Dadtography 101: 5 Tips for Better Smartphone Photography for Busy Parents
Parental guilt has been in full effect for me lately. I feel it; I'm sure you do, too. We do so much, and yet, we still feel like we should be doing more. I even have parental photography guilt. When it comes to photography, as a parent, I feel guilty when...
- I don't take enough photos.
- I don't actually DO anything with the photos I take.
- I don't post photos online for friends and family to see.
- I don't print photos to hang on the wall or display in my office.
But I have to ask: who has time for "real" photography? I mean come on, composing, shooting, cropping, editing, publishing, printing... The list of tasks the parent photographer role "should" to do can get pretty lengthy.
That all changes now.
It's time for parents to let go of their photography guilt and start doing something about it. This post will help you optimize your smartphone photography experience so that you have time to capture, and share, more of those moments that matter. Let's get started with our first smartphone photography tip.
Tip #1 - Upgrade your phone's memory with a memory card.
Let me start off by first apologizing to iPhone users. Unfortunately, this fist smartphone photography tip doesn't apply to you. Apple iPhones don't have memory card slots, so you won't be able to add more storage to your phone.
Android users - this tip is for you. I want you to prioritize this first tip because it's important. I want you to get rid of your fear of taking "too many" photos and filling up your phone's memory. Install a memory card so that you feel free to snap away with that smartphone camera.
Most phones that will accept a memory card take the microSD format. These cards are smaller than the ones used in most digital SLR cameras, but they come in comparable storage sizes from around 8GB up to 256GB.
When it comes to adding a memory card to your smartphone, most microSD cards are about the same. What matters the most is the size. Check with your phone manufacturer to see how large of a card your phone will support and then purchase the largest card you can afford. There is no such thing as "too much memory" when it comes to smartphone photography!
Tip #2 - Create a folder structure on your memory card to organize photos.
Okay, you purchased a memory card that will give you extra storage on your phone for those pictures. Our next tip is to take a little bit of time after you get that card installed by creating folders to organize your photos.
Creating a folder structure will help with your overall workflow of getting photos from composed -> snapped -> edited -> posted (or printed).
Check out the screen shot of my folder structure for some inspiration. I've organized my folders into themes. As editor of Dadtography, I created folders to help me share photos on social media. I can pick a "theme" and grab a photo from that folder to share online.
There's really no wrong way of organizing your photos. Maybe you create folders for each event - your summer family vacation, your daughter's dance recital, the 2018 little league baseball season, etc. The point is to organize so that your "camera" folder doesn't fill up with hundreds or thousands of photos.
Tip #3 - Use a simple photo editing application like Snapseed.
I know - editing photos on a phone can be a real pain. But edited photos not only help to remove some of the flaws, but also can help to add a unique flavor to the photos as well.
There are a number of very good photo editing apps out there, but my personal favorite is called Snapseed. Less is definitely more when it comes to editing photos on your phone, and Snapseed does a great job with offering just enough functionality without becoming too complex or complicated. Snapseed is available for both iPhone and Android users.
Tip #4 - Setup your camera phone settings to optimize your shooting style.
Did you know that your smartphone camera can be configured? In most cases, your phone has a whole bunch of settings that can be adjusted to change the way you take photos on your smartphone.
It's pretty normal that you wouldn't pay much attention to these settings. But some smartphone camera settings can be very important if you're looking to improve your photo quality or workflow. Here are just a few examples of the settings available in your camera:
This setting not only allows you to change the physicial dimensions of the photos taken on your phone, but also the file size and even the aspect ratio of the photo as well. One huge tip for iPhone users especially is to lower your default photo size if you're worried about running out of memory. Most of the time, you won't need photos that are 4,000+ pixels. All you're doing is filling up your phone with large files.
This setting is the same as the picture size setting, but for videos. My Samsung Galaxy S7 allows me to take videos all the way up to UHD resolution (3840 x 2160). Depending upon how I intend to use the video, I modify this setting to make sure I'm not taking up too much space on my phone's memory.
This is a very important setting if you've installed a memory card upgrade to your phone. Make sure you set your phone to store all of those new photos on the memory card by default.
RAW File Settings
Did you know that some new smartphones can save RAW files just like your DSLR does? RAW files are easier to edit, but are usually a lot larger than compressed JPEG files. Check your settings to see if RAW is an option you can enable.
Tip #5 - Don't risk it - backup your photos to the cloud.
Last but not least is a tip that will provide you with a bit of an insurance policy for all those photos you've taken. I strongly recommend that you find a way to back them up. By far, the easiest (and safest) way is to back them up to the cloud. My two favorite options for backing up your photos are Dropbox and Amazon Prime Photos.
Dropbox Photo Backup
The Dropbox application for mobile devices makes backing up your photos almost effortless. In fact, you can have any photos you take automatically back up to your cloud storage. Don't worry, there are settings to make sure you only upload when on WiFi if you're worried about mobile data usage. If you're looking for a simple, automated backup solution for your mobile photos, Dropbox is a good option.
Amazon Prime Photos
If you're looking for just a bit more from your cloud storage, then you should consider Amazon Prime Photos (af). Amazon Prime Photos not only allows you to backup your photos to the cloud (with unlimited photo storage), but it also makes printing your favorite photos super easy as well. Storing photos is great, but isn't storing them and printing your photos even better?
My 8-step smartphone camera workflow.
You'll hear new photographers ask established pro's about their workflows. How you take and edit photos is just as important as the composition of the photo. The better you get at the process, the better your photos turn out.
I take a lot of photos simply using my smartphone camera. Here is the workflow I use to go from shoot to publish.
- Determine if I'm shooting landscape or portrait orientation.
- Take between two and four photos so that I have options to edit.
- Review the photos in my gallery view.
- Remove the duplicate photos that I won't end up using to free up space.
- Take my best photo and open it in Snapseed for editing.
- Apply color adjustments, exposure tweaks, crop and adjust. Snapseed lets me "apply last edits", so I often use that feature to keep a similar "look" to my photos.
- Export the photo from Snapseed into my external memory card storage.
- Move the folder to the appropriate folder for sharing or printing.
This workflow helps me to stay organized but also to take photos that look almost as good as photos taken with a DSLR!
What smartphone photography tips do you have? What app, setting or workflow secret do you have that you can share?