Calgary-based photographer, Erik McRitchie, provides his top tips on how to take great-looking photos using nothing but a smartphone. From composing the shot to tips on which smartphone settings are best, learn how Erik captures beautiful, print-worthy photos. Read through to the end to see examples of Erik’s own smartphone photography, and to see how it looks turned into a Canvas Print! You can also check out Erik’s bio and links to his website and Instagram account at the end of this post.
[With the exception of Posterjack product photos, all images included in this article belong to Erik McRitchie.]
How to Take Photos With Your Smartphone
11 Tips to Help You Make the Most Out of Your Mobile Moments!
There’s been a longtime saying in the photography world that the best camera is always the one you’ll have with you. Yes sure, buying an expensive DSLR or mirrorless setup can help you capture some tremendous moments, but let’s be honest, hauling those types of systems around can be obnoxious and inconvenient through the everyday moments of life.
These additional challenges, combined with ever increasing updates in technology, have more and more of us opting to leave our “real cameras” at home and instead have us reaching for something we all carry with us all day, every day already: our smartphones!
Long gone are the days of shoddy single megapixel cameras in our phones, the technology now found in most smartphones gives us an unprecedented opportunity to capture, document, and yes, even print our favourite moments with no extra equipment required.
But how do we maximize our smartphone photography capabilities? Above and beyond just reaching for our phones and snapping away, how do we squeeze the very most out of the images we capture with our phones? Here are my top 11 tips to help you capture the very best images possible with your smartphone.
1. Clean Your Lens
Seriously, clean it before you shoot. Use your shirt or a clean cloth to wipe down your lens quickly before snapping away. The oils from our skin can often transfer onto our camera lenses and can leave our images looking muddy and blurry, especially when shooting into the sun. A quick wipe can literally transform those moments from a throwaway image into something beautiful.
2. Focus on Your Composition
Composition is one of the most important elements in creating strong images, no matter what camera you’re shooting with. It’s the way we all choose to frame our subjects, whether that’s a family member, a beautiful sunset at the lake, or a favourite furry friend. Although the topic of composition could be a whole blog post on its own, here are a few quick tips.
Use the rule of thirds. You see the grid that you can turn on or off on your phone? It’s there for a reason, it’s there to help you tell a compelling story with your image. Resist the urge to put the subject of you image in the middle of the screen, place your subject on an intersecting line of the grid instead. This is called the rule of thirds, and is a popular photography technique that can quickly enhance your images.
Get low. Stop shooting from eye or chest level. Instead, bend down and get low, especially for subjects smaller than you, like kids and pets. Capturing subjects from their level tells a more authentic story and pulls the viewer into the frame.
Use leading lines and reflections. Look for natural elements in your scene that can enhance your image and help you create something unique. Is there a puddle you can see a reflection in if you change your angle? Are there natural lines like a road, a path, or a fence that can lead your eye from the camera towards your subject? Use these natural elements to help make a better frame!
Related: Using Leading Lines in Photography
3. Light Matters
The single most important factor in capturing beautiful moments with your smartphone is going to light. Try to avoid shooting in direct sunlight as much as possible, shoot in the morning or evening when outdoors, use shady areas for portraits or put the sun off to the side of your subject when necessary. When indoors, use natural light streaming through a window for a nice diffused look! Learn to analyze your favourite images and look for similar themes when it comes to your lighting. As you pay attention to what makes great photos, you’ll learn to read and analyze light more and more effectively and it will directly translate to the quality of your images.
4. Edit Your Photos
Even though smartphones can do a tremendous job capturing colour and detail, a little editing afterwards can go a long way! Resist the urge to overdo it, just add subtle adjustments in contrast, exposure, and vibrancy to help maximize your image! There are some great apps to help you with this, Snapseed (free), Lightroom Mobile, or even the Instagram app all have fantastic options to help with editing.
5. Zoom With Your Feet
Although most smartphone cameras have digital zoom functions included, it’s almost always a better idea to try and get as close as you need via your feet! Get in as close as possible—assuming it’s safe to do so—and you’ll maximize the detail and sharpness with your camera.
6. Use an App
Don’t be afraid to get a better camera app. Although your smartphone’s built-in camera software might be great, sometimes shooting with a different app can produce better results. A few worth checking out are Camera+ 2, Adobe Lightroom Mobile, or VSCO.
7. Learn How to Lock Focus
Most smartphones allow you to choose what part of your image you want to be in focus. Most people, however, don’t realize that you can lock that focus in and then recompose your frame by moving your camera to capture your desired composition. On most smartphones, it’s as simple as touching the subject you want to remain in focus and holding your finger on the screen until your focus locks. Learn how to do this and use it when needed!
