Shoot your shot

Part 2: Dramatic effect.

You just got a shiny new smartphone, but your socials are still vanilla ice cream basic. Here’s the thing: a smartphone is a Swiss Army Knife, all you need to do is add the right application or select the correct feature and you’ll instantly add some flavour to your bland content cocktail.

Get some colour

Every smartphone worth its salt has colour filters baked into the camera app. Find it in the main viewfinder window of your phone’s camera and spend a day familiarizing yourself with them in various lighting situations and, importantly, figure out what they do to skin tones. If you’re going after a specific look or mood for your compositions then choose a colour filter that will express that.

Rapid fire

You know when you hold the shutter key and it fires off a ton of pictures? That’s called burst mode and it can be your best friend. Yes, Apple, LG and Samsung have turned the long hold into a quick video setting, so you’re gonna need to figure out how trigger burst mode if you have one of those devices, but the rest of us can get creative in the meantime.

Burst mode is great to create GIFs later or interesting collages with an app like Instagram’s Layout. This is one of those modes you can use as frequently as you want, especially when photographing children or animals because those subjects don’t usually stand still and you’ll have a good safety buffer with at least one of those shots being in focus and good enough to post as a single capture.

Get some help

Panorama modes are very under-appreciated. Not only can they substitute for a wide-angle camera in a pinch (hold the phone in portrait orientation for the best effect), but with someone else on pano duty, you can get really creative. Clone yourself by striking a pose and then quickly running around the back of your photographer to pop up in another position in the composition.

Plumb new depths

Portrait mode has become all the rage because it simulates the depth of field you get from the large sensor and fast glass on a dedicated camera. Those modes also work best for those 3D pictures you see on Facebook. Don’t have it on your phone? No problem.

You can achieve some of the bokeh effect by getting as close to your subject as possible and the tapping to focus on what you want. The closer you get to the subject, the more dramatic the effect will be, but watch out for distortion. Get some light or reflections in the background to get those pretty bokeh balls.

See through

Putting physical filters in front of your lens can sometimes yield epic results. Different colour cellophane or glass can tint things. Shooting through windows – pull down the brightness slider or get cast a shadow of the subject to help your phone focus – or getting the reflections off of a surface will add extra dimension to a composition.

Read between the lines

Enable the grid overlay in your camera viewfinder and try to line subjects up in different places on the grid. Don’t be afraid to have negative space in your composition, or to overwhelm your background with a foreground element. The nine box grid represents the rule of thirds, so try and play around with those columns and rows when lining up a shot.  

Flash your friends

Shooting in harsh daylight? Try putting the sun behind your subject and use flash to bring out some details in the shadows. Using your tiny flash to fight bright light is the best way to give yourself options in challenging conditions. 

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