10 Tips For Shooting Great Smartphone Photos – Beginners Guide

Take Better Smartphone Photos – Smartphone cameras have come a long way in the past few years, and the quality of the photographs you can take today are amazing.

With many of the smartphones on the market today, they can match the quality of photographs that point and shoot cameras can’t match. It’s no wonder it the camera of choice for many of us amateur photographers today.

The problem that many of us face with smartphone cameras today is understanding what it takes to make a great photograph with them. 

There are so many camera features and options with each smartphone that we forget about the basics of taking a great smartphone photos.

I recently picked up the Apple iPhone 12 Pro max, and let me just say that the menu features for the camera are intimidating. So, what does it take to capture a great photograph with your smartphone?

After a few months of trial and error with my iPhone 12 Pro max in trying to take a great picture with the phone, I picked up some tips and tricks along the way to turn good pictures into great pictures.

If you are looking to improve your photography skills and learn what it takes to capture amazing photographs on a smartphone device, keep reading.

Want to Take Better Smartphone Photos? Try These 10 Tips and tricks to help you take better smartphone photos.
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Underexpose Your Pictures

This happens to every photographer in which you are reviewing your photos after a photoshoot and realize they’re either too blown out or too dark.

An overexposed or underexposed photo can be fixed in post-processing, but you should learn to avoid the problem altogether to create beautiful original photographs.

What Is Overexposure?

Want to Take Better Smartphone Photos? Try These 10 Tips and tricks to help you take better smartphone photos.

Overexposure is the effect of too much light hitting the film or, in a digital camera, the sensor. Overexposed photos are excessively bright, produce very little detail in their highlights, and look washed out.

What Is Underexposure?

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Underexposure is the result of not enough light hitting the film strip or camera sensor. Underexposed photos are too dark, have very little detail in their shadows, and appear dirty.

What Is the Secret to “Correct” Exposure?

Exposure is an artistic decision and there is no “correct” exposure for any smartphone photos taken.

Underexposing your image will provide room for more margins of error in the editing post-process. Keep the shadows dark, the highlights low, and the overall temperature of the image at a neutral standpoint to keep the photo’s integrity.

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Lock Exposure

The AE/AF Lock feature is important for producing perfect smartphone focus and exposure in your smartphone photos.

AE/AF Lock is a smartphone camera feature that enables you to lock the focus and exposure values when taking a photo.

AE stands for Auto Exposure. Exposure refers to the brightness of the image. AF stands for Auto Focus and which part of the photo you want to appear in sharp focus.

If you just point your smartphone camera at an image and press the shutter button, the camera will decide which part of the scene to focus on (usually the middle of the frame), and what level to set the exposure.

To create the best possible image, the camera must be focusing on your intended subject. So rather than letting the smartphone decide what to focus on, you should always set the focus point manually.

How To Use AE/AF Lock To Lock Focus & Exposure

For Apple iPhones, to lock the focus and exposure point, simply tap and hold on that part of the screen for a few seconds. When you see AE/AF Lock in a yellow box at the top of the screen, release your finger.

When AE/AF Lock is activated, the focus is locked on that part of the scene. It will remain locked until you tap on another part of the screen.

It even remains locked after you’ve pressed the shutter button. This is great because it allows you to take multiple photos of the scene without having to set the focus and exposure for each shot.

Once you master AE/AF Lock, you can be sure your photos will always be sharply focused with perfect exposure.

Try Different Angles & Be Creative

The great thing about digital photography is the creativity that you can achieve to make your shots look any number of ways.

Every good photography course (Check out Jimmy Chin’s Masterclass here) explains the importance of keeping your camera still while shooting to ensure incredibly sharp smartphone photos.

But how do you take your smartphone photos to the next level? Here are a few ideas to try to get your creative juices flowing.

There are so many ways to photograph an object, and capturing it from an unusual angle or perspective will make your smartphone photos stand out from the crowd.

Instead of always taking the shot from standing height, why not try capturing your subject from high up or low down? Or moving closer, further away, or taking a few steps to one side?

Tinker in your inner artistic spirit and get creative with the use of these perspectives as this will make a drastic difference to your image, plus… it’s fun to do.

Shoot In Raw

RAW is a distinct image file, available on the latest mobile devices, that captures all image data recorded by the camera’s sensor when the picture is taken. 

Compared to shooting in a format like JPEG, the image data is compressed and lost, resulting in a lower quality image. 

Since there is no information is being compressed under RAW format, you can produce higher-quality smartphone photos, as well as adjust problem areas that would be impossible to correct if shot in JPEG.

Shooting your smartphone photos in RAW allows you to capture greater detail and have a better base image to edit from.

Another factor to consider between RAW and JPEG files is the non-destructive editing processes. 

You can control the image without having to stress about destroying its original formatting, inadvertently overwriting, or incapable to go back and make any changes. 

The original file will always be immediately available for making adjustments whenever you want.

Use apps like VSCO or Lightroom for great editing on the go. Use Color grading and split toning to adjust certain hues and the intensity of them in your RAW image.

Keep Your Smartphone Lens Clean

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Imagine you have the latest and greatest smartphone with an amazing camera built-in, but your smartphone photos are blurry and unsharp. The major cause of this problem is a dirty smartphone camera lens. 

Since most smartphone cases only cover the body of the smartphone and not the camera, odds are that your camera lens will get dirty throughout the day.

The most common and easiest way to clean the lens of your smartphone is by using a microfiber lens to wipe off dust or sand and brush unwanted fingerprints. 

