ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Best smartphone camera tricks for freelancers?”

by Leo Wiles
07 March 2018

Hi Leo. Last week you wrote about some great apps to use on your smartphone but I was wondering about taking good photos. I’d rather not cart around a separate camera if I can help it. Chantelle

Hi Chantelle. Being sent out with a photographer these days is, sadly, a rare luxury.  On the upside, while your smartphone lags behind a typical DSLR camera, it can take pretty good photos – just look at US Time Magazine, which commissioned a photographer to shoot 12 covers, including this one, using just her iPhone!

Realistically, the benefits of using your smartphone is that you’ll always have it on you – and even a slightly grainy image is better than none at all (citizen journo shot, anyone?).

To get the most out of your smartphone’s camera function, try these basic tips.

Clean the lens/es Given that your phone probably lives in your pocket or at the bottom of a bag with the lint bunnies and lunch crumbs, it’s worth giving it a wipe with a clean cloth before shooting.

Hold it steady If you’re shooting video or just doing multiple exposures, it can be worth investing in a teeny weeny tripod fixture. Or for a cheap alternative, lie it on a bean bag on the top of your car, café table etc. If you’re really interested in shooting video, an external mini boom mic is a great investment – and so too is practising all the time to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Tap twice Ever seen someone poking at their smartphone and wondered what the hell that’s all about? Well, it’s a smart trick for sharpening your image. Simply tap on the part of the photo you want in focus.

Get closer Instead of zooming in which creates a pixelated soft image, physically move yourself into position to take a closer shot. The result will be much cleaner.

Think left Most of us put our subject dead centre, which is a visual snooze-fest. Instead, try for an environmental portrait where you place your subject facing in towards the centre and provide background details such as a bookshelf, lounge, study, etc. It adds essential colour to your shot.

Swipe up or down On screen you will also have the function of increasing the exposure. Although be careful using it, as you can wipe out your highlights if you have high contrast shadow and light.

Let it shine Stand between your subject and the sun whenever possible to avoid turning them into a silhouette.  That way you won’t end up with a black blob instead of your interviewee, or be forced to maximise the exposure until everything is an unnatural shade.

Less is often more Hold off on the filters unless absolutely necessary and check out the in-camera features such as black point. It’ll cut down haze if you’ve been shooting into the sun.

If you want to get really fancy… try a mobile version of Adobe Photoshop Express, or my favourite photo editing app Snapseed.

What are your best smartphone camera tricks?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

One response on "ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Best smartphone camera tricks for freelancers?”"

  1. sahala says:

    Thanks Leo, this was really useful!

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