5 Tips for phone photography

September 3, 2021 12:33 PM

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An over-the-shoulder view of someone taking a photo using their phone. Photo courtesy of Julia Volk on Pexels.

An over-the-shoulder view of someone taking a photo using their phone. Photo courtesy of Julia Volk on Pexels.

Photography is a great way to express yourself and show your creative side. Now, you may see many photographers carrying around these giant $5,000 cameras and lenses, but the reality is any normal person who wants to take better than average photos, all you need is your phone. We all know phones are pretty powerful things, they are mini-computers that we carry around in our pockets every day, but phones are also a great way to begin your photography journey. I’ll help you get started by teaching you some of the basics of photography and editing that can be done with your phone.

1. Getting the right phone settings

Phones have evolved so much, and honestly, for the better. Luckily, in today’s world, we have high-quality phone cameras. Before we even begin taking a photo we have to get our settings all figured out. If you want to know everything you can do with your phone camera, the article “10 iPhone Camera Settings Every Photographer Should Use” explains it well.  

Settings for iPhones

iPhone settings are pretty easy to work with. The main settings we want to change are the camera’s quality and turning on the grid, which can be seen in the photo. The main reason we want the grid is so that our photos will come out straight and make it easier for us to use. If you want more details about other camera settings check out this article.  


Settings for Android

The settings for Androids are very similar to iPhones. Go to Settings, press “Camera,” then “Resolution & Quality,” select “Choose a mode and a camera,” and finally choose the highest quality option. 

2. Finding your inspiration

There are many types of photography, and sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming when choosing what type you want to do on a certain day. Or, maybe you are just stuck. Finding inspiration can be a little confusing sometimes, especially for a beginner since there are so many ways to find it. I once spent almost an entire month not doing photography because I had no idea what to shoot. Luckily, my mentor taught me to look at others for inspiration and to make a vision board.

Instagram 

A great way to find inspiration is by looking at Instagram, whether it’s other Instagram photography accounts or looking through hashtags (#) for a specific type of photography. Some of my favorite accounts for inspiration include:

  • @natgeo is awesome for photojournalism and inspiration

Pinterest Board

Pinterest boards are also a great way to find inspiration. The best way I use a Pinterest board is by searching where I am, and then searching for photos (ex. Boston Photos). From here I make a board and choose the photos I like based on angles, location, landmark, etc.




3. Follow basic photography rules

There are many photography rules, some that you may use every time you take a photo and some that you may forget even exist. For now, I’ll just teach you the main three.

Finding your best angle

Portraits and selfies are very big in photography, but this means finding the best angle. The easiest way to do this is by taking a photo of yourself from each angle; this would be from a higher angle on your left, right and straightforward. Then, you would do the same process at eye level and again at a lower level. This activity will help you find your best side and it will also help you find other people. You can do the same for them when taking a picture. If you want other ways to find your best angle or other people’s best angles I recommend the video “How to Find Your Best Angles (PSA: You're Not Ugly)” by Joanne Grows.



Lighting

Lighting is a major part of all photography. It affects your settings, your subject, and your entire photo in general, so finding the best lighting is important. When taking photos of yourself or others, the best lighting would be diffused lighting, this means that there are no harsh shadows that will alter the way you look in the photo, and the lighting is just nice and flat, covering your entire face. The way to do this is taking photos on an overcast day since there is still light, but since the clouds are in the way the lighting diffuses and distributes easily. Now, if you want a more dynamic photo with more contrast (​​contrast is the scale of difference between black and white in your photos) you should shoot on a very sunny day that causes many shadows.

The Rule of Thirds

The last and arguably most important rule in photography would be “The Rule of Thirds.” To put it simply, the rule of thirds is a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two-thirds more open. While there are other forms of composition, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots. If you want a more in-depth video explaining the rule of thirds, I suggest “The Rule of Thirds in 5 minutes | Creating More Dynamic Framing” by Julian Discovers.  


4. Editing apps

Once all photos are taken, there is always something we might want to change. That is where editing comes in. I know that there are many different editing apps and it can be confusing sometimes to know which one to use. Trust me, I’ve been there. So here are some of my favorite and free phone editing apps.

Adobe Lightroom

Now, on your phone, Lightroom is free, which is great. Lightroom is great for any basic edits like changing the exposure or warmth of your photo and is easy to use.


Adobe Photoshop Fix

Another easy-to-use app is Photoshop Fix, this app is less focused on basic edits and more focused on creating something new from the photo you’ve already taken, or even changing the way you look by morphing. 

Snapseed

The final app that I recommend is Snapseed, this is a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop in one app. Overall, it is a great easy to use app.

5. Editing basics

I, too, used free apps on my phone, and sometimes it can be confusing. The key to editing is that you want it to be as simple as possible. Once you start editing, it sometimes gets a little hard to stop. Some of my most basic edits include changing the photo’s exposure (overall brightness of the photo), adding some contrast, sharpening it a bit so that it looks better in quality, and changing my blacks and whites based on the photo. You can edit to your preference, and if you want to learn more about editing you can use Youtube. A video I recommend is “Snapseed Beginner Tutorial | Android and iPhone” By Dee Nimmin. The video goes more in-depth about all the different settings there are in editing, and even shows you a nice basic edit you can use on your photos.


Photography is a great form of art. It doesn’t matter if you have a $5,000 camera or just your phone, anyone can do it. It’s a great way to express yourself and view the world from a different perspective. As a photographer, you open your mind to more creativity. So now that you know the basics, go out and take a photo. It doesn't matter if you think it’s bad, we all have to start somewhere to get better.

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