There's a lot of focus these days on the quality of full-fledged cameras like mirrorless and DSLRs.
And though today's cameras are more feature-packed and powerful than ever, so too is the camera you have in your pocket.
If you ask me, we're living in the golden age of photography due to the simple fact that just about all of us have a very worthy camera attached to our smartphones.
Though some photographers balk at the idea of using their phone to take photos for anything other than posting on social media, the fact remains that the photos my iPhone produces today are far superior in terms of quality than the ones I created back in the day with my first film camera.
Perhaps that's comparing apples to oranges, but the fact remains that mobile photography is not just a passing fad, and, if anything, it's just getting better and better with every new phone and photography app that's released.
With that being said, just because our phone cameras are easy to use doesn't mean that taking a high-quality photo with your phone is a matter of just pointing and shooting.
Instead, mastering mobile photography and getting the most out of your smartphone photos requires the same kind of practice and skill development that's required when using a "real" camera.
With that in mind, let's explore a few tips and tricks that you can use to take your mobile photography to the next level.
Watch the Lighting
Photography is all about light, and if you can learn to identify what the light is doing and what you need to do to best utilize the light that's available, your smartphone photos will be the better for it.
I'm assuming that most of you already know that the best light of the day occurs during Golden Hour - about an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.
Golden Hour is ideal because the light at that time of the day is very soft and very warm.
Those are good lighting qualities for any photography subject, but particularly for portraits.
The problem, of course, is that you can't always drop what you're doing and wait for the sun to set to take a photo. That defeats the purpose of having a camera readily available to you at a moment's notice right there in your pocket.
Instead, if you can learn about light, you can take measures to maximize its impact.
For example, if you're taking photos during the middle of the day under harsh lighting conditions, one option is to convert your photos to black and white.
This can be advantageous because midday lighting often creates very bright highlights and harsh shadows.
While those sorts of features tend to not look that great in a color photo, in a black and white photo, that large contrast, or dynamic range, can be highly beneficial.
Black and white photos benefit from bright whites, dark blacks, and midtone grays because of the lack of color. That means that all that contrast helps add visual impact to a black and white photo.
So, the next time you're shooting during the day, look for ways in which the light creates highlights and shadows and play those up in the photos you take for an eye-catching result.
Get Geared Up
Just like with a more traditional camera, it's possible to take good photos with just your smartphone.
But, like a solid tripod or a camera remote helps you take better photos with a DSLR, add-on accessories for your phone help you elevate the photos you take as well.
Having the right tools is crucial no matter what kind of camera you use, and fortunately, there are innovative and useful products out there to help you maximize the utility of your phone as a camera.
One such product is Grip & Shoot.
Grip & Shoot is a multi-functional smartphone tool that makes better photos possible. How?
Not only does is serve as a solid grip for holding your smartphone nice and steady for clear, sharp photos, but it also gives you wireless control over your phone.
That means you don't have to press the screen to fire the shutter but can instead do so from the integrated trigger on the Grip & Shoot.
This is advantageous for a number of reasons, not the least of which there will be fewer fingerprints and smudges on your phone screen so you can actually see what you're photographing!
That also means that you can use Grip & Shoot's other programmable buttons to zoom in, zoom out, start and stop video...you name it...all with simple, smooth, and comfortable actions as you hold the device in your hand. See Grip & Shoot in action in the video below:
This little gadget even has an open API, so developers are free to program Grip & Shoot's buttons to tackle just about any task.
But Grip & Shoot isn't just a fancy handle for your phone. It's also a remote control for your phone.
Just remove the stand from Grip & Shoot, and you can mount your phone to any tripod. Then, using the grip portion of Grip & Shoot, you can fire your camera's shutter from over 100 feet away using Bluetooth 4.0.
Better still, Grip & Shoot works with iOS and Android phones, with easy controlling via the Grip & Shoot App. Plus, it's a tiny gadget that you can easily fit in your pocket, so you won't be weighed down by heavy gear. That's not a bad deal!
Change Your Perspective
One of the many advantages of shooting with your smartphone is that you can shoot unencumbered.
There's no heavy camera body or big lens to worry about. No huge tripod to constantly set up and take down. It's just you, your phone, some small and lightweight accessories, and you're ready to rock!
Since you can work lean and mean, there's no excuse not to give viewers a unique take on traditional subjects.
A great way to do that is to change the perspective from which you shoot your photos.
With your smartphone, you can get ultra-low, and lay down on the ground to create a shot that's truly a worm's eye view.
With such a large, beautiful screen to act as your viewfinder, you can also stretch your arms above your head and take a shot from a perspective that's higher than the normal eye level.
The point is that everyone has seen the Eiffel Tower from the usual perspective. We all know what Yosemite Falls looks like from the popular viewpoint. It's familiar to see a portrait of a kid with the kid looking up at the camera.
With such a small, easy-to-maneuver camera, you should throw convention out the window and seek to shake things up a bit. Get down low. Get up high. Take photos looking straight up into the air or straight down. Kneel, sit, or lay on the ground. Just change the view you give people, and your photos will have much more impact that leaves a lasting impression.
Putting It All Together
Obviously, this isn't an exhaustive list of what you can do to take control of your smartphone to create the most compelling photos.
But these tips will certainly get you started off on the right foot with a solid foundation of compositional and technical support.
On the composition front, paying attention to lighting and giving your viewers a unique perspective will help you create images that are eye-catching and leave viewers wanting more.
By outfitting yourself with gear like the Grip & Shoot, you can more easily take advantage of great lighting and unique perspectives as well.
Add to that the seemingly unending supply of camera apps and post-processing apps for your phone, and you've got the makings for a powerful toolkit to take your mobile photography to the next level!