How to Take Professional-Looking Photos with Your Mobile Phone

How to Take Professional-Looking Photos with Your Mobile Phone

Gone are the days of toting around a bulky camera bag on holiday or missing impromptu snaps—baby’s first steps, gorgeous sunsets, surprise engagements—because you left your Kodak at home. The ubiquity of the smartphone has given us all the ability to document our lives: landmarks, birthdays, or just lunches. And with social media these photos aren’t just languishing unseen in photo albums; they’re part of our online image, a ‘brand’ savvy bloggers and influencers are increasingly turning into careers.

But you don’t have to be an Instagram queen to want to take better shots with your phone. A few easy tricks will improve the quality of your photos, without accessories or extensive editing.

1. See The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a composition principle that holds an image will be more dynamic, balanced, and energetic if objects are aligned with and placed on the intersection of two horizontal and two vertical lines, dividing the frame into nine units. With iOS and Android cameras you don’t have to visualise these thirds: the phones can overlay the grid onto your viewfinder for you. In Android, switch on ‘Show grid in viewfinder’ under Settings and on an iPhone, go to the Photos and Camera menu in Settings and turn on ‘Grid.’

2. Don’t Zoom

A digital zoom isn’t the same as a zoom with a lens. The more you zoom on a digital camera, the grainier the image will be. Take advantage of how slim and portable your phone is and simply step closer to the object you wish to capture. A phone can also enable you to take photos from strange angles, leading to innovative shots.

3. Steady, Steady

A shaky hand can ruin phone-camera photos, especially in low light. Balance your phone on an object to steady the lens and use the physical shutter buttons on the side of your phone (on the iPhone, the volume bottom) rather than the one on the screen. If you’re serious about getting good photos, invest a tripod for your phone.

4. Use Automatic HDR

A steady hand is especially important for the longer exposures required for taking photos in HDR mode. Native iOS and Android cameras now both tout auto HDR modes, applying High Dynamic Range filters to your images, balancing the light and dark parts of your shot, so a bright sky doesn't cast your boyfriend or dog's face in shadow.

5. Take Advantage of Bursts

Both iOS and Android camera software comes with in-built burst options, allowing you to take a series of photos in quick succession simply by holding down the shutter button. You can then choose the one with the best lighting, least blur, and, hopefully, fewest blinking subjects.

6. Clean the Lens

How many times have you taken a series of blurry phone shots only to realise the culprit was not your camera or your shaking hand but a glop of lotion or speck of lint on your lens? Unlike single-purpose cameras with lens caps and cases, the phone-camera lens is exposed to everything jostling in your pocket or purse or on your hands. Use a lint-free wipe, such as for eyeglasses, on the lens or, if the smudge is particularly stubborn, a cotton swab lightly dampened with water.