Android Smartphone Photography For Dummies
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Believe it or not, most of the technical and creative innovation in the photographic industry is coming not from the DSLR household name corporations, but from a mobile phone manufacturer! Your Android smartphone is a brilliant mixture of art and science, and its camera is ready and able to help you capture that next stunning photo op.

Discover how to create bold, strong compositions that hold your viewer’s attention. Master the technical side of Android photography. And as the word photography literally means light-writing, immerse yourself in the exciting world of manipulating light. The future looks very bright for smartphone photographers such as yourself!

Choosing your Android camera mode

To set up your Android camera for various photographic genres, tap the icon shaped as a camera that is on the main screen of all Android smartphones. The following list explains the major modes and features of your camera:

  • Take a photo. Tap the white or light gray circle to take a photo after you open the Camera app. The white circle is called the shutter button.
  • Pinch to zoom. To see distant objects a bit closer, pinch your index finger and thumb together, place them on the screen prior to taking a photo, and then while still touching the screen, move your finger and thumb away from each other. Your camera zooms in to photograph distant objects closer.
  • Take a selfie. Tap the little icon that looks like two interconnecting circles to reverse the view of your camera. Instead of seeing what is in front of you, you see your own face.
  • Use Portrait mode. Most late-model Android cameras have Portrait mode that puts a pleasing background blur behind people’s heads. Tap the word Portrait, and take the photo of your friend. You can also use Portrait mode on yourself by tapping the selfie icon.
  • Shoot video. Usually located beside the Camera option, tap Video to start creating video clips. Videos are great for family events!

Creating a sharp photograph

Try the following tips and tricks to create a sharp and well-composed photograph:

  • Steady yourself. Don’t hold your Android out with arms extended. Hold your phone as close to your face or chest as possible, as long as you can see the screen clearly. Near-sighted people will have the advantage here. The closer your phone is held to your upper body, the steadier you will be when you take the photo. Push your elbows into your rib cage for added stability.
  • Adjust your screen. Too many Android photographers shoot and edit with their screen brightness set to medium or low. This is a mistake! Go into your phone’s settings and increase your screen brightness to maximum. This is important for both taking photos and editing your photos, but more important for the editing process. An exception, of course, is if you’re photographing in a concert or theatre where the brightness of your screen will be a distraction to others.
  • Breathe. When the light gets lower in the sky, your camera’s electronic shutter will need to stay open longer. If you’re not using a tripod and are hand-holding your Android, take a deep breath, and at the very point that you have fully exhaled, take the photo. You will have a steadier shot when your lungs are not active for that brief moment.

Photograph as many genres as possible

Specialist photographers often get to the point in their careers where they’re established enough to be able to afford to specialize. Until you get to that point, learn about the various photographic genres and practice them whenever possible. The more diverse your photographic collection and portfolio is, the more opportunities will come your way.

Here are some tips that will point you in the right direction:

  • Landscape photography: Use a tripod with a mobile device clip to hold your phone to the tripod head. Photograph early in the morning and at dusk. Use the Rule of Thirds grid to help you compose your landscape photos.
  • Sports photography: Use Burst mode to capture many sequential photos to make sure you get the shot of the fast-moving athlete.
  • Family portraits: To create a sense of depth in your family or individual photos, avoid the sun shining straight onto their faces. Try to have the low evening sunshine from slightly behind the models, which creates an attractive golden rim of warm light.
  • Travel and vacations: Keep signed in to Google Photos and take advantage of free Wi-Fi at cafes and your hotel. With many automatic uploads of your photos each day, your photos will be protected in the cloud in case you lose your Android.
  • Still life and products: Make use of morning or evening light that shines directly into your house or apartment window. This is called side lighting, and will illuminate your still life or product photo with a rich, warm light.
  • Street photography: Photograph locals with a sense of respect and learn the municipal laws and protocols of street photography in your chosen location before your trip begins. Find a cool-looking background and wait for people to enter your frame.

Editing best practices

One of the biggest disappointments that first-time Android smartphone photographers face is mediocre-looking photos. They don’t realize that taking the photo is only the first part! Editing your photo is like a painter’s canvas, and your Google Photos editing tools are the paint brushes. Try out these editing tips for great looking photographs:

  • Avoid guilt. Don’t let anyone tell you that editing your photo is cheating. Your photo is your art, and there are no limitations to creating art. However, if you’re photographing within the context of photojournalism or other commercial photographic genres, you will need to follow genre-specific editing guidelines.
  • Maintain subtlety. Unless your artistic style is purposefully meant to be over the top, keep subtlety in mind when using photographic filters.
  • Revisit your edits. Because your Google Photos app allows you to make an edited copy of your original unedited photo, even years later you can breathe new life into the image with a new and fresh-looking editing style.
  • Aspect ratio choices. Choose a specific aspect ratio for your intended output. For example, 1-x-1 square is great for Instagram, vertical 9-x-16 works well for Pinterest and IGTV thumbnails, and 2-x-3 is a common aspect ratio for the standard 4-x-6-inch print at your local photo store.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Mark Hemmings can be found traveling the world conducting photography workshops with a big emphasis on iPhone photography. He has a great passion for teaching iPhone camera best practices, which shows in his daily Instagram photo lessons. Mark has been a professional photographer since 1997 and an iPhone travel photographer since 2012.

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