Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Smartphone Travel Photo Tips

Sometimes, business travel takes us to incredible places but we don’t always travel with a professional camera to capture some of the sights we see along the way.  Use these tips to take amazing pictures with your smartphone! 

Keep it Handy
First things first, make sure your phone and your camera app are easily accessible.  No amount of photo tips will help you if you miss the shot altogether.  Make sure you know how to open your camera app as quickly as possible.  With the iPhone, you can access the camera without even unlocking the phone.  With some android phones, you can reassign buttons to launch the camera quickly. 

Clean the Lens
Your phone spends a lot of time in hands, pockets, purses and other places that present opportunities for oil, lint and dirt.  Make sure you clean the lens often!

If your phone as an HDR (high-dynamic-range imaging) setting, USE IT!  This setting gives your pictures a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of the image which will more accurately photograph the scenery the way you are seeing it live.  Current Androids and iPhones come with HDR settings, if your phone doesn’t, there are apps you can download to take HDR images.  The pictures here give an example of an HRD photo (right) compared to a standard photo (left) taken with an iPhone.

Avoid Using the Zoom
Your smartphone cannot magnify the image by moving its lens.  So when you digitally zoom in, the phone is essentially making the pixels larger and using the information available to make the image larger.  Pretend the zoom does not exist and get closer to your subject.  If you have to, crop the image later instead of using the zoom.

Rule of Thirds
This Photography 101 composition concept never fails!  Most phones today come with a setting to add gridlines to your screen when you are taking a picture.  The grids will divide the image up into thirds both horizontally and vertically.  Using the rule of thirds, place the interesting or focus element of the photo on one of the four intersections of the grid.  This gives your photo visual interest and balance.  Additionally, your horizon should run along one of the horizontal lines and not though the center of the photo.  As a bonus, you can use the grid lines to make sure you don’t take a crooked snapshot!

Your phone does best in natural light found outdoors.  Although the technology has come a long way in a short amount of time, we still have a long way to go for smartphone photos in low light situations inside and nighttime photography.  You’ll get the best results in the morning or evening, when the sun is not directly overhead to flatten your colors and create intense shadows.  Even shade during the middle of the day will also serve you well or you can try using your flash midday to fill in dramatic shadows for a more even look.

You don’t have to be a photoshop expert to improve your photos with a few quick edits.  Boosting the contrast, sharpness and/or saturation can make a huge difference!  Your smartphone likely offers a few of the basic corrections and may even offer some artistic effects.  If you want more, try apps like Snapseed, PicsArt Photo Studio, Adobe Photoshop Express and the ever-popular Instagram.  All available for free in the iTunes App Store and the GooglePlay App Store.

External Lenses
Although you can take great photos with just your smartphone, you can go the extra mile by purchasing a small external lens for your phone.  There are tons of companies selling external lens with prices beginning at just $20.  You can select from wide-angle or fisheye to capture a whole room in one shot, telephoto for a powerful zoom, macro for intense detail in your up close and personal shots.  Check out the Photojojo store here or search for reviews of various lenses available for your phone to see what will suit you and your photography best.

Practice and Explore
Finally, it’s essential to practice and explore to become a pro-smartphone photographer.  Study a little travel photography to get a sense of what the real pros do and what you like best.  Silence your inner critic and challenge yourself to take tons of photos, even when you think it won’t come out well.  You can give yourself assignments like: take 20 photos each hour while exploring the city or every time you take a picture, try at least 5 different angles.  The practice will help you understand what works and what doesn’t; plus, you might get a surprisingly good photo when you wanted to take a pass.

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