One of the biggest advantages to using your phone camera (or a point and shoot on auto – does anyone use these anymore?!) is the fact that you are left to concentrate on the composition of your image. I see composition as the “art” of photography and using a DSLR camera on manual (f-stops, ISO, focal lengths etc) as the “science”. When you’re using your phone you don’t have to think about the science, just the art. This is how the image looks, how it makes you feel, what story it tells. The composition.

My number one tip when composing your image is to slow down and number two is to experiment. Take your time, check your background, change your angle. These are broad statements though and until you know what you are looking for aren’t really of much help. So here are 3 things you can specifically think about once you’ve seen something that you want to take a photo of, you’ve taken your phone out of your bag and you’re holding it up:

1. Is the shot straight?

My pet hate: sloping horizons. Sloping horizons are so uncomfortable to look at. It literally makes me feel like I am falling sideways when I see a photo that’s totally wonky. This is obvious when it’s a photo taken at the beach but it’s also something you should get in the habit of checking for every shot. If the horizon isn’t obvious then what other lines in the image can you straighten? Have a look at the two photos below. Which do you think is a stronger image?

For me, it is definitely the second shot. When looking at the first image my eyes wander all over the place following the lines up and to the side and I almost want to tilt my head to try and correct them. In the second shot, all the lines lead to the subject. It feels more compact, it’s neater and more powerful. Do you get the same feeling?

Take your time, check your horizons, check your lines are straight.

2. Is there something distracting in the background?

Have you even seen portraits taken where there is a pole or tree growing out of the subjects head? (If you haven’t, here is an example.) It’s a simple, distracting element that can be easily fixed by changing the subjects position OR your position. By stepping to the side you can change the composition of the shot so the background and the subject don’t merge. If it isn’t as simple as stepping to the side though experiment with changing the composition completely by changing the angle from which you are taking the shot. The images below are a great example. I wanted to show how much Miss 4 was enjoying the free nuts at lunch the other day. In a busy restaurant and with the drinks on the table though she is lost amongst the distractions.

By holding my phone higher and taking the shot slightly from above I have removed the distracting background. (I also waited until the lady had finished paying her bill.) She’s no longer cropped by the water glass and your eye is drawn to her rather than the beer and the background. (If I’d taken a little more time I could have moved some of the empty shells closer to her so they added more to the story.)

Check to see if there is anything in the background that can be easily cropped out or hidden. Take your time and experiment with the angles.

3. Is the shot balanced?

If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen this post recently with a quick tip about making sure your photos are balanced. If you think of your photo as a scale, examine if your objects are causing it to tip too far in one direction. On Facebook I used a product flay lay example (head on over and check it out), here I’ll use a landscape.

In the first image, the tree, the jetty and the person are all on the right-hand side of the image. Although I have used the Rule of Thirds, where you get the subject out of the centre of the image, the composition is too crowded on one side. (I’ll discuss the composition rules in more detail in a future post.) By moving around the tree and placing it in the centre, the focus becomes its symmetrical shape and the background elements are balanced. This isn’t to say that you have to have objects on both sides, but it’s about how all the elements in your frame are positioned and interact. The figures in the second image also add a story compared to the lone figure.

By slowing down, waiting, changing my angle I came up with a stronger composition.

As you learn to really look at the scene and how you are composing your image you will start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. That’s the beauty of camera phones, they let you experiment with the art of photography. Don’t just take the first shot you see and move on. Take your time and be deliberate with what is and isn’t in the frame.

All of my tutorial style posts you can find in the Photography Tutorials Category. Have a browse and let me know what you find the most useful. I love to help and I want to make it easy for you to take great shots with your phone.

You can also attend a Photography and Social Media Masterclass that I host locally with Social Elucidation. You’ll get heaps of really practical, easy to digest DIY tips to improve the images you take for your business and how to use them to create great engagement and grow your business. More details here. Register your interest to be kept up to date on the next one. I love what I do and I’d love to help you.