It’s a fact. Smartphones have taken the lead in everyday photography. Powerful, portable and easy-to-use, they have democratized photography for real.
Like billions of people feeding social networks everyday, most yearbookers are now using smartphones for their yearbook photos. Why wouldn’t they? They’re just great!
But having the best technologies at your fingertips doesn’t make you a professional photographer. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of average quality photos in school yearbooks: too pixelated, too dark, over-exposed or blurry, etc. How sad is this for your school memories?
In this post, you will discover awesome smartphone photo tricks that will help you improve your photography skills and make your yearbook photos rock!12 smartphone photo tips to improve your skills and avoid bad surprises when printing your #yearbook Click To Tweet
Tip #1: Know your smartphone camera and choose the right mode
Most smartphones come with multiple camera modes. As they all have their own specialities, I highly recommend you try every mode. Seeing and understanding the results will help you decide which mode is the best depending on your needs.
When possible, set the highest resolution available. We all have been tempted once to use low resolution to save space on our memory card and take more shots. But it’s definitely not a good idea: low resolution images will give you poor results when printing them.
Make sure to use the whole frame and avoid square or 16/9 modes, they just crop your photo by default. In the example below, you can understand why it’s better to crop your image when you design your pages rather than doing it in your camera presets… On the right, here is a preview of how you could crop your photo directly in our online yearbook builder.
To go further. Some smartphones offer advanced modes like sport, cloudy, night, ISO parameters, etc. If not available on yours, you can still purchase additional apps that will do the job for you. Here are a few examples to find on your app store: ProCamera and Camera+ for IOS, ProCapture Free for Android, or Nokia Camera for Nokia’s phones on Windows.
Tip #2: Never use the front camera
By default, front cameras always have a bad quality. This mode is fine when you want to post a status on Facebook or when you want to send a funny photo to your friends by MMS.
But using your front camera for yearbook photos is too risky. There is a 90% chance your photos won’t be suitable for professional printing…
Tip #3: Use the HDR mode, only when it’s needed.
With HDR mode on, your phone camera simultaneously takes 2 or 3 shots with different exposures, before combining them into a single image. This is very useful when you have to shoot a scene with different levels of light or high contrasts. This helps you get a wider variety of details you couldn’t have with a single photo.
Below, you will see I took a picture of an information sign in a national park. Notice that, when the HDR is off, the sky looks burnt and we can’t see what’s written on the sign. With HDR on, we get a lot more details: the sky is blue and the information readable.
Warning: HDR mode won’t work on action shots. Your subject has to be static.
Tip #4: Focus on the right thing.
Depending on the distance between you and your subject, but also on the other elements that are present in the frame, you need to focus on your subject. The depth of field allows you to highlight your subject and tone down the rest of the composition.
On your smartphone, simply touch your screen where your subject is and your subject will be in focus. You can see the difference below. On the left, the subject is the plant and the dog is blurry. On the right it’s crystal clear.
Tip #5: Get yourself comfortable.
OK, your phone is pretty light and the temptation to try acrobatic shots is high. Well, you can try, but I would definitely recommend comfortable postures. It’s very easy to move just a little bit and miss the shot.
To avoid bad movements, blurry photos or even to drop it by accident, you have to hold your phone properly, with both hands. It will also help you concentrate.
If possible, try to lean or stand your phone on a wall or anything that would help you stay still. A D.I.Y tripod being a great solution too (check out the video at the end of this post).
Tip #6: Clean your lens on a regular basis.
This one seems pretty obvious… But how often do you clean your smartphone lens? Stored in your pocket or your bag, going from hand to hand, your smartphone gets dusty or greasy. Before using your camera, give your phone lens a wipe, you might see an significant difference!
Tip #7: Follow the light.
Whether it is the sun or any other kind of light, you need to use it to light up your subject. If the light source is behind your subject, your subject will be dark or your photo will be burnt. If there is not enough light, you definitely need to bring some to make your photo viable.
If you are using your smartphone flash, stay close to your subject. If not, your flash will be useless.
Tip #8: Never use the zoom. Get closer.
Smartphone cameras provide zooms, but you should never use them. Basically, using the zoom crops your photo and kills its quality.
Maybe the result will be OK on your screen, but you can forget high quality printing. To understand why, just check out the example below. On the left, I used the zoom. On the right, I just got closer. Do you see the difference?
Tip #9: Use the grid mode and apply the rule of thirds.
Activate the grid mode in your smartphone settings. First, it will help you avoid unexpected angles. Second it will help you add a professional touch to your photo, thanks to the rule of thirds.
What is the rule of thirds? Well, this theory affirms that human eye is naturally more interested by images divided into thirds (vertical and horizontal). So, to make the most of this fact, professional photographers often place their subject at the intersections of the thirds. This allows the reader to have a better view of the environment the subject is evolving in, and help the author to guide the reader’s eye in the story.
Tip #10: Think before you click.
Keep in mind that your photos will be published in the yearbook, with other images, titles and texts. Here are basic questions to ask yourself about your photo composition:
– What is the real subject of my photo?
– Is there something problematic between me and my subject? (an object, a tree branch, am I too close, etc.)
– Is there something at the background that could harm the story of my picture? (is the background too busy for the subject in the photo?)
– Could I use the environmemt to guide my reader’s eye? (something geometric, obvious lines or curves, etc.)
When you have all the answers, just try multiple angles and take several shots for each. It’s better to have too many rather than not enough… sometimes, having a selection to choose from will save you time (and conflicts).#Yearbook Photography tip: try multiple angles and take several shots. Click To Tweet
Below are two examples of using lines and curves to direct people’s attention.
Tip #11: Don’t use filters directly, keep it for later.
Even if photo filters provided on your phone are great, you shouldn’t use them right away for your yearbook photos. Indeed, your yearbook will be filled with a lot of photos from other students and if everyone applies their own filters, this could be a problem for the global visual consistency of the book.
To solve this problem and help you add a personal touch, you can use the photo filters available in our yearbook creator. Fusion Yearbooks offers a large selection of filters for your photographs.
Tip #12: Awesome tricks you should try for your yearbook photos.
Here is a fantastic video from a famous photography website that I definitely recommend.
I’m pretty sure you will love these three:
Tip #1: panorama sequence
Tip #5: reflector
Tip #6: tripod and shutter cable (seen above)
What you should have learnt in this post…
– Your phone camera offers multiple modes. Use them all but make sure you use the whole frame and the best resolution available.
– Have a comfortable posture to take great shots.
– Check if your lens is clean before taking photos.
– Take advantage of the light, don’t work against it.
– Your photo composition has to guide your reader’s eyes.
– Remember your subject is not alone in the frame.
– Apply photo filters when designing in our online yearbook builder, not when you take the shot.
You’re almost a pro now! I can’t wait to see your photos. Oh and if you have any other cool smartphone photo tricks, feel free to share them below with the rest of the yearbook community.