Q. Our staff and volunteers are great about taking pictures with their smartphones for us to use in social media marketing and our newsletter. The problem is, the pictures aren’t very good. I wish we could afford to hire a pro, but that just isn’t in the budget. Are there simple ways to get better smartphone photography results from amateurs?

The Curse of the Dark and Blurry - exactly what you don't want from smartphone photography

A.
For years, The Curse of the Dark and Blurry befell those who tried using smartphone cameras to take good pictures. Today, major improvements in these cameras have made it possible to take amazingly high quality photos. But, as you have seen, even a great camera takes bad pictures in the hands of an unskilled user.Ideally, suggest that the people who take photos for you get some training. Free or low-cost options include one-hour iPhone photography workshops at the Apple Store near you and mini-courses in photography offered by an adult evening school such as Main Line School Night. Those who participate will not only please you by taking better photos for marketing, they will please themselves with the far better pictures they can share with family and friends.In the meantime, here are five basic tips to share with the people who are doing smartphone photography for your small business or nonprofit.1. Get set. Your camera has various settings and you need to know how they work – before the day of the shoot. If you are the type of person who reads directions only after all else fails, experiment with the settings until you figure them out. The rest of you can go to the manufacturer’s website and view or download directions. Click here for the iPhone User Guide.2. Get high. While the default on most cameras is highest resolution, some people lower the resolution so that they can take more photos before their phone’s memory fills up. When shooting for a professional purpose, make sure your camera is set to highest resolution. Zooming in reduces resolution, so when possible, move closer to the subject instead. Also note that on most devices, the back camera (you see your subject on the screen, not yourself) takes higher resolution photos than the front camera (intended for selfies).

3. Lighten up. Most blurry photos are due to poor lighting. The better lit the subject is, the more crisp the photo will be. Natural light (outdoors or from a window) is best, but make sure the subject is facing the light source, not back-lit, as this will make the subject too dark. Use the flash or another light source if natural light is not available or if backlighting is unavoidable. If the subject itself is dark – such as a person with very dark skin or clothing, or a pet with black fur – use the flash even if you think you have enough light.

4. Background check. Ask yourself three questions about the area behind and around your subject: Is the background important to the photo? If not, can you find a less cluttered background or de-clutter this one? If you can’t do anything about the background, can you move or adjust the subject to make it stand out from the background?

5. Stand still. This is important to avoid blur, especially in a low-light situation. If your camera has a stabilize or anti-shake setting, turn this on. If possible, use a tripod or perch the camera on a handy stationary object, such as a shelf or stack of books. If you must hand-hold the camera, don’t rush. Take a few seconds to steady your body and hands, then slowly breathe out while taking the picture. It can also help to speak up and channel your grandpa when he was trying to snap a shot of you: “Stand still! I’m trying to take a picture!”

Need help designing your social media pages, website or brochure? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].

 

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