How to take great pictures with your mobile phone: 10 tips for beginners

How to take great pictures with your mobile phone: 10 tips for beginners

First published:
August 30, 2023
Updated:
January 30, 2024

Photo by Kei Scampa

A walkthrough of the essentials to help you get the best out of your mobile phone photography

Anyone can be a photographer, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. These pocket-sized devices have transformed how we capture and share our lives and given creative opportunities to so many people that had never been possible before.

Mobile photography is continuously advancing, and it can be overwhelming with its myriad of options and settings if you're just starting. But don't worry; this article will teach you some essential tips to kickstart your mobile photography journey.

1 Clean your lens

Before you start shooting, take a moment to clean your smartphone's camera lens. Over time, it can accumulate dust and smudges, which can result in hazy or blurry photos. A quick wipe with a soft, lint-free cloth can make a significant difference in the clarity of your shots.

Photo by Pixabay

2 Learn your camera app

Most smartphones come with a default camera app that is user-friendly and feature-packed. Take some time to explore it, learn how to switch between photo and video modes, and familiarise yourself with the settings. You can explore settings like Portrait Mode for stunning portraits, Night Mode for low-light shots, and Panorama Mode for sweeping landscapes.

On some camera apps, a Pro/Manual Mode provides advanced control, while Slow-Motion and Time-Lapse enable creative video effects. Additionally, Super Res Zoom and Ultra-Wide deliver enhanced zoom and wider angles. Exploring these options can unlock your smartphone camera's full potential... You'll be surprised at what your phone's camera can do!

Photo by Kei Scampa

3 Use gridlines to get a balanced composition

Most mobile camera apps allow you to switch on and display gridlines when using the camera. These gridlines strategically divide your screen into thirds both horizontally and vertically, and adhere to the rule of thirds – a foundational concept in photography composition.

By positioning your subject or focal point along these intersecting lines or at their intersections, you can instantly enhance the visual appeal of your photos. This approach not only adds balance and symmetry but also draws the viewer's attention to the key elements in your shot, resulting in more engaging and aesthetically pleasing images. Whether you're capturing landscapes, portraits, or everyday scenes, the rule of thirds can be a game-changer in making your photos stand out and using the gridline display on your phone will help!

Photo by Jana Al Mubaslat

4 Focus and exposure control

Tap on your screen to set the focus and exposure point when in the camera app, so you can precisely control the camera's focus and exposure priorities.

This user-friendly feature is an essential aspect of modern smartphone photography and you'll find it in pretty much every camera app. By experimenting with various focus and exposure points, you can highlight a specific subject against a blurred background or ensure a well-balanced exposure in challenging lighting conditions. This dynamic capability opens up endless possibilities for crafting unique and visually compelling photographs.


Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

5 Mind the lighting

When capturing photos with your smartphone, it's advisable to prioritise shooting in natural light, often referred to as available light, whenever the opportunity arises.

Natural light provides a gentle, even illumination that can significantly enhance the quality of your images. However, steer clear of harsh, direct sunlight, which can cast intense and unflattering shadows, potentially causing overexposed or underexposed areas in your photos. Instead, consider taking advantage of overcast days or the "Golden Hour," which occurs during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun's angle bathes the surroundings in warm, soft light. This golden-hour glow can imbue your photos with a subtle, ethereal quality, making it an ideal time for capturing stunning and visually pleasing smartphone shots.

Photo by Almada Studio

6 Keep a steady hand

Shaky hands can lead to blurry photos and you may not notice your photos are blurred until after the image was taken, meaning disappointing results. To avoid this, stabilise your shots. Use both hands to hold your phone and brace your elbows against your body or a stable surface. Alternatively, invest in a smartphone tripod or a small handheld stabiliser–it'll make a huge amount of difference to the overall quality of your shots.

Photo by Bert Christiaens

7 Experiment with composition

Experiment with different angles and perspectives. Don't be afraid to get low or high for a unique viewpoint. Also, pay attention to the background and eliminate distractions that might detract from your subject.

Photo by Furkan Elveren

8 Editing apps

Once you've taken your photos, consider using photo editing apps to enhance them further. Popular choices include Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, and VSCO. These apps offer tools for adjusting exposure, colour balance, and adding creative filters.

See the links below to find the right version for your phone:

Adobe Lightroom: iOS | Android

Snapseed: iOS | Android

VSCO: iOS | Android

Photo by 244432_

9 Practice and patience

Photography is an art that takes time to master. Don't get discouraged by initial results that might not meet your expectations. Practice regularly, review your photos critically, and learn from your mistakes.

Photo by Angel Cano Ydáñez

10 Tell a story

Remember that a good photograph tells a story or evokes an emotion. Think about what you want to convey with your image, whether it's capturing a moment of joy, serenity, or excitement.

Photo by Martin Sanchez

Final thoughts

Mobile photography is an accessible and rewarding hobby that's open to anybody. And with these tips, you can start taking brilliant photos right away.

Remember to experiment, practice, and most importantly, enjoy the process of capturing the world through your smartphone lens. Happy shooting!

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