With a smartphone, everyone can be sorta, kinda a photographer… except when it comes to snapping selfies! Selfies are usually taken in portrait mode, and portrait photography seem to be a hard one to master, especially to capture that moment or finding the most flattering angles.
While our phone cams may not compare to the shots taken by a DSLR, it’s certainly not stopping you from experimenting with it! Whether it’s capturing the children ripping off the gift wrappers on Christmas Day, a selfie with friends over dinner or heading out with a bunch of friends for a photoshoot to stock up on your next Instagram post, portrait photography is more than just clicking pictures of people.
Here are some tried-and-tested tips and hacks to up your smartphone photography game!
1. Look for Good Lighting
Lighting is one of the most crucial elements in photography. Natural light is your best source, but be aware of how harsh or dim it can be to your subjects. A simple tap on your subject’s face from your phone’s screen will also help to adjust your photo’s exposure.
2. Rule of Thirds
Turning on the gridlines will help you frame your shots, based on the rule of thirds - a composition principle that the subject should be lined along the lines or at the intersection to produce a more balanced image.
3. Leading Lines
It’s not everyday that you get to find a spot that has ‘leading lines’ to aid to your photos, but when you do, it captures the sense of depth and shows the design of the shot. So, leading lines are basically lines that follow through in your image from one end to the other. It can be staircases, train tracks, roads or buildings. Your human subject may not the main focus in the photo but there will be a lot of ‘likes’ in return.
You know how people are in love with Wes Anderson’s films? The way he uses symmetry in his movies are so beautiful and balanced. You can do the same with your photos. Find the imaginary line in your background that splits your image into two equal parts, like mirror images of each other. Center your subject right in the middle and you’ve got a compelling shot to be proud of.
5. Embrace Negative Space
Don’t try to crowd your picture with stuff. Less is more and when you have more than two-thirds of your picture that is empty, it naturally brings the attention to your subject. This helps to create a more impactful imagery.
1. Lock the Exposure
The exposure determines the brightness and focus of the image. On auto mode, the phone detects the subject, which may not be what you want to focus on. By locking it to a specific point, it helps to get the correct exposure you want for your subject, especially when it comes to taking outdoor photos. The sun will get in your way, so be patient and find the settings you are happy with.
2. Avoid using Digital Zoom
Whenever you can, zoom with your legs instead of your phone’s camera. Digital zoom affects the quality of your photo greatly and you lose a lot of detail when you do that. Instead, take a few steps closer to your subject to find the focus. You can always crop the photo later.
3. Documenting a Person Instead of Posing
See portrait photography as capturing the stories behind your subject with your photos. Sometimes, they will feel a little uncomfortable when posing in front of a camera. Talk to them, make them feel relax. Standby your phone on portrait mode and wait for the moment to tap on the shutter button. The more unaware they are, the more natural it’ll look on camera.
4. No Flash
Yes, forget the flash. The light in our smartphones is a small LED bulb that when activated, it produces a very harsh and glaring flash that makes your subjects look ill and overexposed. No escape for the red devil eyes too. Ask your friend or assistant to shine a torch for added lighting instead.
5. Experiment with Perspectives
It is your job as the photographer to find the best angle for your subject. It doesn’t have to be straight-on, eye-level shot, unless you are going for a passport photoshoot. Think about bird’s eye view or lying on your back to emulate the perspective of a child or dog.
1. Water Bottle Tripod
Getting a tripod is one of the first buys many aspiring photographers would want to get. While we definitely recommend that, you can use a water bottle while you wait for your shipment to arrive! This cheap and sturdy tripod is also applicable to times where you need an alternative urgently.
2. Pantyhose Portrait Softener
Credit: Photo Blog
Don’t be too quick to judge this method. Many people have tried this and it is actually a very effective and inexpensive tool to help you achieve a fine photo with soft lightings that downplays the appearance texture of the face. This DIY filter beats those you fiddle on an app to create a dreamy quality to your portraits.
3. Create Filter With Glasses
Spray water droplets on your pair of glasses and shoot through it to create a cool, whimsical picture. The effect is similar of those that people shoot against a window after a pouring rain. Feel free to clean parts of it if the droplets gets too distracting.
4. DIY Lens Filter
Another simple DIY hack is to create your own desired coloured filter! Simply take a piece clear plastic sheet and trace the circumference of a 50c coin. Cut it out and draw your own designs using various colour markers. Be a 4-year-old Picasso and let your imagination do the talking. When you’re happy with it, simply place it in front on the camera lens and go wild with it!
Remember, think out of the box and be as creative as you can be! The best thing about digital photography is that you can always delete and try again!