April 16, 2019

Five tips to make your smartphone pics stand out; Show Us Your Campus photo contest deadline April 26

Charge your phone and get snapping

Just about everyone has a high-resolution camera built right into their phone, but not everyone knows how to use it to make great photography. With only a couple weeks left before the Show Us Your Campus Contest closes, it’s the perfect time to try out these five smartphone photography tips and take some pics on, of, or from any UCalgary location to enter into the contest.

Winning submissions will be made into new recognition print cards and eNotes and used to celebrate milestones, accomplishments and camaraderie for years to come.

1. Take control of the focus point and exposure

Two fatally flawed factors are often to blame for not-so-hot shots — exposure and focus. To help make pics sharp and bright, most phones make it easy to change the focal point and exposure of a photo as you’re taking it.

If your phone has a manual focus feature, it's probably activated by tapping the screen on the spot where you want the camera to focus.

To adjust the brightness, tap once on the screen, then hold and drag to let in more or less light.

2. Turn on the grid and follow the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds predates digital photography by a couple hundred years, but it’s still your best bet for composing a pleasing image. The rule says that an image should be split into nine equal parts to form a three-by-three grid. The aim is to place your subject or subjects along the horizontal or vertical gridlines or — even better — where the gridlines intersect.

Experienced photographers can visualize the gridlines on their own, but if you’re having trouble, turn on the grid so it’s visible when you compose your next shot — just pop into your IOS camera settings or look for the grid icon at the edge of your Android’s camera screen.

3. Resist the urge to zoom in

When you take a photo from a distance, you may be tempted to pinch and zoom to make your subject seem closer, but zooming in depletes resolution and can make for a grainy or pixelated image.

To frame the perfect shot and preserve your pixels, just walk closer to your subject. If that’s not an option, it’s best to shoot first and crop later — having a larger original image will leave you with more editing options.

4. Clean the lens

Smartphones don’t have lens caps and we tend to carry them in pockets and bags alongside crumbs, lint and dust that can collect on the lens. Use a soft cloth to wipe the camera lens before you take a photo to ensure your photo is crystal clear and avoid time-consuming photo editing later.

5. Snap your pics with the volume button

Ditch the button on the screen — instead, try using the volume control as the shutter release. When you don’t need to reposition your grip to reach the standard shutter button, you can keep a steadier hand and avoid motion blur. Plus, it makes it easier to shoot landscape-orientation photos, which are usually better for web applications.

Submit your photos to the Show Us Your Campus Contest

No matter what kind of camera you shoot on, submit your photos before April 26 — winning submissions will be used for the new suite of recognition cards, which will be available to send starting fall 2019. Show Us Your Campus Contest winners and their photos will be announced at the Recognition Award Ceremony on May 21 and in UToday.

A few more contest-specific tips:

  • No identifiable people: Sure, it’s the people who make UCalgary an amazing place to work and learn, but for the sake of their privacy, leave them out of your submitted shots.
  • High-resolution photos only (minimum 2,000 pixels): Printed cards need print-quality pics. Most smartphones and digital cameras will make photos with ample resolution — just be cautious if you crop your image.
  • Be creative: We want it all — architecture, sunsets, wildlife, high-fives, offices, laboratories, theatres, studios and everything in between!
  • Be original: Submissions must be original work created by the entrant.