Types of Photography: Popular Genres For Phone Photographers


Photography is about capturing the moments and life events that you wish to relive. For decades film and digital cameras have been too bulky, and as a result, many cameras have been left behind in cupboards or drawers never to see the light of day again. Fortunately, over the years, the size of these cameras has reduced. Photography is now more accessible than ever, thanks to the invention of smartphones. The types of photography modes offered on phones are extensive, and many of them surpass what a traditional camera could have provided.

So just how many types of photography modes are there on phones and which are the best ways to take a photo?

Phones offer various modes, but some of the more popular models include preset modes. These specifically cater to capturing portraits, landscape, macro, travel and low light, to name a few.

In this article, we will explore these modes plus learn some helpful tips which will take your photography to the next level.

Capturing Portraits, Possibility One of the Most Popular Types of Photography

When using a specific mode on the phone like a portrait mode, photographers can obtain professional style photographs. Backgrounds become blurred, while the subject, in this case, a person, remains sharp. What’s happening in the background is the aperture in the lens, similar to one’s iris in an eye expands to allow more light to land on the phone’s sensor. The visible result of this process is a greater depth of field, meaning there is more out of focus area between the person and their background.

It’s this type of look that makes this type of photography one of the most popular genres. People often look their best in portrait modes. Plus the out of focus areas in an image referred to as bokeh, scream ‘professionalism’ to viewers.

The two recommended locations for taking portraits include:

● Using natural light from a window. Position yourself next to the window so natural light filters through and lights the side of the face. This type of diffused lighting is best for these types of photography situations.

● During times of the day when the sun is low. Avoid harsh light and ensure you shade the lens from the sun to stop any stray light from flaring on your phone lens. The light during these times is even and produces the best portraits.

Portrait Photography - women head and shoulders

The settings you should select for portrait photography include:

● A low ISO setting of 100 or lower to avoid digital noise, so skin remains smooth.

● A wide aperture of f/2.8 rather than f/8. An aperture such as f/2.8 produces a beautiful depth of field and bokeh, adding to the professional look.

● The highest image quality, if your phone allows it, you should shoot in RAW rather than jpeg to obtain the highest image quality.

● A shutter speed of at least 1/60 of a second or higher. Any lower will result in a blurry photo.

● Tip: Selecting the ‘Portrait Mode’ or ‘Pro Portrait Mode’ should automatically select most of these settings for you (excluding RAW image mode).

Try Your Hand at Landscape Photography Using Your Phone

Looking at images online, it’s hard to tell what produces each shot. The image quality on some of the higher end photos is excellent. This is important for all types of photography, but specifically for capturing sharp landscape shots. It’s essential to see the detail in leaves, the colors of the sunset or ripples on a lake. Each detail adds to the overall feel of a photo, and if you shoot with a cheaper phone, then you may be missing out.

There are two ways to set up your camera for landscape photography. The first is using the automatic setting on your phone. Look for the mountain symbol when in the camera mode. The other way is by changing the settings manually. With the latter approach, you will have higher image quality, but note you will use more of your phones memory space to store the photos as RAW image files are much larger than jpegs.

Recommend manual settings on your phone camera for landscape photography

● Set the grid. Turn on your camera’s grid to help compose your photo. For the best looking landscape, it is recommended you follow the rule of thirds – intersecting lines on your 9×9 grid. A typical example, if you plan on taking landscapes, line up either the horizon on the top or bottom horizontal third line. By composing this way, two-thirds of the photo will either be the interesting foreground in front of your or the brilliant cloud structure in the sky.

● Select an aperture of f/8, f/11 or f/16. Unlike portraits, landscape photography is about capturing all of the detail with no blur. Either of these apertures will help with obtaining the sharpest photo.

● Adjust your exposure compensation to -1. Most phone cameras don’t have a filter to alleviate high levels of contrast in the sky. Dropping the exposure back in your image allows the phone to underexpose for the shadow areas rather than the highlights.

● Think about using an add-on lens to change your perspective.

● Set your phone camera to shoot RAW for the best image quality and finally,

● Change the ISO to the lowest it will go to avoid any digital noise in the final image.

Tips to master landscape photographs on your phone:

● Use a phone accessory like a phone tripod to steady the shot to eliminate any blur.

● Photograph during blue hour. Blue hour is 20 minutes before the sun rises and the 20 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon. For the types of photography like landscape, this timing is always the best as the light is balanced.

● Don’t focus on the closest or the furthest object. Instead, touch your screen and focus somewhere around 6 to 8 metres in front of you as this will produce the sharpest image (if you are a geek you can calculate the actual distance using the circle of confusion method).

Notice the Small World of Macro Photography with Your Phone Camera

With many types of photography to choose from macro photography is up there with portraiture for many photographers. Phone cameras offer brilliant capabilities for taking close up shots. Almost all have built-in LED to light subjects so you can get creative by playing with shadows at different focal lengths. Plus with add-on wide lens and macro attachment you can get up to 15x closer to see incredible small details.

Tips for macro photography using your phone camera:

● Move your phone as close as you can to your subject and focus by touching the object on the phone screen. Ensure there is also plenty of light.

