There's never been a better time to get into photography than today. Even the most entry level smartphones these days seem to have decent enough cameras built in. While there are advantages to having a standalone camera, most of us carry our phones around all the time.
Enter smartphone photography and with it a huge increase in interest in photography. We're also seeing a huge increase in smartphone videography thanks to apps like Snapchat and Instagram stories that make it super easy to produce and share video content.
So how can we take better photos with the cameras on the smartphones that we constantly carry around?
1. How clean is your lens? This may sound like an odd thing to ask but it's amazing how many people's phone lenses are filthy dirty! Reckon your photos aren't turning out as expected - then try cleaning your lens and comparing the before and after results!
2. Make sure your battery is charged and/or you have a portable power bank with you if you're likely to be out and about taking photos.
3. Free up storage on your device by making sure your 'deleted' photos (iOS) album is empty. Simply deleting photos from your camera roll isn't enough.
4. Framing your shot. How are you going to line it up and where will your subject fit? Also consider where you're photos going to end up before taking a shot. Historically photos were mainly printed in rectangular format but today many social media sites and apps post vertical (e.g. Snapchat) and square (e.g. instagram) posts. There's nothing worse than taking a great photo and then having a bit of it cropped out when you go to post it!
5. Always 'zoom with your feet' and never ever use the digital zoom. Using the zoom feature on a typical phone tends to lead to an overly pixelated photo.
6. If you really want to get closer to the action without having to physically having to move, or you are interested in macro (close up) photography, you may like to consider using an external lens. I personally am a bit fan of the Zeiss Exolens range of external smartphone glass. The photo of the Seagull at the top of this post was shot with the Zeiss 2.0x on an iPhone 6s using the native iOS camera app and polished with some minimum edits in Instagram. Moment lenses are also worth considering as well as the less expensive offerings from Olloclip.
7. Avoid cropping photos unless it's minimal or your using a camera with a massive megapixel count. This is for the same reason that you shouldn't use a digital zoom - you'll risk ending up with a pixalated image.
8. Try and avoid shooting in very harsh lighting. Dawn and dusk are ideal if shooting outdoors because the light tends to be at it's softest.
9. Always shot with the light shining onto your subject, with the light behind you, rather than shooting into the light. If you have to shoot into the light you can use external filters to help adjust for the harsh contrast (say if shooting a landscape scene). You can also use lighting or a flash to compensate for contrast if shooting a person or object. Suddenly, however, things are probably getting unnecessarily complicated! Best to keep things simple by sticking to aforementioned guidelines - certainly in he early days of your photo / video adventures!
10. Consider using filters to help adjust the overall look of your photos. If you're feeling creative you might even like to try and edit your photos using the tools within iOS photos, Instagram or even a dedicated free app like Snapseed (iOS and Android) or Photoshop Express (iOS and Android).
The best advice I can offer is to go out and start shooting. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell refers to the 10,000 hour rule. Basically it takes 10,000 hours to get really great at something. I'm not saying we all should be spending 10,000 hours taking photos but the more photos you do take the better you will get!
Don't think you need to have fancy kit either - quite often the more expensive cameras have so many buttons and options that they can become counter productive. It's best to try and things simple and just focus on challenging yourself to take the photos that you enjoy creating and that give you the most personal satisfaction. Do try to post your photos somewhere that you're likely to get feedback too. Hopefully you'll only get constructive feedback and you'll be able to learn from that.
Over the next couple of months I'm keen to share more of the knowledge that I've built up over the last few years of photography and videography. Let me know in the comments below if you have any specific or pressing questions and I'll do my best to answer them asap.