Here’s a secret – professional photographers use smartphone cameras too. You may only see me with my fancy camera and giant lens, but believe it or not, I take a ton of photos on my phone. While camera phones will never be able to replicate what my Nikon DF and Nikon D810 can do, the fact that the smartphone fits into my pocket means I have it at the ready 24/7, so just like you, the bulk of my memories end up documented there.
Fortunately, technology has advanced at lightening speed, bringing a level of sophistication to camera phones that most people (myself included) never would have guessed was possible even just five years ago. Of course, the fact that everyone you know would have a smartphone would have been hard to guess too, but look at us now. Everyone is moving through their days with relatively sophisticated cameras in our pockets. Is it any wonder why Instagram is such a hit? Everyone is a photographer!
With that in mind, I decided it was time to put together some general tips for taking great photos with your smartphone.
I had to do a bit of research of my own for this post, so I’ve linked to my sources at the bottom. Be sure to check out the links for more information.
And now – the first and most important rule of taking better photos with your iPhone or Android device:
1. Do not use the flash. As a natural light photographer, I prefer photos taken without a flash regardless of the camera type, but camera phones, despite how far they’ve come, are still not equipped with a flash that will do your subject or your overall photo any favors. Find a way to bring more light into the shot without a flash. Change your location, turn on a light, or your best bet – if the sun hasn’t set – go outside! Seriously, if the shot is too dark to photograph, it may be better preserved in your memory!
2. Do not use the zoom. This is almost if not equally as important as not using the flash because zooming makes the image blurry and grainy. I’ve heard the zoom function on the iPhone 6S surpasses previous versions, but I’d still recommend zooming with your feet when possible, and if it’s not possible, you’ll get better results if you crop the photo later rather than zooming in now.
So I’ve told you what not to do. Here come a few tips on what you should do to take better photos with your iPhone or Android.
3. Use grid lines. I’ve talked a little about composition before – how the arrangement of objects within the frame can dramatically impact how you respond to an image. Your camera phone’s grid lines are a constant reminder to consider this arrangement as you are shooting. Now, what exactly should you consider? The rule of thirds is a good place to start. This basic rule of photography proposes that images are more interesting when the most important elements are off center. Your camera’s grid lines will divide the shot into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The focal point of the image should fall along or at the intersection of the lines. To turn an iPhone’s grid lines on, go to Settings>Photos & Camera>Grid. In an Android device, Camera>Settings>Grid lines
4. Be ready. None of us probably need to be told to always have your phone at the ready – it more than likely already is! That being said, I’m shocked when I talk to people who don’t realize they can access their camera app with a single swipe – without even unlocking the phone. If you just read that and are thinking, “huh?” then this part is for you. If you have an iPhone, there’s a tiny camera on the bottom right corner of the lock screen. Swipe up on it and voila – you’re ready to take a photo. No more stumbling to unlock the phone and swiping through your 5,000 apps to get to the camera. Android phones have this option too, but you may have to manually add the camera as a shortcut to the lock screen. I think it depends on the phone. (Can you tell I’m an Apple girl?).
5. Use perspective. Just because you’re not shooting professional photography, doesn’t mean you can’t make your images interesting. Drop to the ground to snap that monkey bar photo. Or pop up to the tree house to get a bird’s eye view of the impromptu picnic. Go in for a tight shot of those fingers entwined with daddy’s or of that precious newborn foot. There’s no such thing as wasting film, so try the shot and see. All you’ve wasted is your time (and possibly storage, which if that’s an issue, read my post on photo storage and organization).
6. Forget the cheese. Of course you want photos of people smiling at the camera, but to take better photos with your smartphone, you need to broaden your thinking. Take candids. Try to capture your subjects when they’re not aware of the camera (I’m talking abut your kids, not total strangers!). Some of the best images I’ve taken are of children who have no idea they’re being photographed.
7. Do some editing. Go beyond the Instagram filter with a photo editing mobile app like Snapseed, by Google for iPhone or Android. This takes your editing capabilities beyond what the basic camera app allows. Modify saturation, brightness, contrast, highlights, and more. This app is new to me – and there are dozens of other apps like it- so I’ll publish some reviews once I have the chance to check some of them out.
We’re all taking thousands of pictures with our smartphones every year, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Smartphone camera technology has never been better, and if you keep these few tips in mind, you’ll have photos that do your precious memories justice. And hey, you may just collect quite an Instagram following too.
About the Roswell Professional Photographer
Jennifer McCarren of Freckled Flower Photography specializes in newborn, child photography and family photography in North Atlanta, Georgia locations such as Alpharetta, Milton, Roswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta and Canton.
Freckled Flower Photography is a proud member of Professional Photographers of America.
Freckled Flower Photography has been featured more than once on Beyond the Wanderlust, Mozi Magazine, Inspire- Digital or Not Fine Art Photography Magazine, Photo Artistry, Pretty Forum and many others. I’ve also been published in CHIC Critique Magazine: The Vintage Issue, Young Kids Fashion Magazine and Petite Magnifique Magazine.
Contact me here to request more information about an Atlanta photography session, or you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I announce special offers and share my favorite images from recent photo sessions. I’d love to send you my newsletter as well – scroll up to enter your email address on the left.