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Photographer Jeff Ross looks at how technology has moved on and how to get the best out of your mobile phone camera.

About 62.9 percent of the world’s population own some sort of mobile phone. They make and take calls, surf the internet, take photographs and much more on a piece of technology that can be bought for as little as EUR 100.

Modern smartphones have such good cameras and software packages that they have helped revitalise non-professional photography. For the people who use photography to share their lives on social media or for sending quick images to a business colleague, they take a picture and move it instantly. It would be a fair assumption that, for many people, smart cameras are as equally important as smartphones.

Digital cameras have removed most of the mystique from photography but with a smartphone you have even less to worry about. There is no need to worry about shutter speeds, lens apertures and various other photographic terminologies left over from the 1800’s. You can just concentrate on your chosen subject. Having said that there are a few simple rules that will definitely improve the photographs you take.

Tap the screen for the light reading

Give the lens a clean

Smartphones spend most of their lives in pockets and bags gathering dust, fingerprints and goodness knows what else. So try cleaning the lens occasionally, preferably using a microfibre cloth. Your pictures will show an immediate improvement.

Use lighting to your advantage

Good lighting will also have a dramatic effect on your results so pay attention to your light. Shade is, generally, the easiest light to control outdoors so it’s always worth looking for a shady but well-lit location.  Indoors, you could try window-light illumination which gives attractive results.  Stand with your back to the window or side-on so your subject is lit by the soft window light.  It’s always more attractive than flash, although you need to keep your smartphone still which can be helped by leaning on something.


Hold the camera up close for detail

Zoom with your legs

The zoom function doesn’t work in the same way as a normal camera because it is software based and, therefore, you are just watering down the quality of your finished image.   The best zoom is your legs so get up close and personal to your subject.

Avoid flash

If possible, don’t use flash at all. Typically, the flash lens will sit next to the camera’s lens, which seldom gives a nice result. Of course, there are situations where flash is necessary but, for the most part, as a mobile smartphone photographer you ought to use natural lighting if you can.



The rule of thirds

Professional photographers still follow the “rule of thirds” first described by artists in 1797. It suggests that you shouldn’t place whatever you are photographing right in the centre of the frame, the theory behind it states that photos are more interesting when their subjects straddle imaginary lines that divide the photograph into thirds, both horizontally and vertically.  If your subject is off centre in a smartphone you can simply tap the object on the screen to focus and take a light reading and voila.  I should say that photography can be an art form and the “rule of thirds” is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule.  As with any form of art, knowing the rules is important – as is breaking them!  Although it’s best to know and master the rules before you break them.

Move about

If you take all your pictures from the same height they will all look the same. Change your angle, try kneeling, sitting, or standing on top of something to add variety. For example, when photographing kids or pets, getting down to their level will usually bring a big improvement. Even taking some pics at an angle will add a little dynamism to your results.

Practice and play with the settings

Practice makes perfect and improving your photo skills is no different, so the more you try the better you will get. Even if you have no desire to play with the various options your smartphone came with, taking more shots will help boost your creativity and cost you nothing. However, you will fill up your smartphone or SD card faster, although that’s easily remedied with the delete button. Nevertheless taking more photos, and learning from your mistakes, is one way to take better pictures.

Position your subject off centre

Try the HDR setting for landscapes

Give HDR a go

When you’re ready, or have a spare moment, try browsing through your smartphones camera settings. You can alter your mode and try various other options including High Dynamic Range. HDR is exposing for the shadows, mid tones and highlight in one picture although you will generally hear 3 exposures. It’s not for everyone and is not effective on moving subjects but it’s worth trying as it will give you a different result to landscapes and low-light scenes.

If you are lucky enough to have a high end phone you will find you have even more control over your settings, although you will never have the flexibility that a DSLR gives you.  The good news is that whichever smartphone you have, just a few simple things will give you greater control over what you want to achieve.

Happy memory making.


Details of photographers and video production companies throughout Gironde, Dordogne, Lot et Garonne, Lot, Gers, Tarn et Garonne and north Haute Garonne can be found in our website Business Directory under Business Services. 

Images: Jeff Ross and Shutterstock

First published in the July/August 2018 issue of The Local Buzz