10 Practical Tips for Smartphone Photography

I’m not going to talk about manual mode or using RAW – that is for professional photographers. I have no desire to be a professional photographer but I love pictures of my life and I want the photos to look as good as possible.

In your pocket you have one of the best cameras ever made. I was in a conversation with a couple recently who traveled to some exotic location together. The husband is a professional photographer with thousands of dollars worth of lenses and other heavy camera equipment. His wife snapped many of the same locations with her smartphone. The husband, sounding quite dismayed, said he preferred many of her photos to his!

There are just a few things you should know to get the best photos from your smartphone. Here are my top 10. We did episode 230 of our YouTube show on this topic. The links below will take you directly to the spot in the video where that tip is discussed or demonstrated.

  1. Clean the Lens. If your phone’s lens is dirty you cannot get a good photo. This is why I make it #1. Be especially aware of the selfie lens. Since it is right on the screen it often has greasy fingerprints on it. Click this link 1:02 for the demo.
  2. Flash off. If you have your flash set to auto it will trigger in low light. These flashes are not very powerful and the current crop of smartphone cameras are much better at setting exposures for low light without the flash. Click this link 12:48 for the discussion.
  3. Hold the phone like a camera. Generally we mean use both hands and hold the phone in a horizontal orientation. First of all, if you view the photos on a computer or TV, you will love it when you see the photo fill the screen because it is horizontal, just like the computer. Secondly, when you use both hands you can hold the phone more stable. Click this link 14:08 for the discussion/demo
  4. Ways to snap the shutter (without jiggling the phone) It can be awkward to keep one hand free so you can tap the shutter button on the phone’s screen. If you’re holding the phone with both hands, you can press a volume button to snap the shutter. That usually will be smoother. You can also set a timer, or use the volume buttons on a wired earbuds. Click this link 16:12 for the discussion/demo
  5. Know how to edit. This tip is second only to clean the lens. You can’t always take the perfect picture, but with a couple of click in a photo editor, you can make it perfect. All smartphones come with a photo management app that includes editing features. I use Google Photos, and when I want even more tools, I use the free app Snapseed. Click this 25:52 link for the demo. And, here’s an entire hour show just on Snapseed.
  6. Settings. There are several settings for the operation of the camera on your smartphone. Familiarize yourself with them and know the correct setting for you. Click this link 32:03 for the demo.
  7. Take Panoramas Most all smartphones have the capability to take a panorama photo in one shot. When you want to capture a very wide scene, know how to use this feature. Click this link 36:42 for the demo.
  8. Pick your lens. Most all high end phones these days have more than one lens. A wide angle and a telephoto. Know how to pick the right lens for your shot. Click this link 40:28 for the demo.
  9. Use Portrait mode for people and flowers. If your camera has a portrait mode, aka live focus or background blur, use it when you’re taking closeup shots of people or flowers. It will focus on the face and blur the background for a very professional look. Click this link 43:36 for the demo.
  10. Use Live / Motion photos. We did episode 223 just on this feature. Many people know about the Live photo feature on iPhones, but many Samsung and other Android phones also have a motion photo feature. Once you’ve capture motion along with your photo, you can pick a frame for the best photo. Click this link 46:00 for the demo.