Smartphone photography is becoming increasingly popular for consumers, bloggers, creatives, and even professional photographers. Shooting photos with your smartphone’s camera can be much more efficient because of its mobility, quick editing apps, and sharing capability. Plus, many newer smartphone cameras are developed with specs compatible to expensive DSLR cameras. Therefore, all of the perks of smartphone cameras allow you to be a photographer at anytime and anyplace. So, I decided to create this list of helpful tips to improve your smartphone photos. These tips are useful to both Android and iPhone users.
*Affiliate Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get receive a small percentage of the purchase you make using the links within the post. (With no additional charge, to you of course ^_^)
Identify your focus/subject
What good is a photo with no focus or story? Before shooting, make sure you know what you want to actually capture. You may not have to spend a lot of time on that decision because some photo moments happen on the spur of the moment. But if you have more time, think about your goal and messages and arrange your composition around that.
Composition is an essential element in photography. How you arrange or style your photo will directly impact how its perceived. Learn the basics of composition, and then experiment with different compositions. Play with dynamic compositions, minimal compositions, and make use of negative space. Once you are confident about composition, you can start breaking rules too. Here’s a great post by Artzee called 7 Essential Rules of Photography Composition.
Simplicity is powerful and popular
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “less is more”. Well this is true, especially in creative imagery. The use of negative space and minimal details, allows the mind to focus on the message you’re trying to convey without unnecessary distractions.
Use Available Light
Sometimes you don’t have full control of your lighting if you’re shooting spontaneously. So, make the most of the lighting that’s already available in the your setting. Available light includes natural light (sunlight, moonlight), artificial lighting (street lights, lamps, candles, etc.) or a mix of both.
A solid understanding of how lighting works will allow you to have the most control over how your image looks even if you don’t have full control over the lighting situation. Which is why I recommend reading Light, Science, and Magic: An Introduction To Photographic Lighting. It was a required book in my first photographic lighting course at SCAD, and I totally see why. It’s the best book I’ve read for fundamentals and science of light. The book has great flow for the basics of lighting to a more complex understanding of light.
While there are few smartphone cameras with great zooming capabilities, in most cases I recommend against using the zoom features for important photos. The quality and resolution of the photo typically suffers when zooming on a smartphone camera.
If you want to change the focal length of your camera, clip on lenses are a better option. Smartphone clip on lenses range from macro, wide angle, and zoom lenses. Plus, they're pretty cheap compared to DSLR camera lenses. For example, you can get the AMIR Smartphone lens kit for less than $20! Check out a pic I took with a macro lens similar to Apexel 10 in 1 Cell Phone Lens Kit.
Check out a shot I took with my iPhone 6+ and my macro cell phone lens.
Shoot In RAW (if possible)
RAW photos contain more information and allow more flexibility in photo editing. So, it’s the most recommended photo format for pro photographers. This format used to available only in DSLR cameras, but now smartphones are being developed with RAW capture capabilities. Some smartphones have native RAW capture settings, while other phones may require you to use an app to capture in RAW format such as Lightroom Mobile. Lightroom Mobile allows you capture DNG files (Adobe’s RAW format) while immediately uploading the photo into your mobile library and Adobe Cloud.
Experiment with Manual Settings
Using manual settings on a DSLR allows you the most control over your exposures. Some smartphone cameras have advanced camera modes and settings. If your phone doesn’t that’s okay because there are tons of apps available for both android and ios that allow you to use manual camera modes and more.
Utilize props and/or available environment
Props are great for styled photoshoots that you have more creative control over. If you need to help with prop ideas, check out my, How To Pick the Best Prop and Backdrop Ideas for Your Instagram Theme.
If you’re shooting in a situation that you have little control over, try to make use of any props or structures already available in your current setting. Some things to pay attention to are the varying textures and colors in your surrounding environment, these elements can improve your photos.
If you have plenty of room or control over a shoot, a tripod can be very useful. Tripods are also essential for long exposures and beneficial when shooting flat lays (saves you from back pain.)
While tripods for DSLRs can be very expensive, tripods for smartphones are relatively cheap. For example, I love my new smartphone Acuvar 50” Aluminum Camera tripod that I got from Amazon.
Backup your photos
Just like computers, phones can crash, and just like that all of your photos can be gone. This almost happened to me when my iPhone 6 Plus crashed earlier this year. Lost all of my 10k+ photos on the phone instantly, but thankfully, they were all already backed up to multiple cloud and hard drive locations. One of my main back up locations were through Lightroom Mobile, and I also kept additional backups on Google Photos and Dropbox. What’s great about backup up photos on your phone is that many photo and file management apps allow you to auto sync your photos in to their cloud as a background process. That saves you tone of manual labor and organizing.
Edit photos via phone apps & presets
One of the great perks about mobile photography is the available photo editing apps. My favorite app to edit on is Lightroom Mobile, it allows me to capture photos directly through Lightroom, upload them to my library, and begin editing the right away. Plus I can now use my own custom presets/filters to edit my photos with. Check out my Mobile Preset Starter Pack, that has 10 presets inspired from popular Instagram looks.