A few years ago we debated whether compact cameras would end up becoming extinct in the face of the rise of camera mobiles and today, although extinction may sound a bit strong, we can say that mobiles did indeed win the battle for the general public. Today, photography is one of the most competitive points for mobile manufacturers, which take advantage of each new presentation to show their latest advances in zoom, night photography and much more
However, despite technological advances, there are still limitations to take into account when shooting photos with our phones, such as (in many cases) the absence of optical zoom or low-light performance. In order to achieve the best results, we have developed a guide with essential tips when taking photos with your Android smartphone.
Know your hardware …
The first step to be able to take advantage of a camera is to know it well, whether it is a SLR or, in this case, a mobile phone. A visit to the manufacturer’s website It will give us key data that are important before we start shooting.
Knowing the resolution is fine but, if we can go further, details like the size of the sensor or the size of the pixels themselves They are as important or more important than megapixels, and the same happens with the aperture of the lens or ‘F’ number (the lower it is, the better) since the brighter it is, the better it will work in conditions where light is scarce.
Now that multiple cameras have become so widespread, zooming is a very interesting aspect. It is very possible that your mobile has an angle lens and perhaps also a telephoto lens. Explore the possibilities of all lenses and especially what is the maximum optical zoom that the telephoto lens gives you since with it we will obtain better results than using digital zoom.
The image stabilizer is another key aspect when taking photos in low light and also when recording videos (to minimize shake). There are digital (EIS) and optical (OIS) types, generally more effective than the former. Also find out if your mobile has a shutter button or allows you to shoot with the volume keys, as it generally allows a more comfortable grip.
Knowing the specs is a good starting point, but don’t forget that to know the hardware well, it is best to try it. Experience is always the most effective method when it comes to knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the camera.
… and your software
If knowing the hardware is a key step, Researching and fiddling with the software is just as important. The automatic mode comes in handy for cases in which we cannot stop to configure any settings, but there are options that can help a lot to improve the photos and knowing them is a fundamental aspect.
Within the camera application you can find all the available options such as scene modes or manual mode, increasingly widespread even in simple mobiles. If we have more time to prepare the shot, it is interesting to play with values such as exposure, ISO or white balance to achieve specific effects. Of course, if the camera allows you to apply filters directly, it is better to avoid them and apply them later with editing software.
Also important know and try HDR, a function that will save us more than one photo with large contrast differences. Another essential aspect is the resolution setting since there are cases in which we may not be making the most of your sensor. Nor should we forget the night, macro or portrait modes, all of them already essential in smartphones of all ranges.
As with hardware, the best way to get to know the software in depth is do tests and more tests until we feel comfortable and find those settings that work best.
Clean the lens
Okay, this is a drawer, but sometimes we forget and we usually realize when enlarging the photos. Taking into account that the mobile is always being tampered with, the lens gets dirty easily and needs to be cleaned as often.
It is best to use a special chamois, but the normal thing is that we do not wear one on top. In that case, a soft cotton t-shirt can help us, always rubbing being careful not to scratch the lens.
Use natural light whenever possible
Photography is possible thanks to light, hence this is the most important aspect and the one that will most determine the result obtained. In addition, as we anticipated at the beginning, one of the weak points of cameras in general and those of mobile phones in particular, is that do not perform well in low light conditions.
With this in mind, it is best to work in natural light whenever possibleeven if you are not abroad. The top image was taken inside a room in the morning and the light coming through the window was abundant but diffuse, creating very soft shadows and achieving a very harmonious result.
It will not always be possible to get natural light, but if you are indoors, try to find the same keys: abundant and preferably diffuse light as seen in the image on these lines.
Beware of contrasts
A hard and contrasted lighting like that of the central hours of the day can be an interesting resource to create marked contrasts if the camera is able to maintain a relatively balanced balance between lights and shadows as we see in the photo above, taken with the Sony Xperia X Compact.
However, it can be a problem if we are using a simple mobile whose camera is not capable of representing a very wide dynamic range. We will notice it especially when there are great contrasts between light and shadow, making highlights are often burned out and detail is lost in shadows.
As we said, HDR mode can be a great ally to save the photo, but it does not always work miracles and there are cases where the result is excessively artificial. Here the best is what we said: try, test and test.
And be very careful with the backlights
Backlights can also be a nice resource in some situations like the one we see on these lines. The background appears burnt but the light degrades smoothly and the ‘silhouettes’ effect is very attractive. However, we must take care of these types of scenes in which the light comes from the front since the result can be very different.
Here a clear example of a backlight that would have been better avoided since not even with the HDR mode we managed to improve it. That said, backlights can be an interesting resource, but be careful that the devil carries them.
Avoid using the flash
The LED flash that is built into most mobiles produces a light that is too harsh and creates very strong shadows and it will rarely be useful, so avoid using it as much as possible, and if you do that is because there is no other choice.
The image was taken during the day in an interior room that did not get too much light. If we enlarge the image on the left to the maximum (without flash) we can see the classic noise effect, but it is preferable to shooting with flash. The result speaks for itself.
Use a tripod for night photos or in low light (or look for support)
We have already said that the lack of light is one of the weak points of the cameras of our mobiles and, although the night modes help a lot, if you are going to shoot at night or in difficult conditions (for example at sunset) always it is better to have solid support.
If you don’t have a tripod, try leaning on something to secure the device and that the tremors of the hand do not spoil the photo, which is what happened in the image on the left. If you don’t have any way to fix the camera, all you have to do is trust your pulse (tip: holding your breath usually helps).
The grid is your friend
Composition is another key aspect of a good photo and with the grid it is easier to adjust the scene, for example when taking a photo of a landscape. A sloping horizon can spoil a precious photo, which is why having a guide is important. Most mobiles have the grid option, navigate between the menus and turn it on to make comps more stable.
Symmetry as a resource
If the scene that we are going to photograph lends itself, symmetries always give very good results. But yes, make sure that it is fully balanced since otherwise we will charge the effect. The architecture of the top image was not easy to frame, but again the grid was very practical. If it’s not perfect the first time, you can always adjust the framing from the editor.
Here we see another example of a symmetrical scene, in this case with very marked lines that are concentrated in the vanishing point located in the center of the image, another very interesting resource that brings more depth to the scene.
Play with reflexes
One resource that is related to symmetry is reflections. If we photograph scenes with large bodies of water, we can also play with the reflection that is generated and that creates a very interesting repeating illusion like the one in these pictures.
Take advantage of the perspective
Front shots are fine, but in many cases boring. Playing with perspective is a very interesting resource to explore when taking photos with your mobile since create visual tours within the composition itself and they give a feeling of depth.
In the image on the left it is clearly appreciated how the perspective brings more dynamism to the whole scene, while the image on the right is too flat.
If we analyze all the photos we take with the mobile, surely the vast majority of us shoot them while standing with the mobile at eye level. But if we always shoot the photos from the same point of view, it will be difficult to achieve different results.
Something as simple as crouch down to the ground it can make a fairly classic photo like the one on the left turn into a much more interesting shot. Although we can always go further.
Changing the height of the point of view as we saw in the previous example is an option to get out of the classic conventional photo, but there are many more possibilities. The chopped or low-cut planes they can also give that more ‘cool’ touch to a photo that would otherwise be too classic, and if we go to a cenital plane (from above) or nadir (from below) the effect is even more striking.
Remember: you don’t have to focus everything
We were talking about how a balanced and symmetrical composition can be a very interesting resource, but it is not always the …