Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

Ads by Google

smartphone photo 300   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your SmartphoneSmartphone and mobile photography are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder. Every year, mobile and smartphone cameras get better and better, until many people don’t feel the need to carry real cameras around anymore. While phone cameras still can’t replace good SLRs, they’re a very good match for the compact cameras, and since your phone comes everywhere with you anyway, it also becomes your go-to camera.

Just because your phone is your default camera, however, doesn’t mean you need to be taking bad photos. While some cameras are better than others, you can take beautiful photos even with a 5MP, 2560pixel X 1920 pixel camera like the one that comes with my old Acer Liquid E. All you have to do is take a few extra seconds to think about what you’re doing, and follow the tips below. Happy shooting!

Lighting is Everything

light   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

As with any camera, lighting is extremely important, and it’s doubly important if you’re using a phone camera. While some modern phones come equipped with a very good camera, most smartphone cameras still need all the help they can get to come up with a good enough photo. This is where lighting becomes your best friend.

Ads by Google

It’s not always possible to control it, but there are two important points you want to keep in mind: 1) you need light. 2) you don’t need direct light. Getting your subject to stand in non-direct sunlight (best) or non-direct artificial light (second best), can make the difference between a bad photo and a good one.

No Zoom For You

zoom    Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

Optical zoom is great, but when it comes to phone cameras, you’re pretty much stuck with digital zoom. This means the optics of the camera don’t actually change, the image doesn’t actually come any closer. Rather, digital zoom basically takes the portion of the image you’re aiming at, and expands it to fit the entire screen, much like you would zoom in on your computer. When you do this, you get low-resolution images, which are of lower quality than non-zoomed ones. So use your legs and hands instead, and just get closer to your subject. If you must use your zoom to get your subject in sight, you might want to give up on this photo altogether.

no zoom   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

Steady Does It

steady   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

This goes without saying, but it’s still important to keep in mind. When using any camera, and especially a somewhat inferior one, you want to keep your hands as steady as possible. Try leaning your elbows or hands on a steady surface while taking your photo, you’ll be surprised at the difference this can make.

White Balance

white balance   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

Many phone cameras and apps come with the option to control white balance. Adjusting your white balance makes sure the colors you capture are as accurate as possible, considering the lighting you have available. White balance controls usually include an “auto” option, and other options such as “daylight”, “cloudy”, “fluorescent”, “incandescent”, etc. While the “auto” option is sometimes good enough, you can get much better results when adjusting the white balance to match your lighting. So if you know you’re going to be taking several pictures indoors under a yellow light bulb, it could pay off to take an extra minute and adjust your white balance.

Get Up Close & Personal

close up   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

This is an extension of the “no zoom” section, but it’s more than just not using your zoom. If you want to take a picture of something, take a picture of it. This doesn’t apply when taking photos of views and such, but when photographing objects, it can make a world of difference. So don’t be lazy!

Avoid Flash

no flash   Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone

Flash is the source of all evil in the world. Well, at least in the world of amateur photography. I’m always amazed at how often cameras “tell” you to use flash when it’s really unnecessary. True, phone cameras can’t always handle low light, but if you can’t do it without flash, you might not want to do it at all. Since I don’t have hardware flash on my own mobile device, I used a different one which also has a better camera. The example above is somewhat exaggerated, but it’s a good demonstration of how flash can ruin a photo, even when the lighting is not the best.

Filters Are Great, But They Don’t Make A Photo

Everyone loves filters. Whether you like the really exaggerated ones, the retro ones or the subdued and minimalistic ones, filters and effects can help you bring the most out of your photos. If used wisely. What they usually can’t do, is take a bad photograph and turn it into a good one. So don’t rely on filters so save your day – take good photos, and enhance them with filters. Don’t overdo it, or you end up with a bad photo regardless. It’s as simple as that.

Bottom Line

The tips above, when followed, can help you create some beautiful photos with your mobile device. Naturally, it still requires creativity and a good eye, but following some technical pointers is always a good start. But is it worth it? Or are you better off just using a real camera? Do you have any mobile photography tips you want to share? We’re waiting for your comments!

Image Credit: phone camera photo via Shutterstock

Ads by Google

46 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Austen Gause

thanks for the tips.

Reply

Macwitty

Thanks, good to get a remainder
They include my own “always think of”: closer and light

Reply

Craig

Instead of using the digital zoom on my iPhone, I prefer to use image editing software.

Reply

Rachel George

Great tips! Now I understand why zooming in sucks!

Reply

David Yaroshevsky

do lens extensions for smartphones (like this one: http://thequericoproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Iphone-Lens-788×400.jpg) help at all, or are they all hot air?

Reply

Timothy Liem

what a great tips. especially the filter one, since I hate those dumb filters on Instagram.

Reply

Ron Lister

Good tips. Thanks Yaara.

Reply

Joseph Pianta

ah yes no filters…makes bad pictures look worse.

Reply

Efi Dreyshner

Tel Aviv? or is it Rishon Lezion?
Looks familiar

Thanks for the great tips!

Yaara Lancet

That’s Tel Aviv. :)

Reply

Jennifer Hamrick

great tips! i love making pictures with my smartphone, but i do tend to get sucked in to all the different filters.

Reply

Jennifer Hamrick

yes

Reply

Dimas yudha

As someone that doesn’t have slr, nice tips,

love the cat too :)

Yaara Lancet

Awwww, thanks. :)

Reply

syed asghar

Hi,
I was looking for this article on the internet and here I found out.
Thank you.

Tina Sieber

Great you found us, Syed! We have a lot more material on photography, including guides on digital photography and how to set up a photo blog. You should have a look around.

