A Checklist for Taking the Perfect Photo

Nowadays you can take top quality imagery with your phone without the need for expensive lenses or heavy DSLR cameras. The convenience alone of mobile photography is enough to warrant learning a few tips and tricks to improve your photography. Below are a few points to consider to help you on your journey to bettering your mobile photography skills.

Photo Composition

  • Have a clear subject of your photo. If there’s too much going on without a strong subject, your eyes will not know where to focus on the image.
  • Change your perspective for more interesting shots. Get down low – really low and shoot upwards, get up high and get more wide angle shots, or get in really close. If a shot isn’t working, try getting closer. This reduces distractions and helps the eye focus on the subject.
  • Use leading lines. Using natural or man-made lines will help the viewer guide their eyes through the image. These lines start at the edges of your frame and go inwards.
  • Use the rule of thirds (or don’t). For a square aspect ratio, as Instagram uses, centring your subject can make for a stronger composition.
  • Use white space. In designer terms, white space is used to focus your attention on the main subject of the page. Apple uses this a lot, with their design aesthetic utilising a lot of open space to focus attention on their products. This principle can be used with photos as well, where you can have your subject placed in such a way as the background is either faded and very far away or plain/repetitive in some way (like grass, the sky or a wall).
  • Frame your subject using nearby objects. For example, shooting through a gap in the branches of a tree will help frame your subject with the leaves of the tree serving as a natural frame in the foreground of your shot.
  • Get up close. If you’re finding your composition is too busy, try getting in closer and focusing on a smaller area. For instance, instead of taking a photo of a tree, try focusing in close on some of the flowers in the tree.
  • Get down low. Take more interesting images by lying down and getting images that show the world from the perspective that’s close to the ground.
  • Don’t use the digital zoom. It reduces the quality and resolution of your image. If your subject to take up more of the frame, either walk closer to it or use a mobile telephoto lens and attach it to your phone.

Optimise Camera Settings

  • Turn on the grid. This setting will help you line up the horizon on shots as well as improve your composition by showing a guideline for the rule of thirds.
  • Turn on HDR (High Dynamic Range). This setting will allow your camera to take multiple exposures for every photo you take – an overly exposed photo for the shadows, a neutral image to expose for the mid-tones, and a darker image to expose for the highlights. It then combines the exposures into one image that has detail in both the shadows and highlights.

Create Depth

  • You can have a large depth of field where your whole shot is in focus, or you can have a smaller depth of field where only a portion of your image is in focus with either the foreground or background is blurred. Tap on the subject of your photo to set your subject as the point of focus and leave the background blurred.
  • Create depth in your photo by showing the ground leading up to the subject. This creates foreground, midground and background thereby adding layers to your image.

Use Light

  • Shoot during the golden hour. The golden hour which is the hour before sunrise or sunset. The light is softer and you don’t get any harsh shadows that you would get if shooting during midday hours.
  • Shoot when it’s overcast. Clouds help soften the sunlight and reduce the harshness of shadows.
  • If you’re taking photos of people during peak daylight hours, position them in the shade as this will help disperse the light around the face and avoid harsh shadows.
  • Photos taken in low light conditions will have more noise.
  • Use backlight. Position the sun or your main source of light behind your subject to create silhouettes. Bring the exposure down manually to achieve this effect.

Tips and Tricks

  • Tell stories with your photos. Include symbolism and iconography to add meaning to each photo you take.
  • Use Pano Mode in landscape. Pano isn’t just for wide landscapes. Turn your phone horizontally and use the camera to pan up from the base of a structure to the top, thereby creating an extra tall image. Go slowly and try to be as steady as possible. This is a good way to get the full height of a building when you are too close and can’t move further back.
Photo by Ozgu Ozden on Unsplash
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