Fundamentals of smartphone photography – a basic course (Part 1)
The first part of our basic course deals with the fundamentals of good smartphone photography. The second part deals with special features of smartphone photography.
Philipp’s typical posture
Smartphone vs. Camera
Smartphones now compete in a highly cut-throat market. They are subject to strong innovation pressure and are now able to vie with mid-range cameras. Although they are behind in terms of zoom and chip size due to their compactness, they score in terms of light intensity and aperture as well as in terms of sophisticated image processing software.
In addition, smartphones have an obvious advantage: You always have them with you.
The secret of good photos
What are the requirements for a good photo?
- For the most part, you need some basic skills.
- Technology (i.e. the camera) is less important.
- Apps and operation are the least critical.
Ultimately, the person behind the camera is responsible for the best photograph. That’s why we’ve put together 10 tips for you.
Plan your snapshots!
Before you press the shutter, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the motive?
- What do the surroundings look like?
- What is the reason for the image?
Take lots of pictures
Pictures are like ideas: If you collect enough, there will definitely be some gems.
- Change positions.
- Change your viewing angle.
- Take several pictures in a row.
- Wait for the best time.
Light, light, light!
For smartphone photography, brighter is always better. Always switch on all available lights if you want to photograph indoors. It can never be too bright for indoor photos.
When you’re outdoors, sun is super for holiday photos, but not so great for portraits. In this case, it’s important to create balanced lighting – completely in the sun or completely in the shade.
Another thing: not only the amount of light has an influence, but also its quality. You get the softest light two hours before sunset or two hours after sunrise – which results in really great pictures.
Use grid for a straight horizon
iPhones and Androids offer the option of using a grid in the camera monitor. In the iPhone, this is located under Settings > Camera; in an Android, the grid icon is in the top bar.
The grid helps you align the subjects and ensures that the horizon is straight. A crooked horizon makes an inferior picture.
The rule of thirds
The grid also helps with the division and composition of the subject. The rule of thirds says that a 2/3 to 1/3 image division is particularly harmonious for the eye. Probably this is due to its approximation of the Golden Section.
Find unusual motifs
A correctly chosen motif makes a good photo. Here, too, rules apply. The human brain is happy when it recognises order:
- Select subjects that express symmetry, order, or dynamics.
- Pay attention to vanishing points and use lines in a targeted manner.
- Intentionally set a foreground and background.
Provide a framework for orientation: A mountain or abyss is only impressive when you see a person next to it and see them in relationship to each other.
Cutouts, white space & borders
It’s not only what you photograph that has an effect, but also what you leave out:
- Only photograph a section of the motif.
- Give the image a little air and create “white space” around it.
- Search for frames that limit the motif (walls, caves, peepholes).
Often, less is more: Used selectively, colour accents can have a strong effect. Choose the right cutout and try to set the accent consciously.
If you are by the ocean, a river, or a lake, you should take advantage of the opportunities that reflections offer. These enable extraordinary effects.
Make portraits at eye level
When you make portraits, be especially prepared. Don’t just take a few photos. An image immediately looks better when the camera is at eye level and people aren’t photographed from above or below. A photo from below often results in an unsightly double chin. Therefore:
- Keep your camera at eye level.
- In case of doubt, just get on your knees.
- Seek direct eye contact.
- Make sure that the light is warm, soft, and indirect.
- Avoid direct sunlight (squinty eyes) or light from above (harsh shadows around the eyes).
A few last points
You should always have your smartphone with you. Try new things often and just take lots and lots of pictures.
We hope that you enjoyed the first part of this basic course and that it was helpful. The second part will deal with special techniques of smartphone photography.
Would you like to hold a Weekly at Ray Sono yourself?
If you would like to present an exciting, surprising, or impressive topic, you’re welcome to hold a Weekly with us. In the past, many of our Ray Sono partners have held great lectures about their areas of expertise. Just contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org