Share some basic tips to get better shots

I’ve noticed it in my Twitter timeline quite a lot recently: people asking how to make better shots. They have this fantastic mobile imaging equipment but somehow seem to fail to get a shot to be satisfied with.

Now I’m not flattering myself here: I am a passionate mobile photographer, but I’m not the best photographer by far – through this club, I’ve come to know many others who get much better results from their PureView cameras (or even one of their predecessors :-)

Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good idea to write this post with a few simple tips I can think of, and ask you to share whatever you’d like to contribute. I’m not going to add tons of shots as examples here (just a few), since this post would become way too long – it’s just about tips and tricks.

Some say “use a tripod”. I never do, actually. Maybe that’s why my own results aren’t too fantastic, but somewhere I’m convinced you don’t really need a tripod to get a good shot. Sure, if you want to work with longer exposure time etc., no doubt you will need a tripod. But that’s already a way more professional way of photographing. This post is meant for “starters” – I wouldn’t even dare to write something for experienced photographers.

So here we go. Hope you’ll enjoy it and please add whatever good tip or trick you miss.

- Every subject is good as long as it doesn’t move too fast. Even a subject you’d say is “simple”. Make it look special by zooming in on a detail for example. Even a box of matches or a pair of sunglasses can make for an interesting shot, as we've seen recently in an early example from the Nokia Lumia 1020.

New York sunglasses bokeh 640 x 360

- Composition is king. Get some diagonals in your shot, give it depth. Turn your subject around, look at it from different angles through your lens, until you find the shot that really captures what you like about it. Diagonals usually are very helpful.

- Get on the same level as your subject. Lie on the ground if you have to. Animals and plants are usually a lot more interesting if you capture them from their level. Or a stand with tons of nail polish :-)

Nokia Lumia 925 - nail polish 640 x 360

- Get something in the foreground. If you’re shooting a landscape for instance, it usually is very helpful to find a tree to get some depth in your shot as well. Without it, your landscape will turn out get flat, two-dimensional. Not even great landscapes survive that.

Here's a simple example of a getting a diagonal in the foreground :-)

Gate to a landscape - Nokia Lumia 925 - 640 x 360

- Check the horizon – it’s easy to set it straight afterwards, but it will make you feel better when your sea shot is really horizontal to begin with.

- Don’t always keep your camera in landscape or portrait however – it can be very effective to hold it different to get more in your shot, or to give it that special angle.

- Learn how to control focus. Tap in the screen to focus on the subject in the foreground and “blur” the background (the famous bokeh-effect). Or the other way around, blurring the foreground.

Nokia Lumia 920 - Portico test 8

- Get to know your zoom. With the Nokia 808 PureView, you have an abundant amount of controls, but you will still need to learn how to use them. Getting real close on a subject will give you fascinating results.

Get in PureView mode, long tap on the screen to choose “close-up”, then zoom in on your subject by swiping, then focus until it let’s you know it’s happy (with a green frame) - and shoot. The lower the PureView resolution you choose, the closer you can get. You can make close-ups in Full Resolution, but then you can’t zoom in by swiping.

Nokia 808 PureView - colorful close-up - 640 x 360

- when you use a Windows Phone device, you can either focus by using the shutter button before you press, or touch the screen directly where you want it to focus – it will than shoot the picture as soon as it has focused. My favorite method is to use the shutter button by the way, it gives me just a bit more control of what I get in my shot.

- With the Nokia Lumia 920/925, you can make amazing night shots as you know: Optical Image Stabilisation allows you to make great shots in the dark, but if you want to capture someone late at night, please ask them to hold still.

Some nightshots will look like they’re made in the early morning however, not late at night. If you want to keep some of the night atmosphere in your shot, choose “night”, but don’t be afraid to lower the exposure time. It all depends on how much light you have left, so fool around with the settings a bit. This nightshot was made with low exposure time. The spotlight in the right corner is / indeed - part of the full moon.

Nightshot - Nokia Lumia 925 - -3,25 step 640 x 360

- with the Nokia Lumia 925, you’ll have “Nokia Smart Cam” (soon on the other Nokia devices as well, after the “Amber” update). Smart cam is fun to use, but it’s not always easy – it really depends on the timing of your moving subject – and your own. You really need to be smart to get the best results. Moreover, I noticed “night mode” doesn’t work with Nokia Smart Cam.

Lumia 925 - Unicycle Motion Focus

Is that all? Nah, that’s not all I’m very sure. These are just a few general and more or less specific tips and tricks that came to my mind writing this post. If you have a few tips yourself, please don’t hesitate to share them here as well :-)

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