With the accessibility of smartphones, it is now easier than ever to document your lives in a higher-quality fashion. Some may go the route of buying a DSLR or other higher end camera, but for those who are more casual and would rather point and shoot, there are a few simple tips to take your photos to the next level without focusing too much time on getting the perfect capture. You might not consider yourself a photographer but knowing the basics to photography will only have a positive effect when looking back on all your experiences. Not only will your photos be more appealing to you, they will be appealing to your friends and future grandchildren!
I would like to start off by suggesting something that usually does not come turned on by default with your phone, and that is the grid. Why is this useful? The grid not only allows you to only keep your horizon level in your photo but makes it easier to incorporate the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is the idea that the subject of your photo should be on one of the points where the gridlines intersect (usually one of the upper thirds). This automatically makes your photo more dynamic. One thing I see many people do is have their subject square in the center of the photo, blocking interesting background detail and in general it is not as appealing to the eye. One thing to note is when putting your subject on a third, consider the way your subject is facing. If someone is your subject and they are facing to their left, you would typically put them on the left third, facing the center, making the photo appear more natural.
Another idea to note is to have your subject clearly defined. If there is too much going on in your background, it will leave the viewer confused and lost on determining what the main subject is. There are a couple easy ways to eliminate this. One way is to have a clear background, such as a sky, and the other is simply getting closer to your subject. This may sound obvious, but when caught up in a moment, it is easy to forget, sometimes making for a disappointing shot. Isolate your subject to get a stronger definition of the emotion in the scene.
This third tip may help isolate your subject as well, but also can make the photo more interesting, and that is the idea of using different angles rather from eye level. You may have seen a photographer once lay on the ground for their shot. This makes the viewer look at the world in a different light than what they are accustomed to seeing every day. If you are having trouble isolating your subject, this simple concept can do the trick, as there are less things up in the air than on the ground. Now I am not suggesting you lay on the ground, but a simple squat can induce the effect. With different angles such as down low or higher above, these new perspectives inherently make your photo more interesting.
If your photo covers a larger area, think about how you can use multiple dimensions to your advantage. Capturing images that have foreground, middle ground, and background details give your viewers more things to soak in and gives clearer understanding of the scene. Start with the object closest to you, and then work your way back. Although a little more complicated, you can quickly visualize this in your head before you take out your phone. For example, the photo below does a good job including people in the foreground, the Toronto sign in the middle ground, and the buildings in the background.
Lastly, once you have taken your photo, play with the colors a bit. Oftentimes photos are not as aesthetically pleasing the way they first come out compared to what they could be like after adding adjustments. Luckily, you can make these adjustments with the phone or downloadable apps. In the case of adjusting colors, less tends to be more. Too much of anything (saturation, brightness, etc.), can take away from your photo.
There are many more possibilities when taking photos, but these tips should make for a good start. I would like to point out that these rules can be broken, and do not necessarily need to be followed all the time. Consider these tips as small checklist to run through, and then add your own creative twist on it if the photo calls for it. For convenience, here is the list to quickly scan:
1. Use the grid and the rule of thirds
2. Isolate your subject
3. Consider different angles other than eye level
4. Think about featuring foreground, middle ground, and background features in conjunction
5. Play with the colors
Remember, practice makes perfect!