Since the release of the world’s first camera phone in 2000, it was beyond reality to think that a phone would feature similar capabilities to that of a professional camera. But smartphone photography has improved, spectacularly, and has introduced millions of people in to the world of photography and imagery.
Whether it’s a professional DSLR or the latest flagship smartphone model, it’s important to remember that your best camera is the one you have with you. With over 50% of the world owning a smartphone, a camera is now just an arms length away.
The features and possibilities are enormous for a smartphone, making it more than just a simple point and shoot camera. Below, we take a look at just some of the great accessories and features that can improve your smartphone photography.
1. In-house Smartphone photography features
2017 has seen many new and brilliant smartphones enter the market, with such models as the Google Pixel 2 and iPhone X scoring impressively in the DxOMark Mobile scores. With new releases come upgrades to just about every technical aspect of a phone, and that includes the camera. So we take a look at some of the key features to what makes a great smartphone camera.
Megapixels: Yes megapixels are a big deal, but no matter how many megapixels a smartphone may boast, always remember that this is just one of many turning cogs inside a phone’s camera that helps produce the final image. For example, it is the f/2.4 aperture telephoto camera and phase-detection auto focus that puts the Apple iPhone X above the iPhone 8 Plus.
Lenses: Smartphone camera lenses have made fantastic improvements over the past few years, with many flagship models featuring dual-lens systems. This has resulted in aperture improvements, auto-focus details, close up photography and incredible video-capabilities.
Focus: Auto-focus will automatically be enabled on your camera app, but we may want to override it with some manual focusing for a sharper image. To do so, simply tap the screen where your subject is in frame and you’ll see the focus shift to your subject.
Exposure: Whether you’re using your phone’s pre-installed camera app or one you have downloaded, it may be possible to adjust the exposure of your shot manually. You may notice, when setting the focus, that the camera uses this to change to your scene’s exposure. This can be helpful in some cases, but disruptive in others. For example, if the focus is in a darker area of the frame, this overall image could become over-exposed.
Composition: The composition of an image, rule of thirds being the most commonly know technique, is as vital as setting the focus and exposure. This is where you can really make your scene visually appealing. Many smartphone camera’s allow for a grid to be placed over the top of the screen (Have an iPhone? Turn this on in camera settings) to help achieve the rule of thirds method. Simply position the important elements in your scene along the horizontal and vertical lines of the grid.
HDR (high dynamic range): Introduced to camera phones a few years ago, High Dynamic Range is designed to get the best out of an image. Working on a light to dark ratio, HDR mode will capture three images at different exposures. The resulting image should now look more like what your eyes see, rather than what the camera sees.
2. Smartphone photography apps
You may be happy with using the pre-installed camera app on your phone, but you may also be missing out on some fantastic techniques and effects that other downloadable apps offer. Below, we have handpicked the most creative and effective camera apps that are available today for both IOS and Android devices.
ProCam (iOS): A step up from the iPhone camera app in terms of features is ProCam 5. You can control the white balance, manual focus, ISO and shutter speed. As well as being able to shoot in raw you can also choose between shooting 360 photos, slow shutter speed photos, burst mode, portrait, night mode, video and time lapse.
Hydra (iOS): Unlike Pro Cam, Hydra takes a different route when it comes to manual camera control. This app specialises in tricky lighting while excelling at HDR photos and videos and low light situations.
Slow Shutter Cam (iOS): This app is truly one for the creative types. Slow Shutter Cam specialises in long exposures. By choosing between three shooting modes: Motion Blur, Light Trail or Low Light, you can produce some truly wonderful imagery. You can adjust the light sensitivity, blur strength or noise reduction, as well as shutter speed and ISO.
Camera Zoom FX (Android): Here, you’ll get manual controls for features like ISO, shutter speed, and exposure. There are also filters, HDR mode, various photo modes, and more.
DSLR Camera (Android): This is one of the better manual camera apps available for android. It features a number of manual controls including white balance, light metering, a live histogram, ISO, and more.
3. Get creative
Thanks to ever-improving software and technology we can capture the night sky in time-lapse, take professional looking portrait pictures of our pets, and see the world in 4k slow motion. Here is a handful of fantastic features for getting creative with your smartphone photography.
Slow-motion: This is a relatively new feature to the smartphone camera, as well as slow-motion capabilities from third party apps. With increasing technology in both the phone’s camera and processor, we can now produce slow-motion frame rates similar to those found in a professional DSLR camera.
Time-lapse: Not many features can compare to how soothing and visually appealing a time lapse video can be. From cloud formations, night skies and city scapes, time-lapse videos can be spectacular. Here’s a creative tip: Import your time-lapse into a movie maker app and add some uplifting background music for a professional looking video.
Portrait/Live Focus mode: 2017 has been all about ‘Portrait’ photography on a smartphone. By placing the subject centrally in the frame, portrait mode will produce a bokeh effect to the background. Smartphones like the Google Pixel 2 and iPhone X have really nailed portrait mode this year!
Panorama: This is a long time favourite for capturing landscapes, sport arenas and much more. The panorama mode on your smartphone’s camera app will always be a useful tool. By slowly turning your phone and capturing several images, your phone stitches the images together to produce a professional looking wide-angle shot.
4. Steady the shot
With great improvements to image stabilisation, the need for a sturdy tripod can be questioned. But for video shooters and time-lapse enthusiasts, tripods can be a game-changer.
A set up of the Joby GorillaPod 1K Tripod with Ball Head with our own Phone Photography Holder may be just what any video-aspiring photographer needs to take their 4K video footage from amateur to professional.
SEE MORE An introduction to Joby GorillaPods
Hate them or love them, selfies have become hugely popular with the smartphone photography crowd. Seen all over social media and captured at landmarks and events all around the world.
You may think that selfies are old news, but the improvements to front-facing cameras are keeping the selfie craze alive. Whether it’s at the dinner table on christmas day or a weekend-away in Paris, what better way to utilising these great front-facing cameras than with a Selfie stick and remote shutter.
BONUS STEP: Look after that lens
Like you would your professional camera, it’s important to look after your phone. Simple treatments can be needed to keep your smartphone’s camera capabilities at full capacity. A cleaning cloth, like the Lee Filters Cleaning Cloth, is always a handy tool to avoid smudges and dirt when shooting. There not much worse than having that once in a moment shot being ruined by a greasy fingerprint.