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    Photographing with a smartphone: the good bases to start in 10 key points

    Who I am
    Lluís Enric Mayans
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    The photo has taken a prominent place on smartphones, to the point of becoming the engine of technological advances in telephones. We therefore offer you a file to master mobile photography.

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    Whether for social networks, sharing with friends or family, capturing a memory or simply having fun, the use of the camera is well anchored in our habits. If the photographic practice can sometimes be complex to manage to produce creative or original images, we must not forget the basics! This is precisely what we offer you in this dossier.

    Presented in the form of 10 key points, these recommendations are certainly not an exhaustive list, but remain essential for beginners or the most dazed. The experts will certainly not shun this little reminder sting.

    1. Remember to adjust your photo application

    By entering the internal settings of the application, often symbolized by a toothed wheel, it is possible to customize the settings of your photo application and exit from the default settings offered by the manufacturer.

    It is possible to modify the camera application on certain terminals to your liking. Here with a Samsung Galaxy S20.

    Deactivate the automatic flash, adjust the definition of the image or activate the recording of the shooting location in the metadata of the photo... This is only an overview of the available settings. Assigning certain keys of your mobile to different functions can also be very useful. To carry out this file, we have for example assigned the volume keys of our mobile to the adjustment of the zoom of the camera.

    2. Framing and composition, the basis of the photo

    For a successful image, the framing is essential. Avoiding too much centering your subject is a good start, while remembering to keep the horizon straight can avoid many setbacks. Tools are often integrated to maintain your device properly. Thinking about the edges of the image to avoid cutting the subject or letting it breathe is not to be neglected. Also, the background is often marred by a passerby or an unattractive object. Most of these things are easy to fix... if you think about it.

    Observe the grid dividing the image into three. As well as the spirit level in the center of the image.

    To achieve this, activating the rule of thirds grid is a good help. By relying on the latter, it is easier to place the important points of your composition on the intersections or not to center the horizon too much. To activate it, the device settings are once again of great help.

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    Horizontal or vertical?

    While on “traditional” cameras, taking landscape mode (horizontal) is often the norm, the grip of the smartphone has generalized photography in portrait mode (vertical). The latter is particularly appreciated today, but it is not inevitable! Turning your smartphone often allows you to better highlight the photographed scene.

    Funny, a portrait landscape. © Louis Royer / TechnologiesTips

    3. Adjusting exposure is often easy

    A smartphone has everything to make your life easier, especially when it comes to exposure adjustment. By default everything is done automatically, but you can request a specific adjustment in relation to a given area by touching it with your finger.



    If you want to change the exposure, it's possible: a small slider is often present by touching the screen. You can underexpose or overexpose your scene. This function should be used sparingly and with precision. It is easy to end up with areas on the photo that are totally "burnt" or too dark, a thousand leagues from the expected result.

    4. Don't forget the focus

    Smartphones have made good progress and in good light the autofocus is automatic and fast. As for the exposure, the modification of the development passes by the finger. Just point to the area you want to see in focus. This comes in handy when you want to focus on a close object, or when the subject is in the background. While it's tempting to let the camera manage on its own, choosing where to focus helps avoid mistakes.

    Dot behind

    stitch in front

    Note that most smartphones recognize faces, even allow tracking and focus lock. You will thus be able to move, by avoiding too sharp movements, and to see the point being maintained where you had decided it.

    5. Vary the pleasures with different goals

    On many modern phones, several photo modules are embedded. There is, most of the time, a very wide-angle, a wide-angle or a small telephoto lens.

    A very wide angle allows you to capture a landscape in its entirety. © Louis Royer / TechnologiesTips

    A very wide angle is ideal for capturing a landscape as a whole. It is also very practical for taking an entire room indoors, or for not forgetting anyone in a family photo. However, the photos are generally not as detailed as with the main module. This type of module also manages low light levels less well. Finally, it is also necessary to take into account the deformations inherent in this type of optics.

    From wide-angle to telephoto

    The more classic wide-angle is the one used by default by the device. It is the most versatile and will suit most situations. It is also the module that generally benefits from the best sensor. This is the preferred objective at night.

