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5 Fundamental Tips for Taking Better Mobile Photos

New York City—Brooklyn, in particular—is nothing if not visually stimulating: a photographer’s playground crammed with culture and creativity in every nook and cranny. Jaime Rojo knows this well. As co-founder and editor of photography at BrooklynStreetArt.com, as well as a regular columnist for The Huffington Post, Jaime captures the spirit of city living by sharing images of his surroundings – public art, urban landmarks and other captivating visual trends. His skills have taken him around the globe, but Brooklyn is home.


For Jaime, Instagram has become a powerful medium with which to share all that beautiful imagery, to complement his portfolio, and to reach like-minded artists both locally and abroad. His primary Instagram account—@bkstreetart—is rapidly approaching 100K followers and provides a place where people can go to talk about urban art.

Naturally, we turned to Jaime when putting together our recent guide on mobile photography best practices: Instafamous! A Guide to Taking Better Photos from 12 Instagram Influencers. Below, we share and elaborate on five of Jaime’s suggestions for taking snapshots that spark conversation and community.

1. Shoot in Creative Auto.


Creative Auto is an intermediate-level camera function that allows budding photographers to employ advanced photography techniques. With Creative Auto, you can control the depth of field and brightness of an image while automating more complicated functions like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Jaime recommends that you keep your camera settings on Creative Auto “to capture unexpected moments” while wandering through your city.

“This way,” he explains, “you won’t miss the shot while adjusting the settings on your camera. You can always tinker with the photo at home using the photo editing app of your choice.”

While Creative Auto is typical of a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, did you know that you can add a plethora of manual elements to your mobile photos too? Lumia devices, for instance, allow you to control the ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, focus and aperture. iOS devices allow for manual capabilities as well via third-party camera apps, including manual focus, manual exposure and exposure compensation.

Check out the following five apps if you’re looking to experiment with manual settings on your mobile device:

2. Study natural light patterns.


Most photographers—whether newbie or expert—know how important lighting is to the quality of a photo. But it’s not always as simple as facing away from the sun, turning on a flashlight, flipping a light switch or casting a well-placed shadow. “Natural light is a photographer’s best friend, but it could also be your worst enemy,” Jaime explains.

To address this, Jaime recommends experimenting with apps that reveal patterns of natural light throughout all four seasons. We’ve found a couple of tools that might be worth exploring:

1. The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Available on both iOS and Android, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) is an app that helps photographers to better plan outdoor photo shoots that are abundant with natural light. It’s especially suited for landscape and urban scenes, and enables its users to visualize how light will affect any location on earth – day or night.

2. LightTrac

With LightTrac, a photographer can quickly determine the best time and location for a photo shoot based on light conditions where they are. To provide an accurate read of natural lighting, the app calculates the sun’s angle and elevation based on location, date and time of day.

3. Use the tools you have to enhance your photos.


We’ve already mentioned a handful of valuable tools that can help you take better digital photos. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you have a great photo to work with, you can continue to enhance the quality and toy with image characteristics from there.

“Don’t be afraid to use the tools that Instagram and other apps provide you to produce your images,” says Jaime. “The idea that only unfiltered or unedited photos are real is ludicrous and outdated.”

“Photographers have always edited their images regardless of the medium. Digital photography is as real as photos captured on film.” tweet

Instagram, for example, introduces new editing functionalities on a regular basis to grow the ways in which people can use the photo-sharing platform. Consider the many different options by tapping into Instagram’s photo editor before pushing a photo live:

  • Scale
  • Crop
  • Straighten (or unstraighten, for that artsy appeal)
  • Filter
  • Brighten
  • Saturate
  • Highlight
  • Add or remove shadows
  • Fade
  • Adjust color
  • Vignette
  • Tilt shift (i.e. selective focus)
  • Sharpen

4. Have a project in mind.


It was American film director and producer Frank Capra who said that, “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.” It’s important for photographers to follow that hunch – as well as the next one, and the one after that.

As Jaime puts it,  “Always have a project to shoot. This will give you focus.” He adds, “It can be anything, it does not matter. What matters is that the passion for your project translates on to your work.”

“Powerful images are always powerful because of the person behind the lens.” tweet

5. Embrace the editing process.


Practice makes perfect, but the beauty of digital photography is that you don’t have to be perfect the first time around. “Don’t be afraid of editing,” Jaime says.

“Often an image is made better not for what you kept in the frame but for what you cut out of it.” tweet

In other words, start off with a wider frame, including elements and details because you can – not because you find anything particularly beautiful or compelling about them. You can eventually begin to zoom in, narrow your lens, and identify where the true story lies. Maybe it’s what you expected – the person, object or place you intended to capture. But maybe, it’s something entirely different all-together. The bottom line: You’ll never know unless you try.

Photography Tips from Top Instagram Influencers

The Author

Stacy Goodman

Stacy Goodman, Content Manager

Prior to joining Curalate, Stacy wrote copy on the agency side for brands like TUMS, Sleep Number, Coca-Cola and Visa Small Business. Now, she writes about them as a Content Strategist at Curalate, focusing on visual trends, customer stories and best practices across social, mobile and digital.


2 responses to “Visual Voices: How Silly Scenarios Can Lead to Memorable Photos”

  1. Sabrina Kizzie says:

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing.

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