Reply

druv vb

Good tips there. Wow, a Nokia N73 as a picture caption! I still have mine. But now I use a Nokia N8 as my main camera phone. Though I have an old Konica Minolta DSLR, and a new Pentax (underwater shots!), the N8 is more convenient for casual photos. There’s one tip though: Focus. You can focus on a closer subject to make the background appear blurred. It makes for nicer pictures.

Yaara Lancet

Good tip! Many smartphone cameras aren’t good enough to make this effect really look good, but some definitely are (mine isn’t :) ).

Reply

Ray

Excellent. That’s the kind of simplicity from which those of us who are non-geeky types can profit.

Reply

susendeep dutta

Many would prefer mobile cameras to take photos as many doesn’t like to carry cameras and mobiles together always.

I hope,with this fast paced technology,we could have a good decent camera under decent budget.

Reply

Bengt Lindblad

Good article. Flash helps to even out harsh sun light when most people think it is not needed. You would have to force the flash to fire.
The problem with phone cameras is that they have lenses and sensors designed to be small, not necessarily good, which is why we carry them instead of our SLRS.
Use digital zoom only when you have no other choice (phone and real camera). Use optical or pedestrian (your feet) zoom whenever possible.
White balance is an often misunderstood issue. Setting it wrong can create awful pictures, or desirable effects, per your taste.
Check out kenrockwell.com for more tips from an old pro.

Yaara Lancet

Nice tip about flash, I don’t think I ever quite used it in that way. Thanks!

Anonymous

Agreed with regards to using flash with traditional cameras in sunlight. It really does help enhance photos!

Reply

Anonymous

yeah I agree “Flash is the source of all evil” :)

Reply

Anonymous

One of the biggest tips that I heed is to take TONS of pictures. Just spam the button. Phones have incredible capacity these days, and you can always just go back and delete the photos later. Taking pictures like mad is a good way to help guarantee a good photo.

Yaara Lancet

Yes, this is true even for really good SLRs. Take 20 photos of the same thing, one of them is bound to be good.

Anonymous

The only problem with that is once you have 25000 pictures on file, you will never go back and remove the 19 (or 19000) bad pictures. Agree, one is bound to be good, but, sometimes it is good to think/see before we click, like the composition tidbit below. I love sunsets and have 1000s of sunset pictures, to the point where it is overwhelming.

Also, a different point, don’t be fooled by megapixels – 24Mpixels of bad lens blur is no better than 6Mp from a sharp lens. Is a 5MB jpg better than a 1.5MB jpg? Not necessarily. Take that times 25000…

Third, make sure to back them up if they are of value. These are your negatives so to speak.

Yaara Lancet

I entirely agree with your comment about file sizes and megapixels, more is not necessarily better.

Regarding quantity, I find that it starts to be a problem when you take pictures indiscriminately, and end up with piles and piles of mostly useless stuff. The way I do it is take photos of things I think truly deserve it, and then take a bunch so I end up with one good one.

I’ve traveled before with people who kept taking more and more pictures of the view and the sunset and whatnot, and those really pile up.

Reply

Anonymous

Great tips but don’t forget the rule of thirds. I find that many photos can use help with composition of the shots. You did a great job in the photos you took but didn’t mention this at all.

Yaara Lancet

Very true, composition is truly important. I didn’t mention it here because I feel it’s more of a general photography rule, no matter which camera you use. But it’s a great tip, thank you!

Reply

Ellen Quinones

I actually use my smartphone camera more than my actual camera its easier to back up the photos to flikr and facebook with it.

Reply

Eddie

You can try downloading the “Fastburst” or “Pic Pic by Sony” app from the Android Market to Capture Multiple Burst Shots of Different Subjects Like Moving Objects, Sports, Toddlers, Kids, Babies, Animals, Etc…I’ve had great results using this app…I just delete the blurred pics out of the bunch…these are the first 2 apps i use whenever I need to take a picture from my smartphone….

Yaara Lancet

Great tip, thanks Eddie!

Eddie

You’re Welcome!…”Fix Blur” is another Android App Also….for fixing that 1 Great Shot that’s just a lil blurry…and almost forgot…”Touch Retouch” is an Android picture app you can remove objects or clean up a picture you already taken for example, you already taken a great picture but there’s an object you dont care for in the picture or a smudge on a shirt or someone in the background that shouldnt be….

Yaara Lancet

Awesome tips! I’ll definitely check out all these apps.

Reply

Anonymous

All true, except the flash one. Its not evil, its great when you’re taking photo’s in the sun (like we get it in West Yorkshire) – always use it when taking photo’s of your subject with the sun behind it.

Yaara Lancet

I guess that’s debatable, I might have exaggerated a bit when I said it was the source of all evil. :) It is possible to use flash to get better photos, but it’s rare that they actually come out good. This is in my experience, at least.

Reply

sam michaels

I have the Evo Shift and I pretty much leave everything default except for the shutter noise and the contrast, I change the contrast by +1 and get great photos. I also have flash set to always go off. I like the camera on my phone as like a great point and shoot camera, it’s better than the one I had, but I still have a higher end, almost $300, point and shoot camera that is even better. I use that one when I really want to take pics or record video.

Reply

Tony Khamo

Thank you…most are common sense, but learned that i should probably play with my white balance a little more..

Reply

Tinashe

Reply

Tinashe

Wow! Great tips! Thanks very much!

Reply

Gerald Huber

Great tips. nice cat.

Reply

Gerald Huber

PS thats not the view from your apartment, is it?

Yaara Lancet

It is.

Reply

supertofana

Thanks!
But if the object is black and white, it is a big contrast. It’s difficult to do good photo.

Reply

mieszko200

Thank you, it’s great!

Your comment