How to Take Better Smartphone Photos

Thanks to smartphone cameras everyone is taking photos these days. The cameras in smartphones are becoming better and better, but the photos are not. So can you take better smartphone photos?

I remember my first smartphone with a camera. It was an old Samsung flip phone with a truly terrible VGA camera. Yet I loved having a camera with me all the time. I took a lot of photos, but with just a few tips even those crappy photos could have looked better.

So here I’m going to share a few simple ways you can make your smartphone pictures look more professional and really spice up your digital content.

Use A Better Camera App

The first thing you should do when you get a new phone is to download a new camera app. There are free and paidĀ options available and most offer you more control of the camera hardware in your phone.

Even if you don’t know all that much about photography these custom apps can do a lot for your photos:

  • Full access to all resolutions
  • Better stability control
  • Better exposure settings
  • Advanced post-processing (e.g. filters)
  • Optical tricks (depth of field, etc)

After all, you paid for the fancy camera in your new phone, why be limited to OEM software?

Learn to Frame Your Shots Correctly

Better Smartphone Photos

A camera is only as good as the person wielding it. Luckily you can take better smartphone photos by just learning some basics. The most fundamental photography principle of all is the rule of thirds.

You may have wondered what that gridline in your camera app was for. It divides the frame of the image into nine equal rectangles. The idea is that the lines and intersections should match up to the objects in your frame that are important somehow.

Get a Tripod or Other Support

Better Smartphone Photos

Optical image stabilization is getting better with every new generation there is still no substitution for a stable platform from which to take your photos. At the very least you can look for something to rest your camera on.

If you’re really serious about taking sharp and beautiful photos you’ll need some accessories. You can buy something fancy such as a stabilized grip with a counterweight. That will let you hold the phone in your hand and take good stable pictures.

A much more generally useful accessory is a special smartphone tripod. Personally, I use a Joby Gorillapod plus the grip tight mount because the tripod can be attached to just about anything with those twisty legs.

Wipe Your Lens!

I can’t believe I actually have to write this, but before you take a picture that you want to come out well wipe your lens glass. If you want to take better smartphone photos it’s a lot easier without finger grease in the way.

Learn to Focus

I’m not talking about your ability to concentrate, although that’s also pretty useful come to think of it. No, I’m talking about optical focus. Too many people just take their camera out and shoot.

While auto-focus is really good these days, it pays to just take a second and make sure that the camera is focusing on the subject in the frame you want it to.

Most camera apps make adjusting the focus really, really simple. All you have to do is tap on the object in the frame where you want the focus to be and it will change to that spot. As a bonus, most apps will also adapt the exposure settings as well.

Give HDR Mode a Try

HDR orĀ high dynamic range is a camera mode that can take breathtaking photos in otherwise difficult and bright lighting conditions. If you want to take really amazing photos, try setting it to “on” or “auto”.

The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to keep the camera still for longer, so now’s the time to try out that tripod idea.

Clip On Some Lenses

One major limitation that smartphone cameras have in general is the lack of lens options or optical zoom. One solution is a set of clip-on lenses that can help you take telephoto or macro shots.

It’s not the most elegant solution, but these lenses are tiny and can usually go in a little bag to be tucked away somewhere. It’s definitely cheaper than buying a dedicated camera. So use them for special occasions.

It’s All About the Light

The word photography literally means to draw with light. So to take better smartphone photos you need the best light you can get. That’s true for all photography.

Even a terrible camera can take stunning photos if the light is good. The best light is natural sunlight, but if you can you should wait until the right time to take your photos.

Noon is a poor choice since the light is harsh and stark. Cloudy days can be good as the light is diffused. Just after sunrise and just before sunset can also be fantastic.

Patience is a Virtue for Better Smartphone Photos

When a professional photographer goes out on a job, they may take hundreds of photos. In the curation process back home they select the very best photos to keep or further improve.

Being patient and waiting for the right shot, or taking the same shot over and over is the real key to stunning smartphone photos. While applying good technique and smart tips make the chances of good photos better, there is no substitute for patience and opportunity.

Better photos are not the only way you can improve your smartphone kung fu! For example, did you know your phone can be a VR headset? You can even record what you’re doing on the phone screen or stream games to it from your PC!


All Images are Public Domain via Pixabay


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