How to Take Better Pictures and Videos With Your Phone
In today’s world, pictures and videos are some of the best ways to help customers get a feel for a product or service. For many customers, images and videos are the only ways they can anticipate the value of a product. If your photos aren’t good quality, they can detract from your brand’s image and hurt your sales.
Thankfully, you don’t need a big DSLR camera or years of photography school to take better photos for your business. You probably already have a great camera in your pocket — your cell phone.
Cell phones have made great strides in photo capabilities and can take images that, to the untrained eye, are on par with what you could get from professional equipment. If you’re not too familiar with phone photography, we can help. We’ve put together some top tips for taking better photos and videos to help you take your marketing to the next level.
Tips for Taking Better Photos and Videos
Before you get started, make sure the phone you use is capable of taking good photos for your business. The best choices for photography will be more expensive phones from major carriers, like an iPhone or Galaxy.
If your phone is more than a few years old or is on the lower end, you might have a little more trouble with quality. However, it’s certainly not impossible to get good photos. You’ll need to set yourself up for success. Here are our tips for taking better videos and photos with a smartphone.
1. Frame Your Subject Well
First up is framing. Framing will vary depending on your subject, but the rule of thirds is a great place to start. To use the rule of thirds, imagine a three-by-three grid or a tic-tac-toe board. Lay it on top of your scene, and place your subject alongside one of the lines or at the intersections between lines. If photographing a car, for example, you might choose to place it on the bottom line.
This puts your subject slightly off-center, adding some visual interest and balance to your shot. It’s an easy technique to use, and most phones even have grid options to help line up your shot perfectly.
Of course, you can break this rule and get creative. Play around and see what you like. Some subjects, like cars and buildings, are best shot away from eye level. Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground or stand up on a stool to get a more interesting image.
Some other things to consider when framing your subject include:
- The background: Your image’s background can make a surprisingly big difference, even if it’s blurred. A messy garage behind a vehicle, for example, won’t convey luxury the same way an urban street or a city skyline might. Make sure the color of the subject complements the background nicely. You can also get creative with your angles to better control your background. Say you’re shooting in a parking lot but don’t want it to look like you’re in a parking lot. You could kneel and angle your phone up to get a view of a building, shrubbery or whatever else is around.
- Zoom: Although your phone might be capable of zooming in incredibly far, resist the temptation to use it. Smartphones usually have two types of zoom — digital and optical. You can typically use optical zoom without any trouble because it is based on the hardware on your phone. You might have a special telephoto lens designed for these further distances. Digital zoom involves blowing up the image, which can quickly reduce the quality of your photo. Try to get up close to your subject instead.
- Use: Lastly, consider where your picture will be going. Will it be printed in a brochure, posted to a social media website or used on an e-commerce page? Frame up your shot for that purpose. For a banner on your website, you might take your photo from further back, which would give you room to crop off the top and bottom and create a thin strip. If you want to post the image to a “story” on social media, be sure to shoot vertically so the image fills up the whole screen. If you post pictures regularly, such as onto a social media account, make sure to include some variety. If all of your pictures are from the same angle, they can get stale.
2. Consider Your Lighting
Lighting can be tricky because you don’t always have much control over it, especially when shooting subjects like buildings and cars. You can’t exactly put them in a studio and set up your own lighting. But lighting is one of the most important parts of photography because it determines how the camera reads the scene in front of it.
Some phone cameras are better than others at handling varied lighting situations, like high contrast and dim environments. You may have more leeway when it comes to lighting if you have a more sophisticated phone.
To get the best lighting, work with what nature has to offer. Many people make the mistake of heading out in the middle of the day because it’s bright out, but that light is harsh and unpleasant. Instead, try shooting during golden hour — the hour just after sunrise and before sunset.
During golden hour, the sun is low in the sky. This angle means that sunlight has to travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere before it hits your subject. These atmospheric particles make the light less harsh and give it a warmer color.
You’ll also want to pay attention to reflections. If there are any shiny surfaces in your shot — like the body of a car or building windows — reflections can distract from the image. Try to create an open space behind you, so the reflection is something simple, like the sky or the street. Use your angles to push out any unwanted reflections, such as you and your phone.
3. Choose the Right Orientation
Your photo or video orientation goes hand-in-hand with framing. Orientation refers to which direction your phone is facing when you take a picture or video — vertical or horizontal. If your image is tall, taken with your phone held upright, it’s in a vertical orientation. If your image is wider and taken with a phone on its side, it’s in horizontal orientation. You can take photos in either orientation, but remember to keep your end goal in mind.
