10 Common Mobile Photography Mistakes To Avoid

10 Common Mobile Photography Mistakes To Avoid

The phone camera has become the most widely found camera, and for good reason. Almost everyone has one and it’s super simple to use. Just pull out your phone, point your camera, and snap away.

However, if you want to take smartphone photography seriously, you need to do more than just snap away. You need to be deliberate and think things through before you take your shot.

When starting out as a mobile photographer, it is easy to make some mistakes along the way as you learn the ropes.

To help you along, I’ve made a small list of some most common mistakes that beginner phone photographers make that you need to avoid.

1. No clear subject

The subject of a photo is very important. It is the very thing that’s the main focus of a photo. Without a clear subject, whoever is looking at your photo will be confused as to what they’re looking at.

I know this point might seem odd because whenever someone takes out their phone to take a photo, they’re usually taking a picture of something or someone. But you’d be surprised at how many photos I have seen where I have been left wondering what I’m looking at.

And just to be clear, I’m not referring to abstract photography where the subject is intentionally unconventional. I’m talking about people who were trying to take a picture of something but totally missed the mark.

There are a number of things that can make the subject unclear. One of them could be that the subject blends in too well with the background to the point where it’s difficult to make out the subject from everything else around.

Other reasons could be that the subject is too far, too dark, or too blurry. This is a problem because, without a clear subject, your photo will not look appealing at all.

To emphasize the importance of the subject and to help you capture yours as best as possible, I have written an article on the subject (haha, pun intended), which you can have a quick read through here.

2. Bad lighting

Lighting is the backbone of photography. Get it right and your shots will come out amazing. Get it wrong and no matter how well put together everything is in the frame, your photo will look horrible.

Because smartphone sensors are so small, they need as much light as possible so that they can produce decent quality images. This isn’t much of a problem when taking pictures outside during the day. The issue arises at night or in low light conditions.

When lighting is inadequate, the camera will compensate for this electronically by boosting the ISO. Although this works well to an extent, it introduces digital noise which can compromise the quality of the photo quite considerably.

To avoid the issue of bad lighting and the problems associated with it, you need to make sure that you take photos in places and areas that have adequate lighting.

If you’re shooting at night, there are a few things you can do to ensure your photos come out well in low light. For example, you could use anything from street lamps outside or light fixtures indoors to illuminate your subject. Whatever you can find as a light source can make quite a difference.

3. Overkill on the edit

After capturing a photo on your phone, it’s only common practice send it to your favourite in order to edit it. Although you can manipulate your image however way you want at this stage, basic editing is about enhancing a photo.

True, editing is subjective. So, what is adequate and looks good to me may not be the same for another person. Also, every image is different and requires different amounts of post-processing work. For these reasons, it is difficult to say how much editing is enough for any given image.

However, it is possible to go overboard with the editing. When this happens, the image ends up looking too processed and loses its natural beauty. An example of this would be adding too much saturation to the image or smoothing the skin to the point where it looks unrealistic.

Too much editing can also make imperfections such as digital noise more noticeable. When dealing with exposure, brightness and contrast, you need to be careful not to brighten the image to the point where it becomes noisy in the shadows or blown out in the highlights.

Also, you want to be aware of losing detail in the darker areas of the image by crushing the blacks too much.

4. Using on-camera flash

I’ve already touched on the need for good lighting, especially at night or in areas where the lighting conditions are poor. Oftentimes, to make up for the lack of adequate lighting, a lot of people resort to using the flash that’s on the phone’s camera. That’s not always the best idea.

When using a dedicated camera such as a DSLR, flash photography can yield some really stunning results. Depending on the type of flash you use, you can diffuse it, bounce it off a surface, or set it off remotely off-camera. This allows you to illuminate and mould the subject whichever way you like using light and shadows.

A phone camera flash is not detachable nor is it adjustable. Although different phones use different types of flash, they’re all far less powerful than the flash that’s used with bigger cameras.

Photos taken with the phone’s camera flash turned on tend to come out looking washed out and unflattering. Objects closer to the camera tend to be more exposed while the background remains dark. You also run the risk of encountering red eyes in your photos. Shiny surfaces will reflect the light which causes glares.

That’s not to say you can’t ever do flash photography with your phone at all. In fact, you can. There are a few wireless smartphone camera flashes available on the market. They connect and communicate with your phone wirelessly and are triggered when you take a picture. Definitely worth checking out.

5. Using digital zoom

When their subject is quite a distance from them, it is common to see a lot of people use the zoom feature of their camera to bring the subject closer. In most cases, the camera uses digital zoom to achieve this but the downside is that it degrades the quality of the image.

Normal zoom lenses for larger cameras use optical zoom, which uses the glass elements inside the lens to magnify the image. Therefore, the image retains its quality.

Digital zoom, on the other hand, uses software to crop the image and then stretch it out to fit the frame. The resulting image is usually of inferior quality.

If you feel the need to zoom, walk closer to the subject. If it’s not possible to get closer the subject, take the photo without zooming in and then crop it later in the edit. This way you can still have some decent picture quality.

