The new OnePlus 5 has one of the best cameras you can get for its reasonable asking price. With a standard 16-megapixel shooter and a secondary 20-megapixel telephoto lens, this phone is capable of capturing some superb shots.
But resolution isn’t everything and if you want to turn your everyday snaps into true works of art, you’ll need to put some effort in too.
I’ve put together some tips for shooting better photos on the OnePlus 5.
Wait for the best light
In photography, light is everything. Even the best phones will struggle to capture anything when the lights go out. Your best shots then will be when you’re somewhere in good daylight — even better, in some summer sun, rather than grey, flat clouds. In good sunlight, colour in your shots will really pop.
Time of day is important though. The midday sunlight can be overly powerful, causing harsh shadows that might make your pictures look either far too dark or far too bright. If you’re taking photos of friends, that harsh light will almost certainly cause them to squint their eyes shut, which is never a good look. Wait for evening light, when the sun’s light takes on a golden hue and those harsh shadows become longer and beautifully diffused.
Take time to compose
Proper composition will transform your shot into a considered piece of artwork. You can tweak the colours, the brightness and the contrast using editing apps afterwards, but there’s nothing you can do to change your composition. Rather than just firing away, take a moment to study your scene and think about how you can capture it best.
If you’re shooting a landscape, look for some foreground interest — a nice wall, some ironwork, a rock formation, perhaps — to help jazz up the scene. You may need to move around a little and don’t be afraid to kneel down, or even get up to higher ground to find the best angle.
Turn on the 3×3 grid by going into the camera settings. It’ll help you frame your shots using the classic photography “rule of thirds”. Using the grid, you can line up the points of interest in your scene as you take the shot.
Close in on the details
Using the telephoto zoom lens, the OnePlus 5 is able to take amazing macro photos, getting up close and personal with even the smallest subjects and keeping them in sharp focus.
In the standard camera mode, tap the 2x icon to zoom in, then move the phone close to your subject. You’ll need to tap to focus on the subject, but you can also tap and hold to lock the focus in place so you can take multiple shots quickly without having to refocus.
Try using the zoom lens for macro photography when you find interesting flowers, leaves, insects — or indeed anything small that has interesting colours, patterns and textures.
Go Pro for more creative shots
Change the shooting mode to Pro mode in order to take manual control of camera settings. You’re able to alter shutter speed, white balance and exposure yourself, giving you the creative freedom to play around for unusual results.
My favourite thing to do is to capture car light trails at night, by turning the shutter speed right down. By choosing a speed of around 4 seconds, an object’s movement in a scene — in this instance, car headlights — will blur across the frame as they move. It’s a great way of capturing city streets at night.
When you’re using a slow shutter speed, you’ll need to keep the phone absolutely still while taking the photo. The smallest movement will blur the whole scene. I put the OnePlus five on a phone clamp on top of a small Manfrotto Pixi tripod to stabilise my shots.
You can also shoot photos in raw format in the Pro mode. Raw photos save more detail in the highlights and shadows of a scene, allowing you to tone down bright areas when editing afterwards. I found shooting raw handy for these night-time shots as it allowed me to lessen the bright headlights a touch while brightening up some of the surrounding shadow.
Use editing to take your snaps to the next level
Your photo isn’t necessarily finished once you’ve clicked that shutter button — there’s plenty more you can do with it using the huge variety of editing apps available on the Google Play Store.
A couple of my favourites are Snapseed, which is great for fine-tuning brightness, colours and contrast in a scene, and VSCO, which has a great range of colour filters available that give your shots a film-like look.
There’s no right or wrong way to edit photos, so it’s good practice to play around with all the different settings and filters in your apps to see what suits you best. You can even load an edited shot from one app into another to apply further effects for more dramatic results — you can always revert back to the original if you don’t like what you’ve done.