Improve your smartphone photography

taking photo of cat sleeping on a bench Your phone is with you everywhere you go. Even if you use more traditional camera setups, smartphone photography can be a valuable skill and a way to exercise your creative eye. Award-winning photographer and director Chase Jarvis said, “the best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Smartphone photography fits in the same field as street and candid photography. Most of the shots you take are in-the-moment shots, events or situations you weren’t planning on or that you happen across. That is why it’s beneficial to have a greater understanding of the function and controls of your device as well as the fundamentals of photography. 

Simple tricks

Photo of a case of glass Artwork in the "Melting Point" exhibit in Alice C. Sabatini Gallery.

A blurry photo as a result of not holding still.

There are some pretty simple things you can do to get the best photos possible with your smartphone. First hold the camera steady, lean against something solid or use a tripod and a smartphone tripod adapter. Next do not use pinch and zoom if you can avoid it. That method is a digital zoom and will cause pixelization, blurriness and grain. Keep the horizon straight, this is most helpful in nature photos. In other situations you could use the horizon to create a alternate perspective. To take away undesirable shadows from a subject try using your camera’s flash but not as the main light source.

Better compose your photograph

Screen shot of the camera app on a iPhone showing the rule of thirds grid.

Showing the camera app view of a Rule of Thirds grid

Familiarizing yourself with some of the fundamentals of photography will greatly increase your skill level. First the Rule of Thirds – a composition principle to break a photograph into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Turn on the gird option in your camera settings for a visual aide to help apply this composition fundamental. The idea is to align the main subjects along those lines for balanced and more interesting photos.

Finally think about how the composition pulls the viewers eyes as they look at the photograph. Leading lines are a compositional element to draw the viewers eyes toward points of interest in the photo.

How to switch the grid on

iPhone: Go to “Settings,” choose “Camera” and switch “Grid” on.

Samsung Galaxy: Launch the camera app, go to “Settings,” scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”

 

Lighting

Always be mindful of the lighting situation as you take photos. Lighting can affect many aspects of the photo both aesthetically and technically. If you want to create a certain mood, experiment with the lighting to find what works best to convey that mood. Furthermore if you need the photo to be well lit you might need to add light to a scene. As I mentioned earlier, don’t use your smartphones flash as a main light source. Use it as a supplementary light source in daylight. Smartphones do phenomenally well in most lighting conditions. Adding an extra light here or there could improve your photos.

Learn more on photography

If you’d like some detailed smartphone photography training, LinkedIn Learning has more than 700 photography courses and some 63 courses on smartphone photography you can take online for free with your library card. I also created a list of excellent photography books you might be interested in checking out.

View complete list

I have always loved art and I’m a working artist. I mostly do photography and digital art but I also paint and make ceramics. I hold a fine art degree from Washburn University. I just love creating things.

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