Mobile Photography Hacks that You Don’t Want to Miss

mobile photography

Mobile photography is a trending topic. It has also lured many photographers and they’ve started using mobile first to capture the moment. It is a common myth that great shots are output of expensive gears. No doubt a full frame DSLR has the capacity but these mobile phones are not any less in their abilities. Even the mobile app ecosystem is supportive in redefining mobile photography. With some really cool mobile apps those shoots in RAW, there’s much wider scope to experiment your mobile camera like a pro. Let’s go step by step learning some basic hacks.

“One of the common misconception about good photographs is must’ve been taken from a high-end camera. But that good photograph appealed to you because it might be telling a story. A good photograph might’ve captured a rare moment. Photographs maybe  good because it reminds you of something.”

Mobile photography centred around Welcome236 since the very beginning. Welcome236 has been evolving in parallel with the mobile camera technology. From Nokia N8 to iPhone 7 Plus, the Instagram account @welcome236_ has pictures of Chhattisgarh from many mobile gears. Leaving the depth defining equipment aside, the focus of Welcome236 has always been the journey. 

First Hack – Use RAW or DNG Format

Mobile camera usually save pictures in JPEG format. JPEG is compressed file format but little less useful during post-edit. RAW and DNG (Adobe’s new format) gives way better results on post edit. These file formats stores shadows, highlights and colour information way better. All mobile cameras might not have an option of storing in RAW. Built-in camera app in Adobe Lightroom (DNG format) or Camera Plus Pro (RAW) support these formats.

Second Hack – The Grip

For landscape videos, the most stable grip is holding the mobile from the border. You get four fingers’ hold on the top and a thumb support on the bottom. It’s easy to switch hand this way. It’s natural grip that we use to hold anything. 

Easiest way to hold your phone is with four fingers and a thumb like natural grip. The only recommended way while taking a video to avoid fatigue. You can easily swipe through other hand as well.

But if your phone doesn’t have a dedicated camera button then it’s tough to take still shots this way. iPhone users are well aware of this dilemma. Clamping fingers is the second-best option. While your small finger supports the base, the index finger grips the border from the top. Middle and the ring finger tries to bear the weight of phone. Thumb taps on the on-screen shutter. A few controls are within the reach of thumb this way. In addition, the pivot joint of wrist helps exploring new angles at the shot.

Clamping a smaller phone is easier and for a plus size phones it gets challenging. But it’ll get better with practice. Holding this way for still shot gives you freedom to try many different angles to a shot. It also helps you to reach out to some basic functions of your phone and the shutter button easily.

Or this small attachment below can help you solve the situation. It is a simple mobile grip that you can buy from Amazon and all you need to do is stick on the phone. When you want to shoot, just pop it out and you’re good to go.

Third Hack – Playing with On Screen Options

There are primarily three options that you need to work out on each image. 

Focus

First is the focus ie usuall blank square or a white square when the subject is out of focus and turns yellow (iPhones) or green (androids) when the subject is in focus. Some mobile cameras auto-detect the focus point. Touch the subject on screen that you want to focus. If the square changes it’s colour and that part of image appears sharper, you’ve successfully focused. There’s a lot one can experiment with focus right from landscape view where the focus is at infinite to portrait or macro where one wrong focus can spoil the whole shot. Click on these images to get a preview of focus.

Exposure Level

Second option that you must practice is the exposure level. Once you’ve locked the subject in focus, move your finger up or down on the screen. You’ll notice lens pulling in more or less light respectively. Setting an exposure level becomes important especially in low light condition – night shots or low lit areas. Another instance is when you want to capture hue of sunset. Right exposure level can do the magic during sunset.

Grid Lines

Lastly the grid lines. Mostly, grid lines are not visible by default so you need to navigate to camera settings and toggle it on. With this, your camera screen is divided into nine boxes. Now this will help you build the idea of space. You can easily judge how much of your screen has subject in it and the surrounding. Remember when a friend took a photo of you out of an excitement in which you’re as small as a dot. It happens with everybody, but hopefully not after the gridlines are on. But that’s not the major function of these lines. Because the lens is designed in a particular way, the intersection on each of these lines produces the sharpest image. Photographers know it by the rule of 3rd.

So if you’re in love with those eyes, dimples or teeth maybe… place them on one these intersection and click. Another use of these grid lines comes handy while taking perspective shots. When you want to follow the natural lines in your shot or you want to align repetitive design to create a pattern, these grid lines help a lot.

grid lines
Grid lines divides the screen into 9 equal parts. The intersection of these lines will produce the sharpest image attributes. You can also use this grids to figure out the space your subject gets on the picture. The faded yellow square at the centre is focus box. The aligned white and yellow plus sign ‘+’ indicates if camera is parallel to plane.

