How to take professional portrait shots with your iPhone/Android phone

You’ll see portraits, along with dog photos, are the most popular form of smartphone photography. Although point-and-shoot photos are fine, they could be boosted with a few tweaks. This guide will show you how to take great portrait shots.

A smartphone can be used for portrait photography for many reasons. You can create a portrait or aperture effect with your smartphone by using the Portrait or Aperture modes.

Many Android and iOS smartphones now have a range of lenses. This allows you to create different portrait effects using the different focal lengths. You’ll always have your phone handy so that you can take your friend to a new place or meet a Kardashian.

With all this in mind, we asked two professional photographers for some tips on transforming portrait photos using your smartphone. The pros used both iOS and Android devices. You will find that the tips apply to any model of smartphone. Your portrait shots will be bokeh-licious with a little bit of inside knowledge.

Keep your distance

Damien Demolder is a professional photographer. He uses many cameras but has a particular fondness for smartphones of all types. He is particularly interested in using them for portraits and provides various tips to help you improve your images.

He says that most smartphones are equipped with wide-angle lenses, which are not suitable for portraiture (unless the photographer is trying to do something unusual). Zooming is an option, provided you don’t lose too many pixels. He says that you can avoid making someone’s face look blurred if you keep at least a reasonable distance and provide a little more background.

Portraits don’t need to be taken from 30cm away. Their features will appear proportionate if you stand back for a while – perhaps four feet. For effect, you can get as close as possible. However, it is important to keep your phone level and upright to avoid distortions. You can use a longer lens on your phone to get a closer shot.

Verify your settings

There are a variety of modes available in the native camera app on smartphones. It pays to know which one you should use in various situations. The ‘Portrait” mode is the best for taking portraits of people between two and eight feet away. On Android and iPhone, you can adjust the background blur quickly and add lighting effects like ‘high key.

Damien Demolder says it is sometimes worth digging a little deeper with the best cameras apps manual settings. He says that phone makers tend to get too excited about colour saturation and contrast because they believe everyone wants to impact. You can experiment with your phone’s settings and photo modes by checking out their settings. You will find a Portrait mode that produces less contrast and moderate colours. Use it if you have the option. You can also adjust the contrast and saturation of your images using manual controls.

You can also experiment with the modes of your phone by choosing an unorthodox one. Damien Demolder explains that sometimes a “night” mode can be helpful in normal conditions to reduce contrast and accentuate dynamic range. “Aperture modes that blur the background can be useful to make the individual stand out. These modes are not always ideal, so be open to trying new things.

Do not think otherwise.

You might be tempted to consider photos taken with your phone not being “proper” photography. So you may rush the process more than you would with a traditional camera.

Professional photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn specializes in portraits. She advises that you change your mindset when using your smartphone. Although she prefers to use standalone cameras, she will sometimes switch to her phone for an impromptu portrait session.

She says, “I follow the same rules that I use when taking portraits on my DSLR or another camera.” Take your time to look at and compose. Consider how you want the shot to be framed. Do you want it to be the head, shoulders, or more environment-friendly? She adds,

“A DSLR or mirrorless camera would position the focus point at the subject’s eyes. The same thing applies to a smartphone. You can check if they are focused by touching the screen near the eyes,” she said.

Adjust the exposure

Lighting is crucial, perhaps more so for portrait photography than any other type. Sometimes, phones can become blurred when too much contrast or mixed lighting. You can dramatically improve the exposures by using only your phone’s built-in tools. But sometimes, it may also be about changing your position or framing.

“Look for the light and how it interacts with your subject. Although it is a photo, the same principles apply to this image. It is lighting Oscar’s side. I also considered how the shot was constructed to convey the train journey. Portraits should have soft lighting on the face. This is flattering. Avoid harsh shadows and contrast. She adds that sometimes it can be very effective to place your subject against a dark background.

Exposure compensation is also possible. An iPhone is what I use. After you tap to focus your attention (usually on the eyes), a small sun symbol will appear. To achieve a balanced effect, you can drag it down if the scene seems too bright or up if it feels too dark. Android phones also have similar settings.

Editing polish is a must.

It can be tempting to just put a photo on the ‘gram after taking it. You can improve your portraits by tweaking the best photos editing apps.

Damien Demolder loves to make adjustments. He says, “I use some type of post-processing on my phone to finish off portraits.” Adobe Photoshop and Pixlr are my favourite apps. They are easy to use and provide all the controls I need. He says that he is also familiar with the apps and knows what options they have.

These filters increase contrast by pulling down highlights and lifting shadows. They also control colour by decreasing saturation and increasing vibrance. You can also apply warm effects or texture to them – you can even reduce their effect to make them more subtle,” he said. See the results of an edit below in the “before and after” section.

“I like to gently nudge blacks off pure black, so shadows don’t get too deep.” He uses the Pixlr Monochrome Negative filter to reduce the blacks to around 3%. This is enough to lift the entire image.

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