How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments


Technology is developing so rapidly that sometimes we can not keep up with it. Smartphones have ousted individual devices from the market before our eyes: we have lost our music players, digital cameras disappear under their onslaught, and manufacturers are leaving the market due to losses. The smartphone has become a versatile device that combines everything that we can dream of. And to some extent, this has become a problem, since many people believe that universality is always accompanied by a decrease in the quality of individual functions. Moreover, when discussing smartphones, I often come across a stereotype that only the most expensive models, flagships, take good pictures. But smartphones simply do not know how to do this, and you should not even try to shoot something sensible with them, they are only for everyday tasks and cannot reflect the beauty of the world around them. It reminds me of the argument that good, expensive dishes will do everything for you, and you will not even need to cook. Utopia? Certainly. Without the skill of the cook, without his passion for experimentation, there will never be dishes that will amaze you and make you freeze in admiration. With photography, everything is exactly the same, the only obstacle to unleashing our creative potential is ourselves. Another obstacle is that many people think that this requires a very expensive smartphone, although this is not the case. You can learn using any technique, if you wish.

To prove and show this in practice, I chose Samsung Galaxy A51, this is the most popular smartphone in Russia, not only in its segment, but in general in sales. Good value for money, but in the context of this material we are only interested in photo opportunities.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

Several main cameras, a separate module for macro photography – the abundance of cameras scares someone, it seems to someone a marketing ploy. Professional photographers know that different lenses can solve different problems. It is impossible to photograph flowers and buildings, faces of people and cars equally well with the help of one universal lens. Smartphones have grown in their capabilities so much that they began to offer a variety of lenses for different tasks, and this is welcome. Another thing is that the knowledge of how to use this wealth is often lacking.

The advent of digital cameras gave tremendous freedom, you could take as many frames as you like, no restrictions on film and subsequent development. But I had to transfer photos to a computer, view them on the screen and, if necessary, crop, correct minor flaws. Today there is no need for this – you take pictures on a smartphone, you can immediately correct a photo in the built-in editor, send it anywhere, even to a social network, even to your loved ones by mail.

Another difference is that the screen of the smartphone accurately conveys which picture you will get. It doesn’t matter where you are, indoors or in the sun, you see exactly what other people can see, the result is predictable. When you shoot on film, you never knew what was going to come out in the end. Therefore, a modern smartphone is a wonderful thing that allows you to take pictures that were not available a few years ago. And if once any mistake in photographing led to a sad result, today this is not at all the case, you have many opportunities to correct the shortcomings of the picture and do it in just a couple of minutes.

An affordable smartphone is no longer one lens, but several modules that give you the maximum possibilities. The main module is a high detail image, a wide-angle lens allows you to capture more details, in the Galaxy A51 the angle of view is 123 degrees. The macro lens is designed for shooting at ultra-short distances. For what the depth of field sensor is not known to many, but it is needed in order to beautifully blur the background of the image, we will talk about this in more detail below.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

Let’s take a look at some examples of photographs, at what techniques can be used to make pictures expressive. I hope you will adopt some of the above, but most importantly, you will experiment, because photography is about freedom of expression and unlimited possibilities in this. The passion for photography has become democratic, you just need a smartphone in your pocket, and you can publish your work on any social network.

How to find interesting pictures – look at examples

When we talk about photography, we cannot say what is right and what is wrong. This is a field for experimentation, and you are free to come up with your own technique, experiment, find your face. I will leave behind the scenes the opportunity to shoot in manual mode, adjust the shutter speed, and white balance – such opportunities are needed for those who have already taken their first steps and want to get more opportunities for expression. I will dwell on a couple of points that are undeservedly ignored, although they will be useful to most photographers, both professional and amateur.

The angle always plays a big role, you may have heard about the rule of the golden ratio, about how to fill the frame, to select objects in it (it is not necessary to place the object in the center of the frame at all!). This is where the grid comes in handy, which you can turn on in the settings.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

The frame is divided into nine parts, and you, only composing the composition, can already choose how it looks. This often eliminates the need to crop the finished image later.

The Galaxy A51 has AI algorithms, their use is varied, they suggest that the lens is a little smudged and worth wiping, they can analyze the frame and offer a hint in which you will see how best to position the camera to make the picture more expressive.

I like the automatic detection of scenes, when the camera itself understands what exactly you are photographing – text, landscape, person, and so on, there are several dozen such scenes. The camera settings are automatically changed to achieve the best result, for example, when shooting plants, the texture of leaves, petals is better worked out. Automation in most cases works correctly, so you can use it without looking back, but if necessary, you can turn off this AI-enhancement mode with one click.

When you are photographing, you need to define what becomes your subject, what you want to highlight in the photo.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

In this photo, a regular sheet in the light, you can see its texture, veins. Neighboring leaves are out of focus, slightly blurred. This is achieved with one tap on the screen, during shooting, the focus was placed on the sheet that was interesting to me. And this basic technique allows you to achieve a lot artistically.

The angle plays an important role, since our perception of the image depends on it. Angle is not necessary to use one smartphone lens, you can play with different matrices, for example, main lens and wide angle.

The wide-angle camera pulls out objects in the vicinity, which is an artistic trick in itself that can be used to make a shot stand out. It is often considered that a wide-angle camera is good for capturing buildings, streets, and many objects in the frame. But there are no axioms, everything always depends on you and what you are shooting.

