I'm an amateur photographer. You can see my people, landscape and food photographs on my instagram page. I keep learning how to take better photos following some simple rules. I am not claiming to be a professionale and the tips I am sharing here are tips that every regular smartphone user can use.

These rules are the ones I have followed and have seen improvement in the quality of photos I take - be it on my Instagram page, Tumblr, for gadget reviews or when I am out for an event or having fun with family and friends.

Tip No. 1 - Carry Your Smartphone with You

This first tip was shared with me by Martin, a Kenyan tech writer. The best camera is the one you have with you the moment you need to take a shot. What’s the use of a professional camera that’s not present even if the quality of its production is top notch?

No use.

Tip No. 2 - Turn Off Your Smartphone Camera Flash by Default

These days, no one wants to buy a smartphone whose camera has no flash. However, 95% of the superb photographs I shot are shot without a flash. I make use of natural light as much as possible. Take photos making use of natural light to your advantage instead of firing the flash; especially when you are outdoor during the day.

Look for the light source and allow your object to face the light. When it is sunny, your light source will be the sun. Most times when you’re indoors and the room is properly lit, you can use of the proper lighting in the room and switch off your smartphone camera flash too.

For example,most of the people that take photographs in the bathroom using the mirror there do not need to use flash. The flash bouncing of the mirror is going to damage the image.

Try this the next time you’re shooting a selfie in the bathroom and see how it’ll turn out. Don’t be afraid. It breaks my heart when I see photos people shoot facing the mirror and they use flash.

Sometimes you’re trying to capture the image of what you have on a reflective screen - say your laptop - and you are using your flash.

Selfie in a Lift

No! The flash will bounce back and damage the photograph.

You get a better picture if you, shoot it outside or turn on the light in the room and shoot the reflective screen without using a flash. After all, the screen is most likely lit up with an image and you don’t need a flash.

Tip No. 3 - At Night, Use Flash and Move Closer to Your Object

Forget about trying to shoot a full image when shooting with a smartphone at night. Even when the flash on the smartphone appears to be powerful, it won’t do justice to the job.

To get a great shot, look for supporting light (if available), but if NEPA (electricity power authority in Nigeria) is loadshedding, you can still go solo with the flash on the camera phone, but ensure that you are very close to the image.

There’s an exception to the rule. If you’re shooting landscape at night, like this shot of Lekki Toll gate below, you don’t even have to bother about flash or bother about moving closer to the image.

Lekki Tollgate Night

Tip No. 4 Steady Your Hand

A shaky hand is going to result in blurry pictures too. Try as much as possible to steady your hand. At first, this may be hard for you, but the more you practice shooting with a steady hand, the better shots you’ll get.

Tip No. 5 Put the Object at the Centre of the Photo

If you’re not mindful of this tip, you’re going to have pictures with the object not being at the centre of the image. There’s a solution to this; most smartphone camera has basic editing tools--rotate and crop. So, if your object is not centred, you can always sort this issue by cropping the image and centralising the object of your photo.

Tip No. 6 Take Lots of Photos

In the past when we bought analog camera films, they were either 24 or 36 exposures in a single film. Once you finished the exposures, that’s all. No room for shooting several shots without raking in huge film costs.

These days, the smartphone camera uses digital storage in the form of microSD cards. You can shoot high resolution photos and shoot lots of them as permitted by the storage capacity of your smartphone.

So, shoot several shots of the same event and pick the best shot. You can delete the bad/awful shots when you are done.

Tip No. 7 Clean the Lens of Your Smartphone Camera

There are times you have blurry pictures, not just because you hand shook but because your screen is smuggy and dirty. Occasionally, pick up your smartphone and wipe the camera lens. There are some people that get new camera phone and are not aware of the protector on the lens.

This protector is used in the packaging to prevent the smartphone camera lens from scratching out of the box. When you get a smartphone, you should remove this protector so that you can get a blurry free picture.

Choosing your smartphone camera

Assuming you're about to get a new smartphone and the camera capability is one of what you're looking out for, the major thing to check is the photo processing power of the camera and not the megapixels.

An article on CNet puts it nicely:

“The number of megapixels alone is no guarantee of heightened photographic performance… the formula for fantastic photos comes down to the entire camera module, which includes the size and material of the main camera lens, the light sensor, the image processing hardware, and the software that ties it all together.”

An 8 mega pixel camera could produce a better quality image than a 16 mega pixel camera if the image processing hardware in the 8 mega pixel camera is better.

I played with the Huawei Ascend Mate spotting an 8 megapixel camera, however, the production was very awful compared with some other smartphone camera that is 8 megapixel like the Nokia Lumia 920. The production of the Nokia X smartphone camera at 3.15 megapixel can compete head to head with the 8 megapixel on the Huawei Ascend Mate and even beats it in some cases.

See the photos below, can you tell which is shot with the Nokia X and the one that is shot with the Huawei Ascend Mate?

Photo A | Photo B

The photo A is shot with the Huawei Ascend Mate (8 MP camera), while the photo B was shot with the Nokia X (3.15 MP camera).

If you decide to pick a Nokia, LG, HTC, iPhone, Huawei, ZTE, Sony, BlackBerry or any other phone out there, applying these simple tips can make you a better smartphone photographer. If you choose to add filters to your photographs after you have shot them, shooting a better unfiltered picture is going to give you better pictures to work with and share.

What are some smartphone camera tips you follow that has improved the quality of the pictures you’ve been shooting?

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