Guest post by: Nikhil Dubey

You'll be surprised to know that a good photo is never defined by the brand of camera in your hand or the number of megapixels, what makes a good photo is light, the subject and you yourself.

So, before you decide to buy a camera for more in-depth photography and control, go over these tips for getting your basics spot on.

1. Don't forget to focus on your subject

Autofocus

Your phones are all touchscreens and have autofocus capabilites. But it is still a fact that many people literally just “point and shoot”, forgetting to first tap on their subject to get their smartphones to focus on it. It makes a lot of difference. Whether you are taking a photo of a tree or a person, don't forget that you have to bring out the subject. Don't forget to make the camera focus on it

2. Avoid putting all your subjects in the center

rule of thirds

This one is a suggestion that skips the minds of a lot of Instagrammers out there. You should try to frame your photo is a pleasing way, which is not always putting everything in the dead center and clicking the button.

Remember the Rule of Thirds.

Most of the times, it is better to have your subject closer to one corner, as it gives the image more “space” and “depth”. Imagine a frame shaped like a hashtag (#) over your image, then try to put your subject along those crossing lines and the points of intersection. You'll know what difference a good composition can make.

3. Only crop, no zoom

Our phones do not have optical zoom, wherein the image is actually magnified using the lens. Our phones use digital zoom, which just adds data to what is already there, giving a very blurry and smudgy image in which you cannot actually see anything. Even on the phone screen you can see how bad the photo gets when you zoom in. Cropping is a much better option.

Phone cameras are almost all more than 5 Megapixel at the very least, which gives you the ability to crop the photo while still retaining a lot of detail. With a 10 Megapixel camera, you can easily trim more than half the photo and still get a photo that is clear and sharp. Cropping has the additional advantage of reducing chromatic artifacts – weird colours and lines – and reducing the size of the photo, which saves storage space. So, forget your phone can zoom and just crop off what you don't want in the photo.

4. Learn to use your feet

This is more important than the previous rule. If you remember to use your feet and move around to  find the best possible composition, there will never be a need to zoom or crop. It is essential that you don't take a photo without thinking about it for a while, because taking some time to learn the location and the subject will give you a more unique and interesting perspective.

Also, remember that not every photo looks the best when taken from eye-level. Sometimes, bending your knees a bit  and pointing upwards or making the subject look up to the camera can drastically change the image.

5. Use the HDR Mode and change exposure

You must have noticed that sometimes, clicking somewhere else or just tilting the phone in a slightly different direction can make the whole photo get too bright or pitch black. This is because our smartphone cameras are not that good at metering – reading the light. A small change in light or a change in which subject is in focus can change the look of the photo.

This is where the HDR mode of your camera will come into use. HDR stands for 'High Dynamic Range', which basically means more details in the photo and less areas which are totally white (over-exposed) or black (under-exposed). Technically, while taking an HDR photo, the camera will actually take more than one photo, all with different  measurements of light, and combine them all. This means that light will be metered from different sources, which will give better details.

HDR

Apart from the HDR mode, you can also change the exposure while taking the photo. There probably will be an option which allows you to reduce the light level of the photo, like in an iPhone, you just tap to focus and scroll up to over-expose and scroll down to darken the photo.

In a brightly scene where everything is almost white, reducing the exposure level will give a better photo, like in the example on the right.

6. Edit your photos, don't filter-ize them

It is very easy to just scroll through the filters your phone may have and select one for Instagram or Facebook. But that is not what you should do if you want your photos to be unique and wallpaper-worthy. Taking the time to enhance your photos with tools like Brightness, Contrast, Dodge and Burn will really be worth it.

Apps like Snapseed and Pixlr-express are really good options. They have options which you should use to get a perfect exposure, bring out details from over-exposed and under-exposed areas, sharpen the photo and even cut out small objects or distractions which you don't want in the photo. One tip I would like to give is to start by decreasing brightness and increasing contrast and saturation for landscape photos with blue skies and trees. For people, try to do selective editing and emphasize their eyes.

7. Look out for shapes and patterns

It is not always that you will have the best sunset or the clearest skies to photograph. Pay attention to  your immediate surroundings and look around you. Is there a lone tree against a nice background that many people just pass by ? Is there a collection of differently coloured pebbles which might make for a good abstract photo ? Sometimes, even a zebra crossing can make for a great black and white subject to photograph because of the repeating patterns and motion of people and vehicles. In short, always be on the look out for interesting shapes, textures and patterns which people often don't notice. Once you get something like that, just compose the frame such that the viewer's eyes are led to the main focal point of the photo and get the photograph.

8. Shoot less, imagine more

Just because the light is good or you have a camera in your hand does not mean you have to take hundreds of photos. A couple of good photos which you are happy with are always better than hundreds of photos taken just for the sake of taking pictures. Try to visualize your shot and what you want it to express before you take the photo. Think about where your focus is, what is attracting the viewer's attention, is an area too dark or too light. It'll be better to stop and think before clicking.

9.  Shoot for yourself

Trying to take photos like some photographer who has millions of followers will not do you any good. It is important that you remember why you got into photography in the first place. You should take the photos which make you feel happy and satisfied, no matter how many likes and followers you get. Once you find your style and learn to use your camera almost blind-folded, you will automatically find recognition for your own perspective. Taking inspiration from others is not bad at all, as long as you have put in your style and creativity in the final image.

10. Learn and adapt your gear accordingly

Like I said before, the specs of your device do not matter. But this does not mean that you should not go for something advanced as your photography experience grows. Use external lenses for your phone, get a camera with manual controls and try to learn advance techniques as you get better. Remember, your best gear is your creativity, and the camera is just a tool. Just make sure your creativity is not limited by your camera.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it will certainly give you an edge. Try to shoot while keeping a few of these points in mind and enjoy your camera. Happy shooting!