Fourth Hack – Actively Analysing Screen

The fourth hack connects less to the brain and more to soul. Mobile photography offers a large screen instead of a viewfinder, displaying the exact output. Now that you see what you get, try to make the best out of it. Look at the screen closely and ask yourself is this the most interesting shot? Can it get more interesting? Try different angles, focus areas, go macro, walk closer or walk away. Try different time of the day, golden hour or the evening hues. In fact, go out of the box and make optical illusions.

The screen gives you an amazing option to meticulously work on probabilities. After all that you’ve learned, it all burns down to this. Experiment a lot and every time when you feel your eyeballs expanding, it is the right moment to capture. Don’t hesitate to take multiple shots, it’s digital and you can always delete them later.

Fifth Hack – Camera Modes

There are a few camera modes trending now and these are found on many handsets. Understanding various camera modes lets you take the best shot in a given situation. Camera modes are middle ground to the auto or manual modes on a camera. Here are some camera modes you must know 

HDR aka High Dynamic Range

The best use of this mode is when you want to capture a landscape image. If the frame has sky and water, sky and ground, array of valleys or shots of horizon. Why do you need this camera mode? Go through some of your recent landscape shot, do you notice the sky is never blue on such images? Instead, it is white. The reason is exposure level. You need low exposure level for the sky to look blue but at the same time you need high exposure level for the land to clear.

HDR mode brings out the details by taking multiple shots of same frame, but at different exposure levels. Many phones will save at least three outputs of images taken on HDR mode. You’ll notice two images with high and low exposures. The final output image which will be a blend of two. HDR can reveal insane amount of details on a picture with it’s algorithm. Try that next time.

Pano aka Panoramic Shots

Panorama images are best for 360 degree view of the spot. Sometimes you’ll land in a place that can’t be captured in one frame. Here, you switch the phone to pano mode and follow the navigation line on screen to take a clean shot. Pano shots are best taken but not limited to Beaches and Mountains. Facebook let’s you convert these image into 360 degree format so one can use a VR or simple scroll to take a look at it.

Portrait Mode

This mode has been on the mobile camera forever. But it found a new meaning with dual camera mobile phones. iPhone 7 plus revolutionized the technique when it was launched with one wide angle lens and other telephoto. These two lenses together can understand the distance (exactly like our eyes) and then they store the information of phase difference. In simple words background can be blurred while the foreground/subject will get the sharpest focus in this mode. You can get a lot creative on close-up shots with this mode. Recent Facebook update let you change the portrait images to 3D, that makes Facebook just a little more interesting than before.

Few More Modes

Square Mode

It is the best for foodies and anything that matches to this symmetry. The only benefit of this mode is every pixel of your camera gets utilized while capturing on this mode. But let’s say if you find all four sides equal then quickly shift to the square mode. 

Landscape Mode

It is often confused with the orientation. This is not about straight or tilted phone, what landscape mode does is shift the focus to infinity. That way everyting on your screen is within the focus which is best suited while capturing a landscape, hence the name. 

Macro mode

It works great when taken on a tripod. This mode lets you go closest to the subject revealing its minute details. But a zoom that close also amplifies shaking of hands. Use a tripod and a self timer to get the best result using this mode. Sports mode lets you capture things moving at a fast speed but of course there’s an upper cap to how fast. The capacity varies from phone to phone and stronger the processor better is the output. 

This shot below was taken from Nokia N70 under a microscope. Not really a macro shot from photographer’s point of view. But technically, it had a macro lens assembly of a 10x followed by 100x, a usual compound microscope’s config.

Fireworks

It is a rare occasion camera mode but gives the most beautiful output. It slows down the shutter speed, so if you happen to correctly time your shot during outburst of firecrackers, this mode will give you the best image possible. Hmm, that’s one thing I haven’t done. On the contrary, I just took this slow-mo video of a boom!

Summary

So here’s a small checklist to know if mobile photography learning has happened or not.

  • Are you now shooting RAW or DNG?
  • Are you comfortable holding plus size mobile phones?
  • Is the the gird lines toggled on?
  • Is your subejct in focus and exposure looks good before taking the shot?
  • Have you asked yourself if it’s the most interesting shot?
  • Have you considered camera modes for location you’re at? 

Great! DM us your most amazing pictures on our Instagram account @welcome236_ for the feature. Don’t hesitate.  Do you want to level up your mobile photography skills? Want to add more creativity and wow factor from your iPhone or any other mobile device? Then this is a must read: 11 Power Accessories for Instagrammers using #ShotoniPhone

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