July 02, 2018 4 min read

Smartphones make it easy for anyone to take photos on-the-go, but the photos you end up with can often end up blurry or badly exposed. Here are 7 tips to make your smartphone photos look more professional!

1. Focus!

Modern smartphones are fairly good at knowing what objects to focus on when taking photos, but can still get it wrong, and especially struggle in lower light. Make sure to tap the object/person you most want to be in focus, and let it finish focusing in before you take your photo. This will help keep your photos sharp in the areas you want people to see clearly!

2. Watch Your Light

For this tip, work to think more like a professional photographer, and be aware of the light sources around you. You want your subject to be well-lit, but if the other areas of your photos have wildly different amounts of light, your phone may not be able to handle it well. For example, don't take photos of people with bright sun behind them, because your phone will adjust the exposure to not blow out the sunny sky, and the people in the front will be very dark. It all comes down to noticing where the light is, and moving or having people turn a different direction so the light levels are more balanced. Also, if you have lamps or lights nearby, get your subjects closer to them so they have more light on them. Think outside the box, and use what you have around you. The most important thing is to have plenty of light on your subjects!

3. Hold It Steady

One of the biggest problems with smartphone photography is blurriness from motion. We can't control everything people are doing in front of our camera, but we can make sure that we're holding our phones as steady as possible when taking photos! If all you're doing is holding your phone, improve your stability by using both hands, and bracing/leaning yourself on whatever objects/surfaces are nearby. If you can prop your phone against something and still get the angle you want, you can make it even more stable, without any special gear. If you're really serious about taking steady photos, get a tripod/monopod and a smartphone mount, which will give you rock-steady photos and video wherever you are!

4. Don't Zoom, Crop

When you zoom in your phone's camera app, you're not using actual glass lens optics like in digital SLRs or most point-and-shoot cameras, but blowing up the image digitally using your phone's CPU. This means that your phone is taking whatever your phone lens sees, and then making up image data that doesn't actually exist to allow you to zoom. This really degrades your image quality, and makes things more blurry. Instead, take your photos at normal size, and then crop the photo to the size you want!

5. Use Filters Later, Not Now

Filters are very fun, and can take a photo from boring to artsy, but if you take a photo with a filter turned on from the beginning, you are stuck with it forever! The best thing to do is to focus on getting the best initial photo that your phone camera is capable of without using filters, and then experiment with filters and editing later, in a photo-editing or photo-sharing app like Instagram. Filters are fun, but turning them on when taking your photos means that you'll never see what they could've looked like without the filters. Take your photos first, and then have fun trying all the fun filters!

6. Turn Off the Flash

The built-in flash in our phones can have very mixed results, depending on your surroundings and available light, and tend to be harsh and unflattering. Instead of using your built-in flash, turn it off and look for other light sources that will give enough light for your phone to take a photo that looks more natural!

7. Use HDR Mode

Not all phones have this feature, but many newer phones do. HDR mode basically means that your phone will take a few photos at once with different exposures, and then combine them to create one photo that has more detail in the shadows and bright highlights, more like our eyes see. If you're dealing with taking photos outside, where there is a huge difference in brightness levels in the same photo, then HDR mode can help keep detail in the extreme light and dark areas. Perhaps the best option (if your phone offers it) is to set your phone to automatically turn on HDR mode when it senses it would be helpful. Just watch the light around you, and try to keep the most light possible on your subject!

Now go, and take more awesome photos!

Hopefully this article will help you re-think how you take photos on your phone, and allow you to start thinking more like a professional photographer when you're documenting your life. Your photographic memories deserve more care and attention when you're creating them! Your photos will be how you remember what is important to you, long into the future.

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