Art of shooting good smartphone videos and photos

Many of us now use our smartphones as our primary cameras. Here are a few tips on taking more stable photos and videos, and editing them.

THE cameras built into your smartphone, be it running the Android operating system or iOS, are fast becoming the main snapshot camera for most.

It’s inevitable of course, since smartphones are something we carry every day, and with the increasingly higher quality of image sensors and lenses integrated into the smartphone, it only stands to reason that most photos (and to certain extent, videos) today are taken with the smartphone.

The problem is that smartphone cameras give you very little control — beyond mostly pressing a button, there’s very little you can adjust.

While this isn’t a big problem when shooting in good light, the limited control and ISO range of the smartphone cameras mean that still photos will tend to more often than not result in blurry shots due to camera shake.

So what can you do? A notoriously shaky-handed colleague of ours asked us this question one day, and we realised there’s probably a lot of people out there who are facing the same problem.

So here are a few tips for shooting better photos and videos on your smartphone and also what software you need to edit and improve those photos or videos.

Brace yourself

The most basic of techniques is to brace yourself against a convenient wall.

If possible, hold the phone up and then hold the hand that’s holding up the phone against the wall for maximum stability.

Use props

In dark environments, the easiest method for taking stable shots is to use a convenient prop as a stand. For example, if you’re shooting at table level, use a cup to stabilise your shot.

And don’t limit yourself to cups either — literally, anything that is relatively fixed can help — the backs of chairs, the table itself, bean bags and even a friend’s shoulder.

Make a stand

There are a variety of devices that can be used as a stand for the smartphone. One idea we got was to use two clamps.

We found these clamps at a hardware store really cheap (RM6 for a pack of six) and used two to clamp the smartphone to form a makeshift stand for the phone.

To prevent the possibility of scratching the iPhone’s screen and for better grip, we also glued some non-stick pads to the contact points on the clamps.

It works, and if you couple it with the “hands-off” remote shutter tip below, you can take stable, shake free shots even in dim environments.

Make a tripod mount

Alternatively, if you want to make a proper tripod mount for your smartphone, you can do that too, and for very cheap.

All you need is a cheap but relatively bulky plastic case for your smartphone, a 1/4in nut and some two-part epoxy glue.

We generally prefer strong epoxy glue to superglue because it tends to produce a much stronger, long-lasting bond than superglue.

You can find the 1/4in nut in most hardware stores for around 50sen each, and this nut will easily screw on to a standard tripod.

Putting it together couldn’t be more simple — mix up a batch of glue and join the nut to the edge of the casing. Leave it to dry for a few hours and voila, you’ve got a cheap case that you can snap the smartphone on to and attach to a tripod.

Hands-off approach

If you’ve got your smartphone propped up on a stable stand, you might also increase your chances at getting a shake free shot by taking a completely hands off approach to shooting.

Some smartphone cameras have a self timer mode, which allows you to not only get into the picture, but also works as an effective way to prevent any shake caused by you tripping the shutter release.

Here’s a tip for iPhone users — since iOS 5.1, Apple has remapped the volume-up button as a shutter release. However, did you know that you can also shoot a photo with the volume up button of the supplied Apple earphones when you are in camera mode?

Yes, it even works for starting and stopping the recording in video capture mode.

Related Stories: Editing movies and pictures on the go using iOS or Android

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