Tips for taking professional photos using your smartphone

Written by Alex Speed for Australian Seniors.  

Not only have mobile phones changed the way we live, they have revolutionised photography and put creativity – literally – in the palm of our hand. The quality of inbuilt cameras is improving all the time and most of us are never far from our mobiles so it’s easy to grab, point and shoot, then discard or edit later.

Queenslander Glenn Homann, who won the Trees category in the recent 2020 iPhone Photography Awards, says, “Having a mobile phone in your pocket is like having a magical camera that can do no wrong.” He shares his simple tips for creating mobile magic.

Natural light is your friend 

I started out on an iPhone 4 and I like the idea that you have what you have and it’s 100% in your hands to create a great photo. If you want to take great portraits, window light is all you need for a beautifully lit shot. Make sure all artificial lighting is turned off. Modern smartphone cameras can handle a surprisingly small amount of light.

The eyes have it 

Make sure to set the focus on the subject’s eyes by touching the phone screen. If your subject is still enough you can lock focus on the eyes by holding your finger on the screen for a second or two.

Change the exposure 

Experiment with the exposure of the image by pressing on the screen and sliding up or down on an iPhone (Android phones will have a similar feature). Taking the exposure down can produce lovely contours that accentuate the curves and lines of a subject’s face.

Choose the time and place carefully 

Early morning and early evening are the best times to take photos as the light is soft. When shooting portraits, portrait mode can work well but also consider using the background to your advantage. Find a plain wall to direct attention to the subject’s face. Sometimes details behind the subject can enhance the mood and create character, providing they are darker than the light on the face.

Get the right tools 

There are millions of photograph-editing apps and it’s easy to become bedazzled but the must-have for me is Snapseed. It’s free and it can be used for most editing. Many people particularly like its mode for enhancing portraits by highlighting the face and the eyes. Used in conjunction with good lighting, this can produce stunning results.

Practice makes perfect 

If you want to become a better photographer, you need to take photos. One option is to make a concerted effort every day to get out and shoot. When shooting portraits, find subjects that catch your eye and place your subject at 45 degrees to the main source of light, such as a window, to create mood and drama.

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