The shot on the main module conveys the bend of the street well, it runs away into the distance. But the wide-angle shot makes the perspective not so interesting, it shows the arch with the car, which spoils the whole composition. This is a simple example of the fact that there are no dogmas in photography, there are no learned rules. You need to try to see the shot, understand the composition and what you want to get in the end. The more you photograph, the faster it comes to you.

The smartphone allows you to take an infinite number of shots, and professional photographers know that the more photos are taken, the easier it will be to pick one good shot. This is especially true for reports and scenes of street life, when it is not so easy to catch a moment.

These three shots were taken in series, you can see how the background changes, the grandmother and the child move, the girls on the right change their position. You can choose the picture that you find interesting to work with. Here you need to slightly change the accents, crop the photo. But I will show this with another example, which will prove that the smartphone allows you to correct any flaws in shooting.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

Repeating motifs are common in architecture, this bridge is the perfect place to show this pattern. There is only one problem with hand-held shooting of a verified geometric pattern: you usually cannot capture the frame correctly, it will need to be rotated a little. The built-in editor allows you to do this, moreover, you can change the color and settings of the picture, I like the black and white version.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

When shooting, you can set a lot of filters, “enhancers” for people’s faces, but I do not advise you to do this. The built-in graphics editor can do exactly the same thing with your snapshot, create a copy of the modified file. But you will be able to extract much less information from the “improved” initial image, and you will not be able to change it so much. Therefore, try to shoot without “enhancers” of color, skin tone – you can change everything when editing the picture.

The wide-angle camera is good for moments when you need to frame objects that take up a lot of space, but you don’t want to move away from them. For example, here’s an artistic composition.

Please note that these two shots are not at all the same in perception, they are different. And this is a good description of the artistic possibilities of cameras in a smartphone, you have very different lenses, and this is a great occasion to experiment.

Speaking about experiments and the desire to do them, I often hear in response that there are no worthy objects around for shooting. Alas, this is a delusion, since a subject for photography can be found anywhere, our world is flooded with subjects that are waiting for their master. Look at the lattice, repeating patterns – one of the favorite themes of many authors.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

The theme is easily recognizable, but what will happen if you rotate the picture, make it run upward, and at the same time crop it?

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

The resulting picture played with completely different colors, to enhance the effect, it can be converted to black and white, it will turn out even more interesting. Left this for you and your experiments.

The good thing about a smartphone is that it is always in your pocket. There is not always time to set it up, you just need to quickly take a photo, as in the moment when a boat rushes nearby.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

The side power button allows you to instantly launch the camera when pressed twice and not miss the moment that you want to catch in the lens.

Another setting that many people forget about is exposure. The camera’s automation is not always able to correctly cope with the level of illumination of the scene in front of you. For example, on a sunny day, picking strawberries in the garden will give you a bright shot. But it does not convey how you see the scene with your eyes (our brain is a powerful processor that adjusts the perception of the picture to our ideas). By lowering the exposure a little, you get a brighter picture, it will sparkle. Just? Not that word.

The same story with the needles on the tree, they are too bright in the first case. We corrected the exposure, and the picture began to play.

Experimenting with color is always fun, and your smartphone offers tremendous opportunities for this. You can literally create fantastic landscapes. And it takes a few minutes of your time.

But one of my favorite techniques is the use of black and white gamut, it makes pictures more expressive, removes unnecessary from them, adds rigor.

The Galaxy A51 has a dedicated macro camera, and this lens lacks autofocus. You need to get a few centimeters close to your subject and you’re done. You will not believe how many times I have seen reviews that such lenses are pure marketing, they are not needed, you will not get anything worthwhile. Let’s take a look at a couple of pictures.

I hope that there is no reason to doubt the artistic value of such a lens after these flower shots. It is important to understand what and how you can create with this tool, not to be afraid to experiment. And the result will not disappoint you.

Take a look at a few more smartphone photos I took in between, this is a demonstration that a regular and affordable model can photograph well.

Another mode that I really like, but which many people almost never get their hands on, is Live Focus. A separate module in the camera block (this is the same depth sensor) estimates the distance to the subject and blurs the background, and you yourself can adjust how this blur will occur, how strong it will be.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

This is how you can blur the background later.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and ExperimentsHow to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and ExperimentsHow to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and ExperimentsHow to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and ExperimentsHow to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

Or another plant.

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

How to take pictures with a smartphone beautifully. Tools, Techniques, and Experiments

This is a very expressive technique that opens up unlimited possibilities for your experiments.

We take pictures and are not afraid to experiment!

No secrets or secrets in this material have been revealed, these are just examples of how an affordable smartphone (Galaxy A51 is exactly that!) Can help you learn how to take pictures, get interesting pictures. The assertion that good photographs require the most expensive smartphone on the planet is, to put it mildly, wrong. In flagships, you get more shooting options, for example, optical zoom, greater sensitivity of the main camera. But you will need all this if you master the basics of photography, start experimenting and develop your skills.

In your hands today is a device that allows you to become a creative person in a matter of minutes. Photography has never been so easy and fun. You notice something in life, a couple of minutes for a picture, minimal edits, and this is already in your account, available to anyone. There is no need to spend years learning, everything happens easily and simply, playfully. And the most important thing is that you can develop your taste without much effort, you do not need expensive equipment, a bunch of chemicals and complicated processes for this. Only your smartphone and, of course, desire.

I hope I was able to convince you that photography can be fun and worth trying to unleash your creative talents. Do not be afraid to experiment, do not dwell on dogmas, but just listen to them – take a lot of pictures and constantly try something new. I am sure that you yourself will see progress in a very short time. Happy photoshoot!

Published – June 30, 2020


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