4 Ways to Improve your Smartphone Photos... Without Spending Anything

Phones these days are pretty amazing with everything that they can do because of that they have pretty much become everyones standard, everyday camera. But have you ever looked at the photos on your phone and wondered about ways to improve them? Well if so, here are 4 Ways to Improve your Smartphone Photos, Without Spending Anything. These tips are not only for your smartphone, they can be applied towards any camera in your hands. So lets get to it!

Lighting - Avoid Harsh Light

So really, this is what the core of photography is about, light. Specifically capturing, reading and even manipulating light. In photography, you're usually looking for ways to soften and diffuse the light so its less harsh and more evenly spread out on things like skin tones or landscapes. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Photographing Indoors

Look to your windows! I always find that is the best place to start. Most of the light created from your indoor lights like lamps can be too harsh and can often create orange/yellow color tones and harsh shadows/highlights on whatever it is you're photographing. Putting someone or something beside a window is almost always the better option. It will bring a softer, more even range of light to your subject.

  • Photographing Outdoors

    Outdoor photography is all about reading and working around the sun and sky. Once again, you’re wanting a softer light. If it's mid-day with no clouds, I generally don’t expect to get great images because that light is going to blowout your highlights and cast some harsh shadows. I usually try and photograph in the mornings and evenings. Also be aware of where the sun is because in most cases, you're going to want to keep the sun behind or beside you.

    Also, don’t forget about the clouds. They act similar to a window in helping to diffuse light. But while cloudy days are great for softening the sun, it can also drain your landscape of color and contrast. It’s all about what you're photographing and the mood you're trying to set. For example, I like to shoot waterfalls on cloudy days.

<Tips for Photographing Waterfalls>

Composition

This is something that I can spend forever talking about. But ‘composition’ in the most generic of definitions is the arrangement of the image and how we as photographers can control or bring focus to certain elements within the frame. I’m going to do this in reverse a bit and share with you common problems I see people do in their composition and some easy, free solutions to fix them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few things I have observed and do myself. If you like these and want a more comprehensive list then let me know in the comments below!

  • Needless Dead Space

    Ever take a picture of a really cool landscape and then notice that a large portion of your image is just blue sky? This is an example of something called ‘dead space’ and with only a few exceptions, I find it does more harm than good. It usually just doesn’t contribute to a well balanced composition and needlessly pulls the viewers eye away from what you want. So, first ask yourself if that space adds anything to the photography and if not, then just either zoom in on your subject more or lower the camera to capture more of the foreground.

  • Simplify your Background

    This one is usually applied more to portraits/ selfies. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to have a background with too many things that distracts from your subject. Things like other people, signs or a lot of clutter, are just a few examples. Just put some thought into it and look around, more often than not I just end up using a blank wall.

  • Straight Horizons

    An issue that I do more often than I like to admit, crooked horizon lines. A horizon line is that section of a landscape photograph where the sky and land meet. A crooked horizon line is pretty easily noticeable and can be a needless distraction from your photo. An easy solution is just to straighten it up using some kind of editing software, it’s a standard feature these days, even found on all modern phone software that I’m aware of.

  • Don’t Cut Off Limbs

    This one admittedly has some leeway to it but it’s something to think about both before and after the photo is taken. I’m obviously not saying you need to photograph and entire person at all the time but I do often see some awkward cropping of limbs and body parts. So a couple quick things to think about. First, try and avoid cropping off any limbs at the joints like wrists, knees, elbows or necks. It can look awkward and clunky. The second thing is that when in doubt, zoom out a little. This can give you a little more to work with when you crop it, or zoom in on the photo during editing.

 

Move Around

Don’t be like a tree with your roots planted in the ground, you have legs, use them! Too often I see people pull out their cameras and do their best interpretation of a statue. Changing and shifting angles of a scene can drastically change the mood of a photograph. So just standing still can mean your missing out on an even better photo! So after you snap those fist few images, look around and see if another angle can be better. You can literally take hundreds of photos so there’s no real harm in doing it. Also, don’t just think about moving around to different spots, think about if you need to crouch down or get higher.

 

Find Your Voice

So you’re moving around, reading the light and thinking about your composition. So now what? Well, it’s time to find your voice, your style, call it whatever sounds best to you. Like anything else in life, if you’re trying to get good at something, you need to practice and experiment with your camera. Photography is an art form and like art, rules are meant to be bent or even broken. Maybe you will find out that you like dead space in certain situations or that you prefer morning light over evening light. Whatever it is, you won’t find it out without trying, so get out there and practice, practice, practice!