There’s an old adage in photography that your best camera is the one you have with you. For most of us now, that “one you have with you” is your smartphone.
Even though the quality of smartphone photography has increased significantly over the last couple years, the cameras in our iPhone, Android and Windows phones aren’t at the level of those cameras professional photographers use.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t teach you how to take great yearbook photos using your iPhone. You just need to follow a couple basic rules. (For more in-depth yearbook photo guides and ideas, visit our Photography Tips and Tutorials board on Pinterest.)
Hold With Two Hands
The steadier you are able to keep your phone, the less likelihood for blurry photos or accidentally out-of-focus elements.
Smartphone cameras are getting better at image stabilization, but you don’t want to rely on that technology. Instead, ensure your camera is steady by taking the responsibility into your own hands. Literally.
Several companies are now making tripods for smartphones. If you’re a photo enthusiast, they’re worth the purchase. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to pack away and work well. If you’re just looking to get a good shot, however, you can do one of two things: find a level, sturdy foundation on which to place your phone or hold your phone using two hands.
Though it may take a few extra moments to place your phone or steady the camera with both hands, either option works far better than aiming with one hand – especially in poor light.
Do Not Zoom
Smartphone cameras feature a digital zoom – something that’s different from a traditional camera lens. The “digital” means the camera is actually “zooming in” on the photo itself, not the subject that you are shooting.
That “zoom” is really just a crop of the photo, meaning you’ll lose data in the photo and end up with an image that is less clear and less sharp than an image that was taking without zooming.
If you are looking to get a closer shot using a smartphone camera, do you best to get closer. If you can’t do that (say you’re at a soccer game), think about different photos you might be able to take. You could capture the sideline reaction to a good play, a more “artsy” shot of the action from behind the goal and other creative takes on a soccer game.
And, if you’re truly looking for in-uniform action shots, consider using practice, warm-ups or post-game activities as a photo shoot.
With Apple’s latest change to its iPhone operating system, it updated the camera software to take up to 10 photos per second. Other smartphones offer the same “burst mode” capabilities and they’re great to use in almost any situation.
Whether it is an action shot at the soccer game, the school play or the choir, you’ll never know when a “burst mode” shot will capture something you otherwise might not have.
If using the “burst mode,” lock your focus and exposure. That way, you’ll have a consistent depth of field and exposure.
Use The Grid
We’ve already covered several tips for composing great photos. Most smartphone cameras will help you with this effort by providing you a grid.
Turn it on when you’re really focused on composition. The grid will help you align your photo and balance your shot – both of which are especially important when trying new angles and invoking the rule of thirds.
Avoid The Flash
The flashes on smartphone cameras often produce harsh results that look far different than the scene you are experiencing.
To avoid this, turn off your flash and see what your results look like. Most smartphone cameras are getting better at shooting in low light. You might need to touch up your photo, but your shots should be generally useable.
If they’re not, and if you need some extra lighting, borrow someone else’s phone.
Instead of using the flash on your phone, use the flashlight on their phone to light the scene. You’ll have better control of the light, create dramatic effects and produce better photos.
Instagram’s explosion in popularity has opened up most people’s eyes to the “magic” a filter can provide to photograph.
While Instagram is the undisputed leader in popularity, there are several other filter apps that can create different feels for your photos. We’ve gotten good results from VSCOcam and Camera+. Consider checking out the “contenders” in addition to the champ. (Try to share this yearbook idea with your entire school.)
Whichever you use, make sure you save a version of the photo to your phone.
Have you been using smartphone photos in your yearbook? What has been your secret to great photos?