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  • Writer's pictureScot Oppenlander

5 Tips For Taking Better Pictures With Your Phone

Photo Courtesy of Wix

Taking good pictures is hard. There are so many factors involved in taking a photo that it can be difficult to understand what will make them look good. Luckily, I have lots of experience with photography, and I’m here to show you some tips that can make the pictures you take with your phone look better than ever!

1) Use the Rule of Thirds

Using the rule of thirds is one of the easiest ways to make your photos look good. When used properly, the rule of thirds adds balance to your photos and makes them easier for the eye to process. To use the rule of thirds, you strategically place elements in your photo before you take it. This is sometimes called “framing.” Take a look at the grid below:

Image courtesy of Scot Oppenlander

This is a rule of thirds grid. It’s common to see a grid similar to this one overlaying the image when you look through a camera. It shows where in the frame your subject should be placed by cutting it into thirds. Put your subject, or other important elements of the photo, on one of the four places the lines intersect.

You can align the horizon on one of the horizontal lines of the grid to add further balance to your photo. The same can be done with any vertical elements (such as a standing person or a tree) by placing them along one of the two vertical lines on the thirds grid.

Photo Courtesy of Wix

Like almost any rule in artistic expression, the rule of thirds was made to be broken. Not all photos that utilize the rule of thirds are necessarily good, and you can take amazing photos with a centered subject. However, I strongly recommend using a camera app that has a rule of thirds grid to help you frame your photos. The default Apple camera app has an option to enable a grid, and there are other apps and tutorials out there for adding one to your phone.

2) Zoom With Your Feet!

I learned to zoom with my feet from one of my professors. He taught me that when you shoot video or take photos, you should zoom with your feet before you zoom with your camera. That means instead of using your phone’s camera to zoom in on your subject, physically get as close to your subject as you need. Then, you don’t have to zoom in as much. Zooming in excessively makes the feed on your screen shaky, and that can make it difficult to frame your photo before taking it. In addition, overly zoomed-in photos can appear grainy. Zooming with your feet eliminates these problems.

Photo Courtesy of Wix

3) Use an Editing App to Make Small Edits

Lots of photos can be greatly improved by making small adjustments. The best way to make these adjustments is to use a photo editing app. There’s a plethora of apps available for photo editing, and you can download them on your phone or a computer. Below are some of the edits I recommend making to photos to fix some of the mistakes I see most often.

  • Exposure: Adjusting the exposure of your photos makes them brighter or darker. You would use this edit to brighten a photo that is too dark, or darken a photo that is too bright.

  • Contrast: This adjusts the color difference between the lightest colors and darkest colors in a photo. Adding contrast means the dark colors become darker and the light colors become lighter, furthering the difference between the lights and darks. Lowering contrast does the exact opposite, it makes the lights darker and the darks lighter, closing the difference between the lights and darks. This creates an almost black-and-white look. You can slightly adjust contrast to add vibrance to your photos.

  • Highlights: Adjusting the highlights of a photo adjusts the brightest parts of it. Raising the highlights makes the brightest parts of a picture brighter, and lowering it makes them darker. I usually use this edit to darken small areas of photos that are too bright.

  • Shadows: This is the exact opposite of adjusting highlights. This adjusts the brightness of the darkest parts of a photo. Raising shadows makes the darkest parts of the photo brighter, and lowering shadows makes them darker. Similarly to the highlights edit, you usually use shadows to brighten parts of a photo that are too dark.

You can make these edits, or ones very similar to them, on a wide variety of photo editing apps, including the default Apple Photos app.

4) Portrait Mode (Apple Users Only)

Portrait mode is one of the options you see when you take a photo in the default Apple camera app. When you take a photo using portrait mode, it automatically blurs the background of the photo while leaving the subject clear. This makes the eye focus on the subject. As the name suggests, you should use this function when you take photos that are similar to a portrait: pictures of a person or a single subject.

Photo Courtesy of Wix

5) Take Better Action Shots Using Bursts

Maybe you want a great picture of your kiddo playing in their soccer game, or maybe you want to take a photo of your dog chasing a ball. Either way, it’s likely your subject is moving very fast, making it hard to get a good picture.

The key to taking action shots is to take lots of them in fast bursts. You will probably end up with a lot of photos that aren’t very good, but you will also get some great shots! Taking photos in bursts prevents your subject from being blurry. It also helps you get a photo with your subject in a nice position, even though they may be moving quickly. In fact, some cameras have a burst setting just for this purpose.

You can easily take pictures in a burst on your phone. In most camera apps, you can hold down the “take picture” button and it will start taking photos in a burst.

Photo Courtesy of Wix

Try out these tips and start taking great photos!

Scot Oppenlander is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho studying communication with a journalism emphasis. He is in his last semester of his bachelor's degree, and he plans to attend law school in the near future.

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