Another option you can try is to attach an external lens. Telephoto lenses are known as that because they magnify an object from afar. If you attach a good quality lens to your phone’s camera, it will help you bring your subject closer without sacrificing picture quality.

If you’ve checked out the phone camera specs of phones that have multiple cameras, you’ll notice that some of them claim to have optical zoom. Find out how true that is here.

6. Ignoring Manual mode

I am adding this here and confess that I was guilty of this for the longest time. I’ve had some of the most amazing and high-end phones with amazing cameras but I never got to explore their full potential because I shot only on Auto mode.

In my defence, I knew very little about photography and camera settings at that time.

Not to say shooting on Auto is a bad thing. It’s great. It’s amazing how such a small camera can look at a scene and figure out what it thinks are the ideal settings to capture the scene.

As much as this is impressive, it is a downside because the creative control of how the image should look is left to a computer.

Shooting in Manual mode (sometimes known as Pro mode) has many benefits. Firstly, it gives you complete control over how the picture should look. This opens up the doors for you to be creative with how you capture your images.

I know most people avoid shooting in Manual mode because they don’t know what any of those settings do or mean. That was the case with me but that all changed when I finally learned more about the camera.

I recommend you read this guide on manual mode and see how shooting manually can improve your photography.

7. Poor composition and odd angles

Composition refers to how the subject and all the elements in the photo are positioned. Good composition results in photos that are pleasing to look at. One look at a poorly composed photo and you can tell that something is off.

One of the most popular rules of composition is known as the rule of thirds. It is believed that when people look at images, there are particular areas in the frame that the eye is drawn to. Aligning your subject along these areas makes for aesthetically pleasing visuals.

What’s also important to keep in mind when composing your shots is headroom and looking room. Having enough headroom means that there isn’t very little space between the top of your subject and the top the frame all the while there’s a lot of space below the subject.

Also, you don’t want to have too much space above the top of your subject without anything happening in that space.

The most space you need to have is the looking room. If your subject is turned away and facing off-camera, it is common practice to have more space in the direction the subject is facing than behind.

The angle at which you take the shot makes quite a difference, too. As an adult, if you take a picture of a small child from your height, you’ll be taking a high angle shot. The child will have to look up at the camera.

On the other hand, if you kneel down and take the photo from the child’s eye level, the resulting photo will look considerably different even though the subject is the same.

Keep in mind that some shots are best taken from low angles. Other angles will just not look as great. So, make sure you consider how and where in the frame you want to position your subject and the perfect angle to get the best possible shot.

8. Not backing up photos

I had to put this point here because I have lost my photos so many times. The last time it happened it was towards the end of my week-long vacation at one of those tropical islands with warm, crystal-clear blue waters and white sandy beaches.

I lost my phone and along with hundreds of pictures from my holiday because I didn’t back them up.

If your phone is not set to automatically upload your photos to your cloud storage, then I suggest you do so. It’s convenient and you don’t have to worry about it because it happens automatically. Just make sure everything is password protected and secure.

If you can’t save to the cloud, then transfer your photos to your computer or external storage device. Of course, because this is not automatic, you’ll have to transfer the files regularly.

9. Blurry images

One of the most common issues that amateur mobile photographers face is that of blurry photos. They take a photo and all is well but when they look at the photo, it’s all blurry. This can be very frustrating but sometimes easy to solve.

One of the reasons photos taken with a smartphone may come out blurry is because the lens is dirty from coming into contact with various surfaces. Cleaning the lens might help fix that problem.

Another likely scenario is that perhaps you are using a slow shutter speed. This may be the case at night or in low light conditions where a slow shutter speed helps the sensor receive more light over an extended period.

Because the exposure time is longer, if you don’t keep your phone very still, even the slightest movement will result in a blurry photo. The best way to work around this is to support your phone. A tripod works best for this.

There are other reasons why your photos may look blurry. You can read about them in this article. You’ll also get some helpful suggestions as to how to deal with them.

10. Not practising enough

The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it over and over again until you get it right. Nobody starts off as a good mobile photographer. It takes practice. And as they say, practice makes perfect.

Practising does not mean just constantly taking random pictures and hoping to get better and better after each shot. You need to be deliberate and practice with intention.

If you want to get better at shooting outdoors with natural lighting, spend a day outside taking pictures of various subjects at different times of the day. Do this until you get the hang of it and understand how to work with lighting. Once you’re happy, move on to the next thing you want to improve on.

After a while, things like composition, camera settings, lighting, etc. will come naturally to you. In time, you’ll develop a good eye for taking photos with your phone. You just need to keep practising. And have fun while doing it.

click here to download the 5 Ways To Improve Your Smartphone Photography free ebook

That’s 10 common mobile photography mistakes that many beginners make that you need to avoid. By closely studying each one and applying the lessons, you can start taking mobile photos that look really good.

For useful tips on how to capture great photos with your phone, check out the 15 Tips on How To Take Amazing Photos With Your Phone.

If you want to learn more about how to improve your smartphone photography, download the 5 Ways To Improve Your Smartphone Photography ebook here. There’s a lot to learn in its 22 pages of content and it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

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