This article was written by interior designer and former professional photographer Linda Holt for the May 2023 print edition of Gifts and Decorative Accessories. Holt taught smartphone photography workshops in and around Boston before she created an on-line photography class for interior designers and home professionals.
In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to have great photos on social media. Whether you’re a business owner trying to promote your products or services, an interior designer, or just someone who wants to share their life with friends and family, having beautiful photos can make all the difference.
It wasn’t that long ago that you needed a DSLR camera to get a really good photo. That is no longer the case. The latest smartphones are so advanced they now rival an expensive DSLR camera. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference by looking at a photo.
However, having said that, it’s important to learn how to use your smartphone correctly and take advantage of all the features it offers. Here are five tips to get the most from your smartphone.
Use Your Smartphone Like a DSLR Camera
One way to use your phone more like a DSLR is to set the exposure and the focus manually. As smart as the smartphone is, there will be times when your photo looks too dark or too light and you need to take control.
To set the exposure manually, tap and hold your finger on the camera screen until a yellow box appears on the iPhone or a yellow circle appears on the Android phone. Then by moving your finger up and down on the iPhone or left to right on an android phone, you can either increase (brighten) or decrease (darken) the exposure.
To manually set the focus, simply tap and hold your finger on the camera screen at the exact spot you want to set and lock the focus. Setting the focus manually is helpful in low light situations or whenever you don’t have a steady hand.
Get Your Lines Straight
All smartphones have a fairly wide-angle lens. The normal default lens (the one your camera opens in) is comparable to a 26mm on a DSLR camera. The wider the lens, the more the lines will bend, causing the perspective to be off (think of the bending lines taken with a fisheye lens). The in-camera grid is a valuable tool to help keep the lines as straight as possible.
To turn on the grid simply go into settings, scroll down and click on camera, then toggle on the grid. Once on, it’s easy to match up one of the horizontal or vertical grid lines to a horizontal or vertical line in your photo.
Think About Composition
Many smartphone photographers don’t spend enough time composing their image. They do a quick point shoot or take a whole bunch of images (called spray and pray) and hope the result will be a stellar image.
Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Before you rush to hit the exposure button, take a moment and think about your composition. Are you filling the frame? Is there a clearly defined subject? Are you following a composition rule such as the rule of thirds?
Check Your Background
The human eye is very skilled at filtering out distractions around a subject. After you take your photo, take a moment to inspect it. Is there a bright red EXIT sign in the background or a plant growing out of someone’s head? Usually, it only takes stepping a bit to the left or to the right to remove something distracting in your background, resulting in a much better image.
Use Editing Apps
There are three components to a good photo: composition, lighting and editing. Don’t skip out on editing.
Editing is so easy today and can be done in seconds or minutes right on your phone. All smartphones have a pretty good native editing app but if you prefer, use an app such as Snapseed or Light Room to turn an average photo into a really stunning image.
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