Art Of The Smartphone Photo: Sharp and Focused Pictures

Art Of The Smartphone Photo: Sharp and Focused Pictures

I think one of the most important ways to improve as a photographer – specifically a smartphone photographer – is to know your device. There are a lot of things that will vary from camera to smartphone, and the more you know them, the better photos you will be able to take. The first thing I want to share with you is that, with your smartphone camera, all your pictures are going to be sharp.

What do I mean by sharp? Take a look at these two photos I took. The first is a photo I took with a DSLR camera, and the second is the photo I took with my handy iPhone. Notice some of the differences?

Baseball players taken with my DSLR camera.

Baseball players taken with my DSLR camera.

Baseball players taken with my iPhone camera.

Baseball players taken with my iPhone camera.

With smartphone cameras, almost everything in both the foreground and background is going to be in focus at the same time. I mean everything, from the flowers in the foreground to the mountains in the background, will be sharp and clear. Just like in the photo above, the players, fence, trees, and foliage are all crisp and clear. This is in contrast to the DSLR photo, where the background is more muted, bringing the players to light a bit more clearly. Photographers call this sharp effect “depth of field,” and the more depth of field you have, the sharper your photos will be.

Smartphone cameras have a ton of depth of field because the smaller the camera gets, the more depth of field is created. Obviously, one of the wonderful features about a smartphone camera is that it’s really small. It’s why most of you have a camera with you virtually all the time. But that smallness is also a bit of a double-edged sword if you don’t know how to wield it correctly.

Smartphone cameras are great at snapping a picture and making sure you capture every important moment. However, the size does make it difficult for you to get that dreamy out-of-focus background look like the photo above. However, under most circumstances, your smartphone photographs are going to come out sharp.

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your depth of field:

1)     Choose your background carefully and try to find a nice view. Since everything is going to come up great, take pictures with either muted backgrounds that help add to the foreground, or an exciting background that will help add to the photo. With the baseball players, I was careful to select the right backgrounds that would truly make the pictures pop!

2)     Utilize the portraits function on the more recent iPhone and newer smart phones. These features are great with the newer cameras and they will only continue to get better.

3)     Use simple editing tools with smartphone apps like tilt shift to give focus to the items you really want. There are plenty of great free apps that can allow you to make quick photo edits with minimal effort!

All- Stars.jpg

These are just some simple ways that you can get the most out of the depth of field and maximize the sharpness of your photos. Of course, sharpness is not always a bad thing – Ansel Adams is a classic example. He’s considered by many people to be the greatest photographer that ever lived and virtually everything in all his greatest pictures are as sharp as a tack. He loved having everything sharp. So, obviously, it can be made to work. 

The key is to be aware of the sharpness to get the best possible photos. You can use the sharpness to tell a story in the picture, like with this picture of the trophies. The trophies in the foreground are sharp, and so are the award-winning All-Stars in the distance. This helps to connect the players and their championship status all in one images. In the end, that’s what this is all about – telling stories.

You need to embrace what your camera does best. Having everything sharp can be stunningly beautiful. It can also be distracting. Being aware of all that depth of field is the first step. 

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