Friday, April 4, 2014

How to take better photos (or successful selfie) using your smartphones.

I used to own two digital cameras, a Nikon D3000 and a Canon S100. I love the latter as it takes superb pictures without the heaviness of a DSLR. It's a point-and-shoot camera but it can take DSLR-quality photos. I sold both cameras for monetization purposes and felt guilty after that. I felt like I invested so much on these gadgets and eventually failed to make the most out of it. But it didn't take so long for me to move on.

Then came the smartphone. The advent of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones paved the way to the evolution of digital photography. Digital camera once ruled the market because it ultimately killed one of the greatest limitation of photography - film. People suddenly became obsessed with speed to process kind of photography. Gone were the days of patiently waiting for the development of films. We wanted to see photos seconds after we took it. Smartphones eventually make this desire even more possible and digital cameras are now suffering noticeable decline in sales as smartphones become more and more sophisticated and at par with digital camera's photo quality.

Summer is officially officially here and this season can also be synonymous with the word vacation. And vacation implies adventure or travel and travel requires endless captures of beautiful moments.

It's time to take your precious smartphone and get it into shooting action and follow these steps on how to take better photos or selfie.

1. CLEAN YOUR LENS: A lot of people take this for granted. A lot of our grainy and blurry shots are by-products of smudged lenses and even smartphone cases that block the lenses and the light that illuminates your subject. A lot of bulky smartphone cases would prevent your lenses to be touched by your hand and will make it susceptible to smudges but it could also give more shadows and improper lighting to the subjects so better yet choose a perfect casing that doesn't give your lens so much trouble.

2. LIGHTING IS AS BASIC AS TAKING THE SHOT: A lot of people are not wary of the quality of photos they share. They don't mind if their photos or selfies are grainy or dark as long as they can share any picture on a regular basis. While we love to see your freedom of expression, do also recognize the fact that there are a lot of photo enthusiasts out there who has an eye for details and consider bad photos as an inevitable pet-peeve. Low-light condition yields grainy photos, and a lot (or maybe even ALL) of smartphone nowadays has a poor ISO-settings and couldn't adjust to low-light conditions. You have to find the best spot where there is a better source of light or better yet use a flash (though it will make your shot less natural and even more dark as recent smartphones are still lacking a true-tone or even a dependable flash.)

Harness the power of natural lighting.
I love taking outdoor photos because sunlight is a perfect illuminator.

3. BY ALL MEANS, KEEP YOUR HANDS STEADY: You cannot bring a tripod every time, so it will take a significant amount of patience to take a quality photo. Blurry shots are courtesy of a shaking hand. So practice taking a shot with a steady-arm. Relax your muscles and refrain from doing unnecessary movements. It wouldn't take a minute to take a shot so please keep your fingers from trembling.

A lot of people also don't know that smartphones allow you to use your physical volume keys as an alternative shutter. This is much recommended as this would give you a more relax arm positions and it will eventually give you better shots. Try it. In fact, you can also use your headset volume keys as a shutter (this is for iPhone by the way)

4. ENABLE THE HIGH-RES, DON'T BE TOO OBSESSED WITH BUILT-IN FILTERS: Instagram helped us to transform our mediocre photos into share-worthy pieces of art. Admit it, you have your favorite filters, and choosing the right filter can be very stressful sometimes. The best thing to do is actually not to use a filter. High-quality photos, taken using a high-res settings with a perfect exposure and proper lighting are still better than an over-filtered shot.

Use a dependable photo-editing app. My favorite is Adobe Photoshop Express (Free) and iPhoto ($4.99 in Apple Store) because both has capability to tweak contrast, exposure, saturation, brightness and color in a user-friendly manner. That's all you need to create a stunning photo with the help of post-processing apps.

No filter. Closer to subject. Natural light. Used volume key as a shutter and in HDR (High-Def Resolution)

5. MACRO, RESTRAINT IN ZOOM, TAP SUBJECT TO ILLUMINATE: My apologies but this tip is inclined towards iPhone users. I have to express my preference because I have been using an iPhone for three years now and I believe it's an excellent camera phone. If you are using an iPhone, be aware that it has a capability to shoot in macro (if you're not sure about this, take a look at the photo below)

Took this using an iPhone 5. Used Early Bird filter in IG. Adjusted the color saturation a bit in Adobe Photoshop Express. Who says you can't practice depth of field in smartphone

Please don't abuse your digital zoom tool also. It has a threshold and there is a marker that informs you that you are already zooming to a maximum distance. You can use your feet to get closer to a subject if you wish to get a clearer shot.

Also in iPhone, you can tap an area before taking a shot in order to illuminate it better. Use it if you wish to lighten a shadowy/dark area but be patient enough as it doesn't give you a better lighting most of the time.

There you go, I bet there are more tips and tricks out there but the most important tip is to shoot to express and not to impress. Instagram used to be a photo-sharing app but now it has instantly transformed into an online shop or a selfie depository. Harness the power of your smartphone camera to produce a stunning photo worthy of being shared.

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