7 photography tips for taking professional photos with your smartphone

7 photography tips for taking professional photos with your smartphone

Who says you need a top-notch, expensive camera to be a great photographer?

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This photo of Hong Kong's skyline illustrates correct white balance, scroll down for the example of wrong white balance.

Not everyone can afford a massive camera, and smartphone camera quality is still not exactly the best. But now there are a huge range of camera accessories available for your smartphone that combat the failings of the cameras. Here are a selection of the different kinds of gadgets and accessories which will make you a better smartphone camera photographer:

Lenses

Smartphone cameras just aren’t that versatile. Sometimes they aren’t wide enough to capture the entire scene. Other times when you try to zoom in, the image just becomes awful and pixilated. Camera lenses solve this problem by giving you a much greater range of angles and zooms for your smartphone.


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Wide angle and fisheye lenses allow you to capture a wider area in your shot, making them good for landscape shooting. Meanwhile, macro lenses let you photograph subjects up close.

Fisheye lenses can make even an average street look interesting

The most popular types of smartphone lenses are clip-on lenses, which you can attach to your smartphone very easily using the built-in clip. More expensive options feature a set of different lenses which you can switch between.

Many of these lenses are widely available online or in smaller computer stores, like the ones inside Mong Kok Computer Centre.

Apps

The camera apps that come pre-installed on your smartphone often don’t give you enough control over how your shot looks. If you want to regain control over your camera, there are dozens of free and inexpensive apps to download to help you get a better shot.

There are many different settings and features which you can control. Here are a few of the more important ones:

White balance

Also known as the colour temperature, adjusting the white balance of a shot allows you to control how warm or cool your shot looks.

You might want your photos to have a much warmer, more orangey colour, in which case you would choose a warmer colour temperature. The standard settings for warmer tones are usually “shade” or “cloudy”. If you want much cooler blue tones, change the white balance setting to “fluorescent” or “tungsten”.

This photo of Hong Kong's skyline illustrates wrong white balance.

ISO

The ISO number represents how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. The higher the number, the more light your camera will pick up.

High ISO combined with a long exposure is possible on your phone

Where there isn’t enough light, making the ISO higher can help make your shot brighter. But there’s a catch; high ISO numbers can make your pictures grainy and noisy, so it’s best to keep your ISO as low as possible.

Exposure compensation

Smartphone cameras automatically estimate what the correct exposure should be based on the light they detect, but smartphones can sometimes get it wrong. Exposure compensation allows you to override the camera by giving you the option to make the shot lighter or darker.

Long exposures are a lot of fun ... as long as you have a tripod, or some Blu-Tack

Tripods

Tripods can be a very useful tool in many situations, such as when the lighting is dark or you don’t have enough hands to hold the camera.

If there is not enough light, the camera’s shutter has to stay open longer, meaning the photo may be blurry if you hold the phone in your hand. Tripods solve this problem by holding the camera still while you take the shot.


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Tripods come in all shapes and sizes, so you should spend some time looking around to find one that suits your needs. Heavier tripods tend to be more stable, but less portable.

For a cheaper, lo-tech solution, try propping up your phone against a bean bag on a flat surface, or sticking it in place using a big ball of Blu-Tack. It might not be the most professional way of holding your phone up, but it is very cheap and much easier to carry around with you.

Tripods are great if you don't have free hands.

Lights

Smartphone flashes are the worst kind lighting you can possibly use. But there are lots of other options for external lighting which will illuminate your subject and make your photos look much more professional.

LED lighting panels are useful, but a flashlight and a sheet of paper works, too

If you head to Sham Shui Po you can buy inexpensive portable LED lighting panels that come in a wide range of sizes for carrying around with your smartphone.

If you can’t afford lighting panels, don’t panic. Just grab any kind of flashlight and use a sheet of paper to spread the light over a wide area, giving you a much cheaper lighting set-up to carry around with you and your smartphone.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Too good to be you

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