    Example of framing with the different lenses of the Galaxy S21: very wide-angle, wide-angle, telephoto and x20 digital zoom.

    The telephoto lens, which many confuse with a zoom, is an optic that simply allows you to capture more distant subjects. Often it is more qualitative than a digital zoom. The latter degrades the image, so it is better to limit its use when possible.

    Compare photos 13 mm - Very wide-angle 26 mm - Wide-angle 80 mm - Telephoto 520 mm - digital zoom x20

    6. Magnify your portraits

    To achieve beautiful portraits, smartphones use several tricks. Many models have a portrait mode using a small telephoto lens. It allows to better compress the perspectives, thus emphasizing the subject.

    Note the simulated blurring and clipping around the subject

    On the other hand, software processing does its part. Background blur is added to isolate the model from its surroundings. To better imitate a high-end SLR or hybrid camera, settings are present to modify the intensity, effects or shape of the blur.

    With added blur


    It is also possible to smooth the skin of the subject or to revive the colors, to have more flattering images. Many of its corrections can be disabled and some models save two versions of the same portrait to choose the best one. As in our snippet above, editing the blur is possible after shooting.

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    7. Tame the night

    Night mode is a significant asset on a smartphone. It allows you to take photos easily despite low light. The smartphone will choose the best settings automatically as soon as it detects a drop in light, or when it is switched to the appropriate mode. In addition, several images are captured with different variations. It is then necessary to hold the smartphone fairly stable for a few moments.

    Night mode

    fashion car

    The device will then combine the shots taken to offer one of higher quality. Often, the result is striking and it would be a shame to deprive yourself of it. Depending on the models, the photo is more than acceptable and it becomes difficult to do without it when it is a little dark.

    8. Let the algorithms guide you

    Camera algorithms are often “smarter” than you might think. So they can detect the type of subject you want to photograph. When you point to an object, a food, a flower or even a person, the photophone can recognize the subject and indicates it using a small logo. Specific settings are automatically applied.

    Note at the top right, the small flower-shaped logo, indicating that the smartphone has recognized the subject.

    If the application has a mode dedicated to portrait, or food, it will even tell you that you have to launch this specific mode. The same goes for HDR mode. The latter is designed to handle scenes with both dark and very bright areas. Nevertheless, the automatic scenes can sometimes make the shot lose naturalness. To avoid this, you can completely disable these functions.

    9. Advanced modes not to be overlooked

    Besides its basic functions, a photophone can also have some more fancy options. We will think in particular of the animated photo, which makes it possible to create very short videos which are played in a loop, like small GIFs. Partial desaturation modes to leave only one color on the image or smile detection to capture the right moment can also be integrated.

    panorama mode.

    Similarly, the panorama mode allows the realization of impressive images when available. Just follow the instructions on the screen to get a good result quickly and easily. The burst mode for action lovers is sometimes combined with automatic detection of the best moment.
    By modifying the definition of the captures, you will then have photos with a lot of pixels, allowing significant cropping.

    Unfortunately, and like many aspects of this file, you have to find out about your own smartphone. Indeed, all creative modes are not necessarily implemented on each phone model.

    10. Manual mode for the most perfectionists

    Apart from iPhones, smartphone cameras have a manual or “pro” mode. It allows everyone to better control the way the shots are captured. Adjustment of exposure, ISO sensitivity, exposure time, autofocus or even white balance are then available to better approximate the use of a traditional camera. If you find the shots in auto mode not to your liking, switching to manual can come at the cost of more complexity.

    The "pro" mode leaves more latitude to the user.

    Also, it is also possible to opt for different photo applications. A simple passage through the store of your system and you can install a different camera. For example, we can use Adobe Photoshop Camera which has a very large number of filters dedicated to portraits.

    On iPhone exclusively, the Halide application allows you to completely unleash the camera and obtain a complete manual mode; however, it is chargeable. Google also offers its own application accompanied by its in-house algorithms. Finally, note that the performance of manufacturers' default applications is still often very effective.

    Share your recommendations with us

    Obviously, the recommendations for better practicing photography on smartphones do not stop there. And you, what are your settings or your ideas for taking your photos on your smartphone? Feel free to make your suggestions in the comments.

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