Taking Family Photos with a Smartphone

As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have with you.  And these days, most of us always have a smartphone with us.  Modern smartphones (and also point-and-shoot consumer) cameras can take some amazing photos.  There are some things that smartphones are great at and other things that smartphones aren't so great at.  In this article, I'm going to teach you how to take advantage of the strengths of a smartphone camera when taking photos of your family and kids.  

Take a lot of photos

For each shot you plan to take, take a lot of photos.  After all, it's digital, so we can always delete the bad ones and keep the best ones.  There is no right number on how many photos to take.  For each pose, I usually just keep snapping until I know I got a good one.  Many modern smartphones also have a burst mode that continuously takes photos while you hold the shutter down.  Some phones even automagically pick the best photos for you.  


Photography is all about light.  When you take a picture in a dark place.  Two things are happening.  First, the camera has to slow the shutter speed down, which can make for blurry photos.  Second, the camera has to increase it's sensitivity, which makes for grainy photos.  So, how do we prevent that from happening?

The ideal way is to use indirect natural light.  If taking photos indoors, open all of your windows and find a spot that gets good indirect window light.  If taking photos outdoors, find a nice shady place.  When possible, try to avoid direct sunlight.  It makes for harsh shadows on peoples faces.  



Historically, one of the main things that separated a smartphone camera from a DSLR was the depth of field the DSLR was able to achieve.  While smartphones can't achieve real depth of field the way a DSRL can (because of hardware limitations), smartphones are able to computationally add depth.  This is usually known as portrait mode on most smartphones.  Just be aware that this is done computationally, so complex backgrounds can create issues with teh calculations.  Portrait mode photos are best taken on simple backgrounds.  

Blank Wall

Another way to make up for the shortcomings of a smartphone camera sensor is to use a blank wall as a background.  I love this option because it really isolates the subject as the focal point of the photo.  Try to find something near a big door or window that gets lots of indirect light.  



Another big difference between professional photographers and smartphone photo shooters is that the pro's edit their photos to make them as good as possible.  These days there are lots of good easy to use photo editing apps for smartphone photographers.  I personally use Snapseed, it's great.  There is an automatic portrait mode that brightens the face and smooths skin automatically.... pretty cool.  Just try not to go overboard so that your photos look like cartoons.  


Focus and Exposure

When taking photos with a smartphone, sometimes the camera selects the wrong thing as the subject.  For example, it might focus on a tree in the foreground rather than the people.  Before you take your photos, make sure you tap on the people you want in focus and properly exposed.  

If you haven't already read it, I'd also recommend you read 25 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos of Children.