Choosing the proper orientation is essential for making high-quality content. If, for instance, you take your photo vertically but need it to fit into a horizontal ad space, you’ll need to do some cropping and zooming, which can affect your image quality and make framing more difficult. This is especially important for video recording.
Different uses call for different orientations. If you’re taking photos for online distribution, it could go either way. Social media platforms and website ads can come in just about any shape or size.
For example, a horizontal image on Facebook might pair well with text about a promotion. But if you’re making a full-size image ad, a vertical shot is usually best because it fills the user’s screen. Print mediums are another beast entirely, and images can come in almost any orientation. If you’re unsure how you will use the photos, it’s a good idea to grab some in both orientations.
Video follows similar rules. For longer videos, you’ll most often want to record horizontally. This orientation fits the typical screen size used by movies and TV shows and helps you get the highest quality possible. If your video will be used in any full-screen viewing, like a TV commercial or a presentation, horizontal video is essential. The main exception to this rule is recording for certain social media posts or online advertisements. If those applications are vertically oriented, your video needs to match.
4. Use the Right Resolution
You might be surprised at how crisp and clear smartphone photos can be, but a lot goes into the equation.
To simplify, the more pixels in your image, the better it looks. Each picture consists of a large number of pixels — tiny squares of color. If you zoom in close enough, you often see these individual squares. This is called pixelation, and you want to avoid it at all costs. To do that, you need a phone that can capture photos in a large enough size with a high number of pixels.
Resolution generally refers to the number of pixels in an image. You’ll often see resolution expressed like 1080×920, which refers to an image with 1,080 pixels along the horizontal axis and 920 on the vertical one. That’s a typical size for video, but photos can be much larger.
A quick way to gauge your phone’s resolution is to see how many megapixels (MPs) your camera offers. High-end phones, like modern iPhones or Galaxy phones, won’t have any trouble in this department. If your phone is on the lower end or older, it might be an issue. Check your phone’s specifications, and ensure it has a sensor that offers at least eight MPs, ideally 12. With eight or 12 MPs, you can achieve high-quality photos for most digital and print applications.
A few things to keep in mind include:
- Large-scale printing: If you’ll be making particularly large prints, you will probably need a professional camera or a phone with an exceptionally high resolution. You can get an idea of how large you can print an image with this sizing chart.
- Video: When it comes to video quality, today’s phones can record at quality as high as 8K — which is almost 8,000 pixels wide. Better quality is great, but standard HD — 1080×920 — works just fine for many applications. You may also be able to use 4K video, which is a nice in-between at approximately 4,000 pixels wide.
5. Edit Your Photos and Videos
Last but not least is editing. If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, the idea of editing all of your content might sound intimidating, but today’s apps and programs have made it easier than ever. Some will be free, but paid apps might offer more convenience or features. You can find great programs available on your phone or a computer:
- Photo editing: Depending on your comfort level with photo editing, you can choose from a wide range of options. You can opt for a professional-grade tool like Adobe Lightroom or something a little more casual, like Snapseed or VSCO. Most phones and social media platforms even have some light editing capabilities built-in. If you had a hard time finding good lighting or setting up the right framing, you might be able to correct these issues during the editing phase, but you may need a higher-end editing platform.
- Video editing: Some photo apps will work with short video clips, but you’ll likely prefer something designed for video. You probably have some built-in tools on your computer, such as the Video Editor app on Windows devices or iMovie on Apple computers. These are a bit limited, though. Some popular professional options include Adobe Premiere and DaVinci Resolve. You can also find a wide range of apps for editing video on your phone or tablet.
The list of options updates frequently, so hop on Google or browse the app store to see what’s out there. If your goal is marketing, you can also find programs to let you get a little more creative, such as adding text and using social media templates.
So what should you do when editing your content? You might need to do some basic cropping, rotating or resizing to fit your purpose. You could also create collages, such as before and after photos revealing the power of window tint. Some basic color correction can really make the image pop and give it the right “mood.” Most apps will have some basic color-correcting tools that allow you to add filters and make adjustments to aspects like exposure, contrast and saturation.
Play around for a little while to learn these tools and get a feel for them. Soon enough, you’ll have some gorgeous photos to share, post, print or use however you please!
Find More Resources With Madico U
Images are key to modern marketing. Whether you’re just looking to take good pictures for a website or want to go all-in on social media campaigns, your job starts with great pictures and videos. With good framing, lighting, editing and the right resolution and orientation, even total beginners can take professional-looking photos and videos.
Hopefully, these tips have helped you boost your photography game so you can start drawing in more customers. To learn more about making your services shine, check out Madico U, the virtual resource center for building your window film business. We have a wide range of tools for sales, marketing and technical expertise to empower sellers. Explore these resources today!