Whether by accident or aim, only having a smartphone camera on your travels doesn’t mean your pictures have to be terrible. You can turn most post-2008 mobile phones into respectable photographing devices, by treating them more like a camera, than a cell. Using some basic photography principles, enhancing apps, and selective hardware, your phone may put your point-and-shoot on permanent vacation.
Fundamentals Are Camera-Proof
A DSLR doesn’t make you a better photographer any more than buying a nice basketball gives you a better free-throw percentage. Whatever your craft, there are underlying principals to improve your skills regardless of the tools involved. For example: using the rule of thirds, not shooting directly into light sources, or practicing foul shots.
- How To Take Better Travel Photos Without Getting A Better Camera – No matter what you’re shooting with. Unless it’s a gun.
- 5 Ways To Take Better Sunset Photos When Traveling – Nature’s giving you the right light, here’s how to work with it.
Photographer Stephen Hamilton has more advice in the video below and says the problem most phone photographers have is using lighting effectively.
Blurring is often a common side effect of an unsteady hand on longer exposures in low light. Devices like the iPhone 4+, and others with straight edges, can be propped up to avoid camera-shake effects. A small tripod like the Case Star Octopus Style (height about 22 centimeters or 8.5 inches) gives you more versatility and doubles as a point-and-shoot tripod as well.
- Make Blur Work For You – Slow Shutter ($.99; iOS only) and Camera FV-5 Lite ($3.95; Android only) give you control over your smartphone’s shutter speed so you can create intentional motion effects and capture low-light images using a tripod.
Also, when holding your phone to take a picture, use two hands with your elbows close in to your body for stability. Alternatively, try shooting with one hand while using the other to hold your elbow for a steady shot.
Amplify With These Apps
When there aren’t enough photons around to illuminate the people and things you want to photograph, Night Camera (free; Android only) and Night Cap ($.99; iOS only) can automatically brighten and reduce noise in dark shots.
- Engage Manual Settings – Although it’s almost intuitive to use automatic modes on your mobile phone, Camera+ ($1.99; iOS) and aforementioned Camera FV-5 Lite enable a number of manual options like ISO control, white balance, and self timers.
- Shoot In High-Dynamic Range (HDR) – Many of my pictures on foXnoMad are HDR (using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10) however you can achieve a similar effect using ProHDR and ProHDR Camera ($1.99; iOS and Android).
- Panorama – Check to see if your phone is already capable of panoramic shots, if not, Photaf (free; Android) and 360 Panorama ($.99; iOS) can take care of that for you.
Put Your Phone On Photographic Steroids
For less than $10 you can equip your Android or iPhone with a simple kit of fish-eye, micro, and wide angle lenses that attach directly to your phone. Remember to change your focus to take decent travel photos and clean any lens – built-in or otherwise – with a micro-fiber cloth and cleaning solution on a regular basis.