In practice

How to take picture with a smartphone

Big topic today, topical for a few years and for a few more years, it is certain: how to take picture with a smartphone.

First of all, this article is well called “how to take picture with a smartphone” and not “taking good photos with a smartphone”. Because “taking good photos” is not learned by reading an article or a book but by taking photos over and over again and progressing. Progressing is to agree to have a critical look at your images to improve them.

So :

  • Don’t ask your mom if your photo is good;
  • Know what you want to do as a photo before taking it.

Once you know what you want to do and therefore succeed as a photo, choose your tools. Like a painter who chooses his canvas, his paintings and his brushes, the photographer chooses his camera, his lens, his flashes, etc.

Choosing a smartphone means giving up certain photos. Forget the animal photo in an African savannah, unless you want to be eaten by an lion or high-speed photography. But there are still millions of photos to be taken, don’t worry.

How to hold your smartphone

One of the big differences between a camera and a smartphone is that the camera is not intended for telephoning, so its ergonomics, its handling, is thought for the photo. And so the smartphone is not thought for the photo! If it was, the lens would be in the middle at the back and not completely offset. Similarly, the total absence or almost no button does not help to adjust the camera of the smartphone, you must constantly touch the screen to choose this or that setting. To overcome this major defect, there are two families of accessories.

Tripod mount for smartphone

Here it is “simply” to be able to attach your smartphone to a tripod. There are multitudes of references, I personally have a preference for the Manfrotto clamp. Simple, effective and for less than 10 € it allows you to attach your smartphone to a tripod or a monopod.

Handle for shooting

Here no thousands of answers on your favorite search engine. In my opinion the best reference is the one of the brand Joby.

As the photo shows, the grip is completely different and almost perfectly suited to photography. The Joby GripTight is available for less than € 50.

How to set up your smartphone

All smartphones have a more or less efficient, more or less intuitive camera management application. It normally has an exposure compensation setting, you have to use it and even abuse it a little to regain control over light measurement algorithms.

It is possible, especially on Android, to download another camera management application. Open Camera is the one that offers the best thought and most effective interface for managing white balance, exposure compensation or sensitivity. Even if I concede that the “pro” or “advanced” mode of the manufacturer applications is well done, when it is available.

There are 4 icons on the left, the third from the top is the one that compensates for the exposure, that is, “roughly” to add or remove light from your photo.

But, because, there is a but !

Framing your shot

Nothing that appears in the previous paragraphs can replace the most important thing of your future photo: the frame. Reflex, bridge, compact, room, smartphone etc … to succeed in a photo, start by framing it correctly.

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About

Nicolas Beaumont is a photojournalist, director and writer specializing in social and humanitarian photography. Among our clients are the French Red Cross, Emmaüs, Handicap International, Secours Mag, Dimatex, Actusoins. We make films, photographs and articles around the world on current topics: migration, war, displaced, natural disaster, flood etc...

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