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Oh, snap!

Three tips to improve your smartphone photos

Portraits shot slightly above the eyes will bring out the natural angles of each face as displayed by freshman Faith Ross. (Photography by Halie Owens)

Portraits shot slightly above the eyes will bring out the natural angles of each face as displayed by freshman Faith Ross. (Photography by Halie Owens)

By Becca Robb | Echo 

You are a photographer. You take photos of your friends, your food and yourself. You curate your social media feeds to show the world your favorite moments and finest shots. Maybe you’re pretty good.

But the best photographers don’t settle for “pretty good.” Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced, these simple steps can transform your photography:

  1. Compose your shot.

Try a different angle. Everyone’s seen photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What can make yours unique? If you find an angle that highlights an unusual feature of your subject, your photo will seriously stand out. Get up high! Get down low! Step forward, step back.

Just cramming everything into the frame doesn’t mean you’re good to go. Try the rule of thirds: Divide your frame evenly with two vertical and two horizontal lines and place your subjects on the lines (this is good) or the points where the lines meet (this is better). People’s eyes naturally glide to these points, making the rule of thirds a simple way to strengthen your composition.

  1. Choose your subject.

But first, start by choosing what is not your subject: Scan the edges of your photo for unwanted scenery. Make sure it doesn’t look like your models have trees growing out of their heads!

For selfies, it’s best to shoot from an angle slightly above your eyes. This brings out the natural angles in your face and eliminates any double chins. But higher is not always better. An overly high angle looks unnatural and makes your selfie look fake.

  1. Consider your lighting.

When shooting indoors, a general rule is the more light, the better. Yet, sometimes we must turn to flash to brighten our photos. Flash is OK, but not always a reliable friend to lean on. Sometimes your flash fails you—casting jarring reflections on shiny surfaces and transforming friends’ faces into lightbulbs.

When shooting outdoors, you’ll often find the best portrait light during cloudy and overcast days. The soft illumination eliminates creepy eye socket shadows and doesn’t highlight people’s imperfections like harsh, 1 o’clock sunlight does.

The most important step to remember in shooting photos is to whip out your phone and actually take photos! These principles are no use if you leave your phone in your pocket and let some inexperienced phone-owner snap your shots. (Almost) anything can be art—if it’s compelling to you, it may be compelling to someone else.

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