Taking good pictures with just your phone

Scrolling through social media sites, sometimes you can’t help but wonder: “How did this person capture such a great picture? I’m jealous!” Well, I’m here to share a few of my personal tips on capturing decent pictures wherever you explore. For this post, I will only focus on the use of a mobile phone’s camera. Most people nowadays own a mobile phone with a camera feature in one way or another. An excellent picture does not revolve around the use of a fancy camera, but it does rely on:

  1. Composition
    What to be included in a picture matters. A great picture is what that pleases the eye. How elements of the scene are arranged within the image frame defines the composition of a shot. The most basic and common composition principle that most photographers live by is the rule of third. With the rule of thirds, you have to imagine that the frame is split into nine equal sections by two horizontal and two vertical lines. The idea is that you position the main focal point of the image on one of the four points where these lines intersect. By achieving this, you give th subject in focus a more defined placement and keeps the photo interesting.
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  2. Distance
    How far should you be away from your subject matter in the shot? When taking landscape picture, you’ll definitely want to back up a few steps to get the whole scenery in your shot. But when you want to take a close up picture, do you stand a few inches away from the subject matter or would you stand far away and use zoom? I would suggest a little bit of both. Phone cameras have good megapixel features in itself but once zoomed, the picture might look grainy or blurred. The best way to take a close up shot with your phone camera is to stand a good distance away from the subject (let’s say a rose), then try closing in to the appropriate distance. Once you can see the rose details clearly, tap on your phone screen again to lock on the focus and snap the picture, leaving the background a little blurred for that depth effect.
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  3. Angle
    To take good picture, sometimes it is good to crouch down low to the ground or stand at a high place to take the picture in a bird eye’s view. We usually see things in eye-level, so it is nice to capture pictures in a unique angle, creating a new perspective. For this example, I have used the close up shot technique and laid down on the sand to capture this newborn sea turtle.
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  4. Filters
    Our world is colorful! Do not be afraid to choose a color as your main focus or even strip off all the colors and leave it in black and white. Monochrome pictures bring out the most subtle details in a photo and can make the picture look more lively than if it was colored. It does not matter if you change the filter before taking the picture or add on a filter when editing it, it is useful to play around with different filters to give it a “wow!” effect.
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  5. Steadiness
    All the above four tips will be meaningless if your hands are unsteady while taking a picture. When your hands are shaky, the camera phone will have a hard time in focusing on the subject matter and will fail to capture the shot in its utmost clarity. On newer Samsung phone cameras, there is a manual mode built into the camera and this allows users to manually adjust the shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed, the longer the camera needs in order to snap a shot. Thus, a steady hand is the key to win this shot. This feature is great when you and a bunch of friends have hand sparklers and would want to do light writing.
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Capturing a good picture does not 100% rely on the tools you use. All those fancy DSLRs can be a waste if the person behind the lens did not learn the skills to utilize it to its ultimate potential. Just remember that composition, distance, angle, filters, and steadiness makes a difference when capturing pictures, even if you only use the camera on your mobile phones!

Now, go and explore more places (especially in Milwaukee) for all those insta-worthy shots!

*All photos are taken by me throughout the years.




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