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Taking great photos all comes down to knowing your camera and your subject

90% of people who have ever taken a photo have not used a camera. Those photos were taken on a phone.¹ Whatever phone you have and whatever you like to snap, there are a few fundamentals that can help improve almost any shot. Alright, let’s jump in.

  1. Clean your lens

Photos looking a little milky? This is the biggest problem we see on smartphone cameras. Because the lens is so small, it’s very easy for it to get dirty while you’re using your phone for other things. You spend the whole day holding your phone, so make sure you wipe away those smeary marks before you start snapping. Remember to clean the front camera, too.

  1. Focusing

Focus makes the photo. Try not to just point and shoot, but take time to make sure that the main subject of your photo is in focus.  Most Nokia smartphones  have touch focusing. Just touch the most important part of the image on the display and the camera will adjust focus to make sure it looks nice and sharp.

  1. Apply the rule of thirds

This is a simple concept that helps you compose your landscape-orientation images. It’s based on the idea that by dividing an image into nine equal parts to form a three-by-three grid creates visual interest. You should aim to place the main subject of your photo – like a tree line or a group of faces – in the intersections or along the lines. The left or right third of the image usually yields the best results.

  1. Consider the flash and use night mode

Using the flash on your phone can sometimes result in too much noise and not great photos. With increasing performance in low light conditions, turning off the flash could improve your nighttime photos. Shooting at a concert in dark conditions? The flash is not going to reach the stage, only the people in front of you. At a zoo shooting through glass? You will have a bad photo and you could scare the animals.

When you are shooting in daylight and the subject is in shadow, that’s the time to use flash – it can give some great portrait results. But in low-light conditions, like in the evening, try using Night Mode instead. A lot of people don’t use it, but it’s a simple and powerful feature.

  1. Steady your shot

Smartphone cameras are sensitive to movement. Even a slight shake can leave a smartphone photo looking blurry. So, we want to minimise camera shake as much as possible. A tripod will stop this. The good news is that you can buy small, cheap tripods specifically for smartphones from most online vendors.

If you don’t want to buy a tripod, then using a wall, a friend’s shoulder, or even your other arm will help reduce camera shake. Keeping the shot steady is especially important in low-light conditions when the longer exposure times are that much longer.

  1. Try using HDR Mode

Ever tried to take a photo of the sky, only for the scenery below to become lost to shadow? Or tried to focus on a dimly lit subject and noticed that the sky becomes overexposed? That’s where “High Dynamic Range” comes in.

HDR mode brings out the darkest and lightest parts of your picture and creates a better balance of colours overall. The only downside is that, in HDR Mode, photos take a little longer to process, so avoid using HDR mode on fast-moving subjects or when you can’t keep your phone steady. But in general, it’s great when there’s a big difference between the darkest and lightest parts of your photo.

  1. Learn your camera features

Learn what your phone does, and when to use them. You’ll want to turn on HDR for most phones for day-to-day photography. Use night modes for shooting in dim interiors, or outdoors after the sun has set. Portrait mode blurs the background behind your subject and is sometimes called the Bokeh Effect. Panorama mode when you are taking landscape photos so you can see everything around you.

It’s also worth understanding aspect ratios. Common aspect ratios include Full, 16:9, 4:3 and 1:1. Professional photographers use 4:3 for photos because it works well for computer monitors and for 8×6 inch prints. 16:9 is used for video because itworks great for TVs and the 1920 x 1080 resolution.

  1. Set your resolution high

The higher the resolution of your photo, the better quality it is. When taking images, try to go as close as possible to the subject rather than zooming in when you take a shot. Using digital zoom will reduce the image quality, so avoid it if possible. Whereas, if you get up close, you always have the option of cropping the image later.

  1. Shoot your videos in landscape

Vertical video only works if the audience is on a phone, like in Instagram Stories, for instance. It does not work on TVs and screens though, because they are wider than they are long – in other words, they have a landscape orientation.

If you are shooting a video of something amazing that you might want to share on the big screen, or even YouTube, you should always rotate your phone to landscape so that you can fill the frame with your awesome footage.

  1. Always know where the light source is

When taking a photo, it is vital to know the light is coming from. Smartphone cameras can only take in a limited amount of light. A lot of light can overwhelm the sensor and can also throw off their exposure. You should always ensure that the light falls directly on the subject. So, when taking pictures indoors, make sure the subject is facing the light source. The light source should not come from behind them, otherwise the subject will be underexposed.

Show us your photos!

Have a Nokia smartphone and feel inspired to try out some of these tips? We want to see what you’ve got! Head to Instagram and share with us the best photos you’ve taken lately using #shotonnokia. And don’t forget to tell us which Nokia phone you shot your photos on!