8. Know When to Use Portrait Mode
If you want a photo with that clean, smoothed-out background, use portrait mode on your camera. It’s a simple way to really help your subject pop! With that said, sometimes the software on the smartphone gets it wrong and portrait mode doesn’t end up looking all that great in the end. Take a few test shots and move around a little. If it’s working, go with it, if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to go back to your normal camera setting.
9. Go With the Flow
Arguably, the best thing about having an incredible camera on you at all times is the ability it gives you to capture life as it happens right before your eyes. Shoot a lot with your smartphone, and play around with what you love. Shoot in the moment, capture candid action shots and emotions, without stopping to have people pose. These photos are real life, have fun with it and I’m sure you’ll be amazed with what you can capture!
10. Shoot Fast
All of the current smartphones have a burst mode integrated within the camera system. This allows you to shoot multiple frames very rapidly, allowing you to capture some quick movement, and then choose your preferred frames after the fact. This is perfect for capturing fun images of hyper kids, or quick moving pets!
11. Print Your Images
These days, we have the gift of having nearly unlimited space on our devices and hard drives to shoot anything and everything we love. If you’re like me though, it’s easy to have those moments and memories locked away on your smartphone, hidden within the tens of thousands of other snaps we capture every day! If you have a special moment, or memory, a fantastic way to celebrate it is to print your photo! The images most smartphones produce are more than good enough to turn into some very impressive print sizes! Grab your shot, edit on your favourite app, and upload it to Posterjack’s website to create prints!
Erik McRitchie is a Canadian photographer based out of Calgary, Alberta. Growing up with the Rocky Mountains framing every sunset, it's not surprising that a day in the mountains chasing the light is one of his favourite things to do. Erik loves photographing landscapes, nature, families, and weddings, and also creates imagery for brands. You can see more of Erik's photos on his website or by following him on Instagram.
Erik’s Smartphone Photo Printed on Canvas
Erik chose to turn his smartphone photo into a 12”x18” Posterjack Canvas Print.
Did you know that our Canvas Prints are expertly hand-stretched and made right here in Canada, from our Toronto location? Our goal is to provide Canadians the best canvas prints available, which means we only use premium materials like thick poly-cotton canvas that won’t sag, and kiln-dried Canadian basswood frames that won’t warp. In addition to ensuring the materials we use are second to none, we put just as much effort into making sure your photo looks its best! We print photos using our proprietary PJ-PRINT™ software and world-class printers using green certified HP inks that will not fade for 200 years. The quality and care we put into creating our Canvas Prints means you get a beautiful piece of custom photo art you can proudly display on your wall and years down the road, it will look just as vibrant as the day you got it.
Although we offer several great products that your smartphone photos will look incredible printed on, here are a few recommendations to get started (in addition to our Canvas Prints mentioned above!).
Part of our Desk Decor line of photo art products, our Acrylic Blocks come in either 5”x7” or 6”x6”. Because of their smaller size, they can be displayed nearly anywhere, which makes them great to give as gifts too! They're made from a perfectly clear, one-inch thick piece of premium cast acrylic that captures and refracts light in a way you just have to see for yourself! They’re a great option for smartphone photos that have vibrant, bright colours and high contrast.
HD Metal Prints
The newest product in our Metal Prints family, we introduced Canadians to our HD Metal Prints back in 2017. These high-definition prints will make your smartphone photos the center of attention wherever they’re displayed. Photos are printed using dye-sublimation on a glossy white Chromaluxe metal panel using original EPSON inks. Our Photo Art Experts professionally attach a Float Mount Hanging System to the backside of the print, which floats the artwork half an inch off the wall. Its unframed, crisp edges will look brilliant in a modern space.
Hardcover Photo Books
A Posterjack Hardcover Photo Book is a fantastic option if you have several smartphone photos you want to print at once! They're beautifully made and will look amazing displayed on a coffee table or shelf. Your smartphone photos are printed using HP Indigo inks, which are water-based and non-toxic, and our proprietary printing software, so your images are sharp, accurate, and vibrant. You can customize your photo book to have as few as 20 pages or as many as 120 pages, which are made with a sturdy 100-pound photo paper. Our Hardcover Photo Books come in five different sizes and are professionally-bound and made in our Toronto workshop.
Our Framed Prints are available in over 50 different styles and colours, but can be grouped into six main frame types: Essential Frames, Gallery Frames, Metallic Frames, Lacquer Frames, Loft Frames, and Barnwood Frames. Posterjack Framed Prints are custom-made from solid wood, low-glare framers acrylic, and acid-free mat board. And, of course, they're made in Canada from our Toronto workshop. Photos are printed using the giclee method, using original HP Vivera inks and our proprietary printing software, so images are vibrant, crisp, and rated to be fade-resistant for over 200 years.