6 Basic Tips for Capturing Great Images with Your Smartphone

Hunting season has started. Finally, you’ve already organized your gear, arranged your calendar, and sighted in your weapon of choice. However, are you indeed prepared to optimize your experience and success? How many times have you spotted a game animal, sunset, or interesting landscape feature and wished for the camera that’s still sitting at home? The truth is, this scenario occurs for all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, campers, and beach-dwellers. Heck, I know a few hardcore cyclists who regularly find themselves in front of great photography opportunities.

Great outdoor shots reveal themselves on nature’s schedule. That’s one reason why using your smartphone to capture those magic moments is a great solution. Let’s be honest, you’ve likely tethered to the thing anyway. 

Follow these 6 basic tips for capturing fabulous outdoor images, especially unexpected ones. It all starts with that thin rectangular box in your pocket and a custom Phone Skope digiscoping kit.

Strength in Numbers

Ask any photographer, novice or seasoned, and they’ll agree you rarely get a shot perfectly on the first try – or second, or third… This is particularly true with digiscoping. The answer? Take a bevy of pictures of that deer that appears or that shadow feature on the adjacent hillside. Of course, to accomplish this, have your gear ready as soon as you settle in for digiscoping. You can always pick the best images of the bunch later. 

The Right Light

Lighting is arguably the leading variable when it comes to photography (and digiscoping). While sun-drenched days always seem ideal, you still have to optimize light conditions for success. The best time of the day are the hours immediately following dawn and before dusk. Known as the golden hours, these are the moments the angled sun and shadows produce interesting and soothing colors. 

The subtle lighting associated with overcast days is an ideal time to capture great outdoor images.

Unknown to many, overcast days also provide even, subtle lighting conditions ripe for successful photo ops. Along with the golden hours, these are the days that make digiscoping easier. As a novice photographer, I like easy.

Focus Pocus

To maximize focus, tap your subject on your smartphone screen before shooting. While this is common knowledge for many, it’s easy to forget when in the moment. Conversely, if you want that background blurring effect (known as bokeh), put your device in portrait mode, and tap the screen on the foreground subject. Make sure your subject is in focus by tapping it on the screen before you shoot. This is an incredibly artful effect when used correctly. For the latter, practice on closeup objects at home.

The “bokah” effect or portrait mode creates interest by highlighting an outdoor feature (like this whitetail tree rub) in the foreground and blurring the background.

Of Distance and Background

They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. It also can make or break an outdoor photo – especially when lighting conditions are less than ideal. 

While the main benefit of digiscoping is to draw subjects in closer, it never hurts to get in closer to them. While this isn’t always an easier proposition, it’s a worthy goal. Additionally, you can leverage an interesting background when capturing an animal, a close-up feature, or even another human. This enhances scale.  

More Legs Please

Three more, to be exact. While freehand phone photography is very doable, the added stability of a simple tripod is the straw that stirs the drink. The best part is that, though higher-end tripods are a good investment, so are the more rudimentary ones. There are a multitude of reasons to use a tripod. Simply put, they reduce image-sabotaging vibration caused by cold weather, excitement from seeing a magnificent game animal, or even too much coffee. Whether you spend $30 or hundreds, tripods telescope to account for different heights and slopes and have universal bolts (1/4”x20) that accept smartphone mounts and digiscoping equipment. Finally, they’re lightweight and reduced down to a manageable size for carrying.

Combat vibration and blurry images with a simple tripod.

Image Enhancing Apps

To further enhance both regular and digiscoped images, there are a plethora of apps that filter, document, and document images and video. The good news is there are many inexpensive and free apps available for use with both iPhones and Android devices. You might be surprised to see how easy it is to add text, reduce blemishes, and even convert an image into a sketch, painting, or cartoon. The possibilities are limitless. So, let your creative juices flow, making good images great by simply visiting the App Store.

Image enhancing apps can create added interest to images like this one that’s been animated.

Digiscoping

Marrying your smartphone camera with your favorite optics has an endless honeymoon. How? By using the awesome form of telephoto photography called digiscoping, By combining the magnification of your binoculars or spotting scope with your smartphone camera, you can easily capture distant wildlife, natural features, and people. The best part is, kits can be custom-made for your optics and device and cost less than $100. The kits are also small, lightweight, and tough as nails. This great photography form is used by professional photographers, as well as the Joes and Jills that simply want to get great shots at the park or on vacation. You’ll want to add this one to your creative visual toolbox, for sure.

Paired with your optics, Phone Skope digiscoping kits are small, lightweight and inexpensive

Nature is awesome. However, it won’t wait for you to go home and get your favorite compact digital, DSLR, action, or mirrorless camera! Have no fear, that same device you use to text, enjoy social media, email, and talk has an incredible camera. Use the latter for your next hunt, hike, birding trip, or other adventure. Your smartphone camera is a fantastic and easy way to Capture, Record, and Share.

 

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