You can pick up a microfiber cloth pack online for a couple of bucks, and the result of this cleaning will be your images will be much sharper and clearer like the first day you bought your smartphone.

What is the best way to clean your smartphone camera lens?

We tend to treat a DSLR/Mirrorless camera with extra caution because of the huge investment in these types of cameras. 

But, with smartphone cameras being so portable and can fit easily in a pocket or handbag, smartphone lenses tend to collect dust, fat, fingerprints, and sand daily. 

A soft or microfiber cloth will help you get rid of fingerprints, water stains, and oil residue to improve your smartphone photos. 

Carry A Travel Tripod With You

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Having a tripod can make or break your smartphone photography. Don’t get me wrong, that it’s not a critical piece of gear, but it opens up a lot of different types of shots. 

For example, the standard shutter speed is about 1/60th of a second. If you get much lower than that, motion blur may be visible because very few people’s hands are truly steady.

With a tripod, that’s no problem! Of course, these multi-legged tools are a prerequisite for any type of long exposure photography. 

What is long exposure photography?

Longexposure, time-exposure, or slow-shutter photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to sharply capture the stationary elements of images while blurring, smearing, or obscuring the moving elements.

To achieve these types of creative shots, you need a good smartphone tripod.

The Rule Of Thirds

According to Wikipedia, “The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. 

The main reason for observing the rule of thirds is to discourage placement of the subject at the center or prevent a horizon from appearing to divide the picture in half. 

When filming or photographing people, it is common to line the body up to a vertical line and the person’s eyes to a horizontal line. If filming a moving subject, the same pattern is often followed, with the majority of the extra room being in front of the person (the way they are moving).

Likewise, when photographing a still subject who is not directly facing the camera, the majority of the extra room should be in front of the subject with the vertical line running through their perceived center of mass.”

If you follow the rule of thirds, you smartphone photo’s will stand out from the crowd.

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Take Advantage Of Your Lighting & Don't Use The Flash

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Depending on the direction you are shooting, the color and brightness of your lighting conditions can have a major impact on your smartphone photos.

A rule I follow is making sure that the primary light sources I am using are directly behind me, and shining on the subject I am photographing.

A general rule to follow is to make sure your primary light source is behind you, shining on the subject of the photo.

Also, try not to use the smartphone flash when taking pictures. Go into your camera settings and turn it off, and never turn it back on!

What the built-in flash in your smartphone does is it leads to poor-looking pictures and adds things to the image that you don’t want like glowing eyes or overly lit areas in your photo.

Using the built-in flash will create photos that look overexposed, giving your subject a look that is washed out by negatively modifying colors.

When taking pictures or videos with your smartphone, always think before shooting “The best light is natural light.”

If there are times when you need to add an artificial light source, think of using a LED lamp with an adjustable temperature or a ring light. Then when you have taken the picture, you can play with the “exposure” tool in your favorite photo editing app.

This way you can play with the image to make it somewhat brighter, without making it look too grainy.

Related Article: 5+ Best Portable LED Lights For Smartphone Filmmaking

HDR Is A Picture Saver

HDR stands for high dynamic range, which, in photography, relates to the balance between the bright and dark areas of your photo.

You can use HDR to either create an actual representation of a scene as the human eye would see it or to create visually stunning images.

Smartphone cameras can be difficult in taking a photo that has both bright and dark areas in the display perfectly exposed. The highlights tend to be overexposed and clipped to white, and the shadows tend to be too dark to show any detailing.

For example, if you had a subject placed in a shaded area with a bright background behind them, brightening the exposure for the subject under the shade would blow out the background and make it overexposed.

But, setting the ideal exposure for the background would result in the subject being underexposed.

A high dynamic range image retains the details of the image in the dark areas (shadows) while not completely whitening the bright areas (highlights).

Lessen Camera Shake


Shaky hands or low-light conditions can often result in blurry photos if you are going handheld without a tripod or gimbal.

There are some DIY ways of reducing camera shake, as well as gear that you can buy that solves this problem as well.

If you are looking for DIY ways of taking pictures or video with your smartphone to eliminate blurry footage, is to use surfaces around you.

Lean your smartphone on flat surfaces, like a wall, table or even a ledge.

When doing this technique try turning your phone on its side so you can take photos and videos horizontally, as well as you can use the “volume up” button as the shutter for better access in taking a picture or video.

I don’t like using the screen record button on my smartphone because it tends to make my videos and pictures look off-balance.

The next solution to reduce shaky camera footage is to rest your elbows on a surface or even tucking them into your body to help you stabilize your phone in your hands.

Another tip is to use the self-timer on the camera. I know this sounds odd, but for me using a timer helps me eliminate the need to tap the shutter release when taking a photo. The result of this reduces the shake of tapping my phone.

All you need to do is enable the timer, press the shutter, then two seconds before the camera actually takes the shot, brace yourself and hold the phone firmly. 

If you are looking at eliminating shaky camera footage for video or taking pictures on the go like running, hiking, snowboarding, think about adding a smartphone gimbal to your smartphone kit.

Gimbals are great for when are on the move and you want your footage to look smooth.

Are you getting outstanding pictures with your smartphone? What tips can you share?

And if you don’t mind sharing the love, a tweet, stumble, pin, or Facebook share would be much appreciated! (Full-sized pins available below by clicking the pin icon.)

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Want to Take Better Smartphone Photos? Try These 10 Tips and tricks to help you take better smartphone photos.

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