function for Subjects that are too Dark and too Bright
Camera lenses “see” differently than the human eye. Therefore, they cannot represent subjects with very bright and very dark parts of the image as evenly as you perceive the scene. You could correct overexposed or underexposed pictures afterwards using the photo app. If this is too time-consuming for you, the following trick will help you:
Find and enable the HDR feature in the camera app. It is part of the equipment, especially for high-quality cell phones, but sometimes has to be activated in the options. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and in this case refers to an image setting that automatically improves image parts that are too dark and too bright without your intervention using clever software calculations. Unfortunately, this setting only works for scenes in which nothing is moving quickly.
Always Use the Original Size
After taking pictures with your smartphone for a long time, you may notice that your mobile phone memory fills up quickly. There are many good tricks to save space on your iPhone or Android smartphone, but reducing the image size is not one of them. To ensure that your images look as detailed and sharp as possible, even if you enlarge them, you should always save them in their original size. Therefore, resist the temptation to choose a smaller resolution in the camera app settings.
Some phones also offer the option to save uncompressed photos. These are then particularly large, but still allow real details to be teased out during processing. If your photos are only intended for Instagram and WhatsApp, compressed photos will probably suffice. But if you want to print the images or share them elsewhere, saving them in RAW format makes a lot of sense.
Skip the Flash
It is not your fault that subjects directly flashed by the flash usually do not look very aesthetic. There are very few situations in which the flash of your smartphone camera helps you to take artistically valuable photos. The construction of smartphone flashes is simply not suitable for this. Set the flash from “Auto” to “Off” and only switch it on specifically if you really can’t get a sufficiently exposed photo otherwise. It is better if you choose suitable settings in Pro mode. We explain how this works on the next page in the tips for advanced users. (see below).
Hold the Phone as Still as Possible
If you have the impression that too many of your pictures appear blurry, especially when you enlarge them, this does not have to be due to the camera technology. Hand shake is often to blame. This is normal, everyone wobbles minimally. Unfortunately, the mobile phone is even easier to move when taking photos, because we normally release the shutter by pressing the display.
In order to keep the camera still, you should always stabilize the smartphone with both hands. If possible, you can use a physical button on the side of the phone to trigger the camera. This can be set in the options of the camera app and usually ensures a little less blurring. Alternatively, some camera apps allow you to trigger a photo with a voice command such as “click”. You can also find this setting in the menu of the camera app. Another option is to take your photo with a self-timer or use a cell phone tripod.