We have only a few days to go in the Phoneography Photo Assignment (go HERE to read the original post and the rules for the assignment). How are you coming along with your phoneography pics?

I thought I’d offer a few tips for improving your phoneography efforts. I hope this helps anyone who might be struggling with the assignment.

Know Your App(s)
Your smartphone has a default camera app. Chances are it’s fairly basic (although I’ve seen default apps that have a LOT of features). Figure out what that app can and cannot do. Learn how to use it, then branch out from there. There are TONS of camera replacement apps available, so try some of those out. They’re usually quite inexpensive and some are free. Some features to look for are layout grids, filters, levels, exposure and focus controls, The screenshot below is of a camera replacement app (645 PRO) that has just about as many controls available as my DSLR has. It’s quite complicated and I actually don’t use it very often but I thought I’d show you the far end of the “available features” spectrum.

Another type of photography app for smartphones is image editing apps. (Many if not most camera replacement apps do both to some extent). Again, there are TONS AND TONS of these types of apps that do ALL SORTS of things. Look for app recommendations for your type of phone on the internet. I’m a camera app fanatic and have WAY more apps on my phone than I could ever use. I recommend keeping your photography apps to a minimum (at least at first) and learn how to use them.

If the camera app you’re using includes a panorama function, try it out. It’s fun and you can get some really cool shots. Practice at work. Your co-workers will love you for it.

Tap to Focus
Most camera apps will automatically focus for you, but maybe not quite on the main subject you have in mind. Tap the screen over the object you intend to be your main subject to focus on a specific area of your choice. The exposure will also generally be set at that point, although some camera apps will allow you to separate out the focus and exposure points. (Exposure is more or less how light or dark your image will be).

If the camera app you’re using includes a zoom feature, you can pretty much ignore it. That’s an optical zoom. Using it will compromise the quality of your photo and It is not your friend. Moving closer to your subject if at all possible is always the best option. (Do not try this at the zoo or professional baseball games).

Turn Off Flash
In most cases, you’ll want to turn off the auto flash feature. The built-in flash on camera phones (and pretty much all cameras for that matter) throws out a very harsh and unflattering light. Camera phones typically not do handle low-light situations well so on occasion it MIGHT be necessary to use the flash, but you probably will not be pleased with the outcome. Along the same lines, don’t bother attempting phoneography at indoor concerts.

There is no substitute for good composition, no matter what type of camera you’re using. Composition is much too big of a topic to cover here so I highly recommend that you spend some time learning about good composition techniques and apply them to all of your picture-taking. A few basic composition tips might help, though.

  • Don’t shoot into the sun.
  • Don’t take a picture of a butterfly on a flower that is 50 feet away. Get (waaaaay) closer or don’t bother.
  • Don’t cut off people’s heads.
  • Shoot from interesting angles.
  • Cut the clutter… simpler is often better.
  • Fill the frame with your subject.
  • Be mindful of your backgrounds.
  • Learn about and use the Rule of Thirds.
  • Use gridlines or a level feature to keep your horizons straight.
  • Once you learn the rules, feel free to break them.

Edit Before Uploading
In most cases, editing is essential to good phoneography. Use editing apps of your choice to filter, frame, crop, straighten, saturate, sharpen, etc. your images before you post, upload, email, or otherwise share with anyone. And by all means, PLEASE do not upload every single photo you took at Junior’s 1st birthday party to Facebook. Thanks.

Don’t keep so many photos stored on your phone that you risk running out of storage space right at that crucial moment when you have the most amazing scene in front of you and only a smartphone on hand with which to capture it. Upload your phone photos to your computer on a regular basis and only keep the ones on your phone that you absolutely MUST share with every single person you meet.

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I hope these tips are useful to help you take the best smartphone photos you possibly can. Remember that your images for the Phoneography Assignment are due no later than Sunday evening, July 20. Email up to TEN of your best photos to me at 39DegN@gmail.com and put the word “Phoneography” in the subject line. Include captions if you wish and feel free to email any or all of your photos before Sunday.

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