Summer is a season for memory-making. Being on the road, being in the sun, or just being sweaty with folks you love is a perfect opportunity to capture the moments. But often, the moment in our mind is so much better than the picture we took with our phone. How can we bridge the divide? Here are 10 tips to make the photos in your camera roll almost as good as the moments themselves.
1. Keep Your Lens Clean.
Let’s begin with what may seem like the strangest tip, but wipe your lens. Phones pick up a lot of dust and dirt by being in your hand, your pocket, or a bag. You’ll get the crispest image by cleaning your lens with the hem of your shirt before taking your shot.
2. Find the Best Light.
First, turn off your flash. That tiny light can be really harsh on faces and change colors from real-life to unreal. Next, make sure your subject is facing the source of light. Move near a window, turn toward the direction of the sun, or get closer to the street lamp. Every little bit of light will make the final image better. Finally, adjust the brightness as you go. Tap the screen and adjust the Exposure Slider up and down to get the best light.
3. Compose a Masterpiece.
One of the basic rules of photography is the Rule of Thirds. This rule has the photographer mentally dividing the image using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, like a tic-tac-toe board. Then, you place the subject or important elements along these lines or where they intersect. This will create a more visually interesting picture. For example, if you’re taking a picture of the sky and earth, place the horizon on the upper or lower horizontal line based on which one you like more.
4. Avoid Distractions.
When taking a picture of your child, it’s easy to focus on their adorable face. However, you can’t just be a parent; you must also be a photographer. This means stopping to scan the entire area inside your picture frame before snapping the photo. Is there a tree growing out of your subject’s head? Is there an odd sign in the background? Usually, just a small movement of the subject or the camera can clear the background for the best photo.
5. Focus On the Right Thing.
Our phones are delightfully smart, but the autofocus feature doesn’t always pick the right spot. Simply tap your subject or preferred point of focus, and then take the picture. You can also press and hold on to the spot to lock in focus and exposure which will allow you to move around a bit to compose the best image.
6. Zoom With Your Feet.
Most smartphones don’t have optical zoom. Therefore, when you pinch your screen to get closer, you’re actually just creating a lower resolution picture. Move you and your phone closer to the subject and crop after the fact to keep the photo quality high.
7. Steady Yourself.
Simply pushing the shutter in your camera app can cause the image to blur. There are several ways to stabilize the process to get clearer shots.
- Hold your phone with two hands and keep your elbows tight to your sides.
- Brace your elbows on a wall, table, or door frame.
- Rather than pressing the shutter button in the app, use the volume up or down button to snap the picture. You can also connect your earbuds and use the volume buttons on your cord.
8. Shoot lots of photos.
Never place all your hopes on just one shot. Snap several pictures so you can allow for the fast blinker, the distracted subject, and the passing car. Plus, this allows you to experiment with different angles and closer zooms with your feet.
9. Love One Another (with your angles).
When taking a portrait (including selfies), place your camera at eye level or higher. When you go lower, bodies will appear larger, and you’ll find yourself looking up someone’s nose.
10. Use Third-Party Apps.
There is no shortage of apps available that can provide features not found on your native camera app. Here are a few I love the most:
- Camera: Camera + (iOS), Camera Zoom FX (Android), VSCO Cam (both)
- General Editing: Afterlight (both), Snapseed (both), Lightroom (both)
- Image Repair: Touch Retouch (both)
- HDR: ProHDR X (iOS), HDR Camera (Android)
- Slow Shutter Effect: Slow Shutter (both)
Jamie Golden has been cohosting The Popcast with Knox McCoy since August 2013. It is a nationally ranked, weekly pop culture podcast that’s part deep dive, mostly shallow end. She makes her home in Birmingham, Alabama where she advocates for foster and adopted children on the Board of Directors of Heart Gallery Alabama and serves as a CASA volunteer. Jamie is a member of Church of the Highlands where she leads groups on phone photography and finding purpose through personality.