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Summer smartphone photography tips

A pair of hands, presumably belonging to a person (not pictured) hold a smartphone in landscape mode, taking a picture of a sunset over the water.

Just as digital displaced film, the smartphone camera has displaced the point and shoot digital camera. For casual pics, there’s really no need to carry around a digital camera if you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket and some smartphone photography tips in mind.

While the way we take pictures may change, there are some age-old photography tips that can help you take better photos. Whether you’re taking smartphone pics on vacation, while the kids play soccer or baseball or you’re catching moments at a backyard barbecue, these simple tips can help you take your smartphone photography to the next level.

Go landscape

Most of the time, we hold our phones vertically, in portrait mode. When it’s time to take pictures, flip it horizontally into to landscape mode.

Photos in portrait have their place; capturing tall landscape elements for example. That said, landscape catches more of the scene in front of our eyes and is more what people expect when looking at a photo.

Rule of thirds

The temptation is always to put what you want to focus on smack dab in the middle of the frame. There are reasons you may choose to do this. Just know it’s not your only option.

There’s a rule in photography called the rule of thirds. Remembering this simple trick will elevate your pictures, making them more interesting and more accessible.

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board dividing the pic. Instead of putting your subject in the middle, put it in either of the four points where the grid lines intersect. Most smartphone camera apps will let you turn these gridlines on in the settings so you don’t have to imagine them.

Leave some space 

This tip goes nicely with the rule of thirds and can help you figure out where you place your subject.

Use space to help tell the story. Think of a soccer game; say your subject is dribbling past defenders and about to score a possible game winner. Using the rule of thirds, place the subject or the ball in the lower left of the frame. Keep the goal in the upper right. Catch the moment where they start their kick. If you caught the moment, you now have a picture that’s truly worth 1,000 words.

Tip: use burst mode to take a bunch of pictures then select the one that best captures the moment. 

smartphone photography - A person sitting on a wall, looking skyward. Negative space in the image suggests deep thought.
Photo by Ben Lambert on Unsplash

Get a tripod

A tripod is a must have, especially if you’re going to attempt any night photography. A tripod is a super handy piece of smartphone photography gear that lets you be much more intentional about the photos you capture.

We’ve had success with the Smatree Q3s, which is made for smartphones and action cams like GoPro. It’s basically a selfie stick that packs down small with legs that fold out to turn it into a functional tripod too. 

Selective focus

Many smartphone cameras today include a depth sensor. This little addition captures data when you take a picture and lets you change the focal point even after the pic is captured. When you do this, you’re playing around with something called depth of field. It’s an excellent way to call attention to a foreground or background element so your photo tells a story.

No need to mess around with advanced camera settings like shutter speed and aperture (f-stop). Instead, if your photo has depth data, you can select your subject and choose to blur the background behind them.

smartphone photography tip - using depth of field to highlight a clear orb, refracting a background that is out of focus
Photo by Tim Huyghe on Unsplash

Golden hour

There’s a term in photography and film circles; the golden hour or sometimes the magic hour. This is the hour after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is low and seems to bathe everything in a golden light. When light paints interesting shadows.

If you’re heading out specifically to take pictures (a family photo for example), try to schedule your shoot for this time.

Just check what time sunrise and sunset are in your location and plan accordingly.

Just take pictures!

Assuming you don’t have your finger across the lens, there really is no right or wrong way to take a picture. Sometimes catching the moment is way more important than perfectly encapsulating the moment.

So get out there, have fun and get snap happy.

Get a new smartphone

If your smartphone camera is letting you down, it may be time for an upgrade. The Ting Mobile Shop has tons of options.