● Turn your phone upside down to get the lens closer to your subject. This little known technique will take your macro photography to the next level.

● Ensure you turn off your flash to avoid shadows. Only use the flash if you want creative control with shadows or if there isn’t enough light.

● Get on the same plain or level as your subject as this will increase the distance between the object you are photographing and the subjects’ background.

The best settings for macro photography:

● Generally, auto mode will be okay for photographing in macro mode. However, you can also use manual mode to master the settings.

● Like with portraiture, select the same aperture of f/2.8 to blur the background as much as you can.

● Turn the ISO to the lowest setting it will go to to avoid grainy images.

● Turn off the flash if you don’t want shadows.

● If you have a metering mode on your phone camera, then turn the setting to spot or centre metering. Once you have selected this, then your phone camera will only

expose for on the centre point wherever you focus. The result will be a correctly exposed subject.

If You Have an Active Lifestyle Master Your Camera For Epic Travel Shots

Travelling is almost everyone’s dream. Visiting endless places offers a variety of scenes which you may never see again in your lifetime. You may even be a national monument that won’t be there in a few years so, If you have your phone camera with you then mastering the settings for these types of photography situations is highly recommended.

To begin to understand how your phone camera operators when you throw epic scenes at it, you have to break down the types of shooting environments you may face. First, there’s the general outdoor scenario, bright with lots of sun. And then there is the nightlife where you might end up exploring markets or interiors of buildings you have never been in before. Whatever the case understanding which controls to go to will make all the difference to your picture taking.

The camera phone generally does an okay job in auto mode for these types of photography scenarios, however like all good things in life, doing things yourself can sometimes be the best way.

Manual settings for capturing epic travel shots in great light:

● Set the ISO to the lowest; this will give your cleanest looking image without much pixelation or digital noise.

● Change your phone camera’s white balance to either ‘Sunny’ or if there are clouds select the ‘Shade’ white balance setting (it’s the setting with a sun behind a cloud). Correct white balance ensures you have accurate color temperature and skin tones in your photos.

Manual Settings for capturing amazing travel shots in low light:

● Turn the camera phones ISO up higher to somewhere around ISO 1600 or ISO 2000. Noise is the drawback of using such high ISO’s, but the advantage is you can take a photo and relive the memory years down the track.

● Turn on face recognition for interior indoors as your smartphone will then prioritize looking for faces over general scenes.

● Adjust the exposure compensation to spot metering to ‘trick’ the camera phone into exposing for only the subject and not the entire scene.

Tip for capturing travel photos quickly without much hassle:

● If your phone allows custom modes, it’s worthwhile programming in your travel settings for at least one of the types of photography scenarios we covered. By

programming in the manner yourself, within seconds you can switch modes knowing you have every setting set correctly, so you don’t miss the photo opportunity.

Try Long Exposure or Low Light Photography on Your Camera Phone

Our eyes see in candlelight quite well once they have adjusted, but for phone cameras, they take some convincing. Similar to low light travel shots, photographers must massage the settings on the phone cameras to get the best out of them. So if you wish to take Astro shots of the stars, candlelight or fireworks images then try following some of these tips and settings to get incredible photos.

Firework display in Singapore.

Tips for taking a long exposure and low light images:

● The first and most obvious is to use a phone tripod. As the phone camera’s shutter is going to be open longer to let in more light, you will need to keep the device stable; otherwise, you will end up with a blurry image.

● Select a location with little to no light pollution. An area like a field, park or farm away from towns and cities are generally the best for low light astrophotography. Light pollution can ruin a photo and cause flares in the end picture.

● Make sure you wipe your lens with a lens cloth before taking photos. Removing fingerprints will keep your image clean and free from distortion and blurry photos.

The best settings for long exposure and low light images:

● Turn up your ISO to anything over ISO 1200 and use a shorter shutter speed of around 2 to 5 seconds. You could opt for different settings, but generally, with camera phones these days the digital to noise ratio isn’t too much of an issue at short time lengths.

● Always shoot in RAW as you will utilize the entire pixel count on the phone cameras sensor. The result will be much better quality.

● Turn off your flash and let the sensor do the work. For a more natural look, no flash is always best.

● Look for an automatic setting on your phone for taking multiple exposures. Some phone cameras have settings which include Super Low Light Modes which automatically enable this feature. The advantage of this setting is the shutter is open for a faster period resulting in less noise. The phone camera then merges all the photos it took in quick succession and creates a single image.

As you can imagine, phone photography takes time to master. Don’t think you can turn on the device, and achieve an incredible photo out of the box. You have to understand the limits of each method and get a feel for the types of photographs you can capture. Take a look at the specifications in comparison to each other; such as which phone takes the best low light

photos or which one takes has the best image quality. It’s only after you have considered what pictures you might like to take that you should choose your phone.

Whatever the case, make sure you charge your battery and be familiar with the correct setting for the types of photography you wish to capture. You never know when the next ‘Kodak moment’ might present itself.

Before you go you should check out my follow-on article about Macro Photography.

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