Light is the photographer’s best friend. The more, the better. In low light, smartphone cameras reach their limits. Photos will be noisy and blurry if the exposure time is too long.
Different photos can be taken at different times of the day. If you photograph a landscape at sunrise or sunset, the subject will have a different mood due to the low sun than at noon, when the sun is high. Here you can work better with contrasts and shadows. On the other hand, portraits look better on a cloudy day than in sunshine, because the nose, for example, does not cast a hard shadow on the face. Try it out.
Almost every smartphone has an LED next to the camera, which serves many as more than just a flashlight. It also helps you take pictures in the dark. You wonder when to turn on the flash? Basically: never. The only exception: you want to scan a document with your phone or it’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your eyes.
Otherwise, the flash usually makes the photo worse. This way, photographed people are completely overexposed and look unnatural. Or – you may have seen this at a concert – the flash exposes the dust or objects in the immediate vicinity, while objects only five meters away get nothing of the light.
Shoot in low light: Find an auxiliary tripod
You still want to take a picture in a dark environment or at night? Many high-priced smartphones today already have pretty good night modes. You can take some impressive photos with them.
If your smartphone doesn’t have a night mode, you can get stability at dusk with a tripod or even a selfie stick. If you don’t have either, hold the smartphone with both hands and lean against a wall, tree, or building. Beyond that, you can brace your arms or, even better, hold the smartphone against a stationary surface like the edge of a table or the roof of a car to stabilize it. How to get a much sharper photo.
Avoid the digital zoom
This is also often seen at concerts: someone takes a picture of the band from the tenth row and uses the zoom of their smartphone to have the singer or guitarist bigger in the picture. If the smartphone doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto lens, the result will be muddy and unappealing in most cases. By the way, in reverse, you can also take a photo and then zoom in on the display of your phone. The result is the same.
Our tip: Don’t zoom in, but move and approach the subject. This may not be easy to do at a concert, but it can be done almost anywhere else. The following example shows how big the difference between a photo with and without digital zoom can be:
Try new things when taking pictures
Your smartphone can take HDR pictures, has an AI mode or an adjustable aperture? It may also have a special portrait mode or a monochrome setting that lets you shoot in black and white? Try all these things out. The better you get at using your camera and the more photos you take, the better your images will get over time.
Use Pro mode?
The camera in your smartphone is usually ready for use within a few fractions of a second. Settings such as white balance, ISO value or exposure are usually made automatically. You don’t even have to know that ISO stands for light sensitivity. Although there is often a manual mode, with the help of which you can define the focus yourself or freely adjust the exposure time. But the software of most smartphones is already so good that you can hardly take a better photo in manual mode.
However, if you want to edit a photo afterwards, you can use the Pro mode. You get RAW files that contain much more image information than a JPG photo.
Image composition: Golden ratio, rule of thirds and co.
There are whole books on image composition. It is impossible to say everything about it in two paragraphs here. So we’ll limit ourselves to a few essentials. The simplest way to make a picture look more interesting is not to put the object in the center of the picture, but to put it to the left or right – in the golden ratio.
The rule of thirds and the golden ratio are quite similar and divide an image more or less into nine equal-sized squares. If you place your main subject on one of these intersections or along a line, the photo will look more interesting – some would say more beautiful.
You can switch on a virtual grid in the camera settings of your smartphone. This will help you to place the subject correctly or to bring the horizon into balance already during the shot, which is another tip by the way. We have a video for you that illustrates some of the rules very simply and shows what effect they have.
Turn on GPS when shooting
You turned off your location option because of a longer battery life? When taking pictures you should think about turning on GPS. The reason for this is simple: at some point, you may want to know where exactly a certain portrait of a person or a picture of a stunning landscape was taken. Your smartphone saves the coordinates if you allow it to and turn on your location. So you can see later where exactly the picture was taken.
Instagram made filters popular. Meanwhile, there are countless apps that give your photo a certain look. You can also find filters in the software of some smartphone cameras that allow you to make your pictures look more nostalgic and make colors warmer or cooler.
In addition, there are many apps with which you can improve subtleties and thus create your own templates and filters. We recommend Snapseed for gentle photo editing – a free app available for Android and iOS. You can also try Adobe Lightroom. Both apps work almost identically.
Of course, there are many more apps that can be used to retouch faces, change backgrounds or add playful elements to photos. But that is no longer part of the photography.