10 great smartphone pro photography tips for the new year
We all know how to click the shutter button on our phones and take a basic shot. But how to take it to the next level?
as a youtube host Photowalks TV series, I get asked the question all the time, and with a new year ahead of us, what a good time to step up our game, right? Here are 10 of what I think are the most essential hacks for shooting like a pro with your smartphone. Please watch the video above for an example, and read further, below.
The best photos are taken in the early morning and the last hour of the day, known as the “magic” or “blue” hour. Take a look at any brochure, magazine, poster or whatever, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The colors of our world are softer and dimmer in the early morning and late afternoon. Take your shots in there and you can nap for the rest of the day.
A pro trick is to always clean your lens before a shoot. We’re carrying phones around in our pockets and purses, and they get dirty. Bring along a cloth to wipe it off, or just use your shirt or blouse to do the trick.
In the Pro category, this is my most important piece of advice. I, like Joni Mitchell, now see the world from both sides. How is the light falling on my subject? It may not be great from the front, but lighting the back, or the side, can make a difference. You’ll see in the video how I shot my friend Rich DeMuro from every angle until we got it right. Keep going until you get it right, and as a bonus, shoot from every angle, vertical, horizontal, down, up…. you get the idea, don’t you?
Cloudy skies are what I call “photographer weather.” When faces are nice, even, people prefer light without the harsh shadows of the midday sun. The wet season is even better in that it produces spectacular colorful reflections, especially at dawn and dusk. Recent phones are “water resistant”, which means you can easily shoot in the rain without worry. There’s just one problem – the touchscreen becomes unresponsive when it gets wet, and thus, it’s harder to snap the shutter. Which leads to the next hack!
The volume up and down buttons on your phone can also snap the shutter for you. So if you’re in the rain, or underwater (watch my episode on doing just that) you can just snap the shutter with the volume buttons and not have to worry about an unresponsive touch screen. Second, the iPhone will do double duty by getting you into burst mode. This will fire off the action and give you a bunch of images to choose from. (On Galaxy phones, you go into the menu to access Burst Mode.)
If you’ve given up on shooting in the morning and need to get a good picture in the afternoon sun (we’ve all been there) I have a great hack for you, the magazine trick. Most urban areas usually have a real estate listing or a local calendar magazine. Pick one up, and get a friend to hold the magazine over the subject’s head. This will cover up the harsh sun and let you see your subject without raccoon eyes.
When shooting a sunset, how do you make it interesting? Paste something in the foreground. In Pismo Beach, as I show in the video, we used a cool branch of a tree. In Manhattan Beach, there is a pier or lifeguard tower. Put a person there, preferably a photograph. (Click the answer if you need instructions on how to do this on your phone.) Get creative, but remember, nothing is more boring than a big puddle of water.
Sometimes subjects move so fast that it’s hard to get a good shot, so when in doubt, play the video and know you’ve got everything picked out. Even better—you can take pictures and videos at the same time on iPhone. When you’re in video mode, after you press Record for video, a white shutter button appears at the top of the screen. Hit it up with your best Snaps and get the best of both worlds.
No photo leaves my phone that hasn’t been “developed” into a photo app. My first go-to is the plain vanilla Photos app on the iPhone, which has wonderful tools for darkening the sky and boosting the colors a bit. (I show how in the accompanying video.) From there. My next level is the free Adobe Lightroom Mobile app, and in the video I show two key sliders. When I want to go crazy, I reach for the Snapseed app from Google.
With Lightroom, see the difference below before and after? who do you like?
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