In an age where everyone carries a camera in their pockets it’s very easy to snap a quick pic of the things we think everyone will want to enjoy with us and then share it to whichever social network we can spam in the hopes of creating the ever elusive cries of “FOMO” from your followers and friends (It’s usually some delicious meal that’s laid out in front of us). It’s the digital equivalent of the “Wish You Were Here” postcard.
Getting those pics to look as appealing to your audience as possible is a tricky feat, one which definitely isn’t helped by crappy, plastic cellphone lenses and terrible LED lighting.
“So how can we make our photos the best possible?” I hear you ask. Well here are a few of the things I can think of to help the average Joe get better photos with their cellphones:
1. Don’t use digital zoom
– because the quality of images captured on a cellphone is limited, using digital zoom, which only zooms in on the captured digital image and not the actual physical object, causes the resulting ‘zoomed’ image to look very pixelated. Not ideal when trying to show your subject in the most appealing manner.
2. Instagram isn’t the cure
– Instagram is great for helping to make your images look like they were taken with a vintage camera, using old film. It doesn’t necessarily make your photos look better. It is however a great tool for sharing your photos, so make sure that you’re sharing your best to all those people around the world!
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3. Use well lit areas; light your subject appropriately
– Because the smaller sensors in cellphone cameras can’t handle the huge range of tones that can occur outdoors, it’s often advisable to shoot in a well lit area. having your cellphone meter the light reading for the sky in a bright outdoor setting may leave you with a subject which is completely silhouetted. In cases like this you need to light your subject. Use a reflector or a constant bulb for best results.
In the photo below, which I shot with my cellphone, I borrowed my brother’s cellphone and used the LED torch shone through a serviette, to create a bigger, softer light. This allowed me to light my subject appropriately in the dark outdoor location and still get the nice bokeh effect in the background
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– Understanding how best to light your subject
Lighting your subject from the front is often better than shooting into bright light as you’ll avoid the issue of your subject becoming silhouetted. However direct front lighting can cause unpleasant, hard shadows. So it’s sometimes best to shoot the shade, so that your shadows are nice and soft and there are no major variations in contrasts and colours in your subject.’
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3a. Use the correct settings
– knowing the difference in effect that choosing tungsten over shade for your white balance, is very handy and can make all the difference for an image that may not necessarily be edited before being posted. Make sure you know which is the right setting for your scene.
4. Avoid using the built-in LED flash
– Using a tiny, harsh, white light, does nothing for your images. If you want to have your pictures looking great you should aim for softer shadows and less intense light. Use a thin white serviet held slightly above your food (out of shot) to soften shadows if you’re outdoors in bright sunlight. Alternatively, try and find a spot under an awning near a large window. This has the same effect as a very large softbox.
5. Process your images
– A lot of us leave the processing of pics to those taken with larger cameras. However not tweaking the image before you send it out doesn’t necessarily give it the oomph and punch it needs to grab someone’s attention. There are a lot of mobile image editing apps out there. My personal favourite is Snapseed. It allows you to bring up the shadows or correct the overexposed highlights, and do many other functions.
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Below are some of the images I’ve recently captured using my cellphone.