Humans now take around an estimated one trillion photos every year - with more than 40 billion shared on Instagram alone in 2016. The problem is, most of them are rubbish. Take away all the wonky selfies, over-filtered sunsets and pictures of people's brunch and you’re not left with much in the way of decent photography. And with the cameras in our smartphones now starting to rival professional DLSRs, maybe it's time to stop these beginners’ mistakes and start thinking before we shoot…
But how do you really know how well your old phone measures up in comparison? Or your home speakers, for that matter? You could seek out the highest quality uncompressed tracks to hear just how much difference good phone audio hardware and decent set of buds can really make...or take the shorter route and read our easy guide (as well as our track recommendations) on the audio qualities to look out for in a phone.
The cameras in most modern smartphones are pretty amazing, and they’re only getting better. HUAWEI's recent Mate 9 comes with a pair of superfast Leica lenses, which is something most professional photographers could only dream of a few years ago. This makes taking automatic photos incredibly easy, but you shouldn’t rely on this technology for the best results: turn over to the manual mode to give you more control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance. Mastering these settings will help you achieve the perfect shot.
When we look at an image, our eye has to choose something to focus on first. A face, a flower, a red balloon, a cat riding a vacuum cleaner…whatever it is, think about where it sits in your photo and try not to crowd it with too many other distractions. If your photo needs a caption to explain what it is, it’s probably not the best shot.
When you've thought about your subject, think about the space around it - a thoughtful composition is what will help your photo stand out from the masses. Putting your subject right in the middle of the shot will scream amateur. Instead look for a unique frame to provide the interest and draw the viewer in. For example using a foreground object in one corner or to off to one side adds an extra element of intrigue and elevates your subject to another level. Compare a framed shot and a plain shot side by side and you'll appreciate the immediate difference. Using the ‘grid’ overlay (available from the settings menu of most smartphones) will aid your positioning.
Modern phone cameras have built-in auto-focus and it usually works brilliantly. The problem is, auto-focus is designed to keep everything in focus, which might not be the best thing for the photo. Blurring out the background a little (possible with a dual lens setup, like the Mate 9 or the iPhone 7) brings the subject into sharper definition. You can also selectively adjust the focus on most single lens smartphones via third-party apps (such as Camera+), which is especially helpful if you don’t want your subject in the middle of the frame.
Dark, gloomy, underexposed photos look awful, but that's rarely a problem for most super-sharp smartphones. Much more common is overexposure – as your phone often assumes the more light it can cram in, the better. Couple that with default settings that take HDR ('High Dynamic Range') photos, and Instagram is awash with brilliantly bright, fantastically flat looking photos without any sense of depth or texture. Thankfully, it's easy to correct this with a little mucking around: phone cameras usually come with exposure settings, and you can also adjust the amount of light being exposed to your camera sensor via the ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings.
A phone's built-in flash is a great tool, however this often means that we rely on this function to do the whole job for us. Actually, our approach to each photo should depend on the current light conditions, as with traditional photography. Think about where your light is coming from: for example, always seek out natural light—near windows or doors if inside, avoid backlit subjects and don’t use the flash in low light. A flash will almost always ruin skyline photos, as you’ll find the light bounces off random objects in the foreground (the pavement, a lamppost, a passing fly).
Image stabilisation isn't as much of a problem as it used to be, but there’s still no substitute for a decent tripod when it comes to keeping your shots sharp – especially in low-light. Actually, there is. If you don't have a tripod, try using a wall, a table, a bench, a shoulder or whatever you can find to help keep your phone steady.
Packing a lot of lens into such slim handsets, smartphone cameras don’t usually have much in the way of an optical zoom. Digital zooms just make things pixelated and should always be avoided (you can always crop your image to achieve the same effect), but the best way of getting closer to your subject is to actually get closer to your subject. Take a few steps forward and your frame will look a lot less empty.
Some professional photographers will tell you that filters are for people who don’t know how to take photos. They're being snobby, of course, but it’s easy to see why when you look at most photos on Instagram. A bit of subtle editing can often turn a good shot into an amazing one, but no amount of filters can rescue a photo that was bad to begin with. Ditch the pre-built filters and play around with the adjustment sliders yourself to learn what works and what doesn’t.
With 40 billion photos flying around every year, it might sound like standing out is impossible. It's not. Flick through a few photography books, go to an exhibition or spend a few minutes online looking at portfolios and you’ll see that it’s originality that really separates the pros from the amateurs. Pick a different angle, find something unusual that catches your eye, turn your back on the famous landmarks, play with your camera settings and try something new. The biggest mistake you can make, might just be not making enough mistakes in the first place.
With its 2nd generation Leica Dual Camera, comprising of a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and a 12-megapixel RGB camera, the HUAWEI Mate 9 will have you taking great pictures, anytime anywhere! Even better, get it today at StarHub's Online Store with an additional 3GB of data to your plan at $6/month to easily upload all your phone photography. Now that's worry-free.