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How to Take Amazing Pictures with Your Smartphone

Camera accessories

Tips for getting the most out of your cell phone camera.

  • Frame your shots carefully
  • Get the right lighting
  • Adjust your settings
  • Avoid the zoom
  • Look for interesting angles
  • Try extra accessories
  • Become comfortable with your phone
  • Use an external lens
  • Maximize editing tools

One advantage to having a smartphone is that you always have a camera at the tip of your fingers. You can capture moments easily and never miss recording a unique experience. You may think your phone camera won't take the highest quality photos. However, with a few simple changes in how you take photographs, you can learn how to take good photos with a phone.

Frame your shots carefully.

When you frame your shots well, you can create more artistic and professional-style photos. Many phones have a grid feature that allows you to see your shot split up into squares. This helps you manage the rule of thirds and lets you see how much negative space you have. If you take portraits, the grid feature helps to keep your target dead center. When you snap a photo, turn the phone on its side unless you're taking a photo of full-length subjects. Horizontally framed shots are often more attractive to the eye when viewed digitally or in printed form.

Get the right lighting.

Putting your subject in good lighting gives your photos stronger contrast and more vibrant colors that stand out well, which makes your photos clear. Natural lighting usually looks best, so shooting during the golden hours in the morning and evening can help. Remember to turn off your flash when it’s not needed, as it can wash out fine details and create poor colors. Of course, if you can't find good lighting, you can make some! Look into studio-style photography lighting equipment to fine-tune your photos' brightness. You can even take some lighting options with you on the go.

Adjust your settings.

As you set up a shot, change your camera's exposure, focus and other settings for a more professional appearance. Many smartphone models, such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixels, have filters that automatically set the phone's exposure and color settings for an easier prep time. These may feel too rigid though, so adjust the filter to a look you prefer before snapping the shot. Also, before you take the photo, switch your camera to high dynamic range (HDR) mode. This enhances details between light and dark, which works well for landscapes and nature photography.

Avoid the zoom.

When you zoom, you lose definition because the phone camera crops and resizes your view, rather than enhances it. This means you end up with a lower quality photo. When you can, get closer to the subject. Let it fill the frame and become your central focus. That way, the phone's focus feature brings out the subject. Another option is to use optical zoom rather than digital zoom since it won't decrease image quality and it works fine if you can't get any closer.

Look for interesting angles.

Smartphones are very mobile, so they can take shots from awkward angles that traditional cameras can't manage. Test out these angles by snapping several shots from above, below and at offset angles to find out what works best. Phones don't run out of film, after all. Get creative with ladders, roofs, lying on the ground, and other ways to create odd perspectives. Changing perspectives is key to getting everything in view and creating the illusion of depth, especially if you have lots you want to fit into your shot.

Try extra accessories.

Accessories may prove helpful, depending on what photographs you want to take. For a steadier shot, buy a mobile tripod that you can set up quickly for unusual viewpoints. If you intend to take tons of selfies, a selfie stick allows you to gain distance and fully display what's in the background. If you want underwater photos, some phone cases have special capabilities that allow it. Attachable lights or night sights add contrast to your photos, even as you move your phone. When all else fails, there are tons of apps out there that help with editing and enhancing photos after the fact.

Become comfortable with your phone.

You may find it helpful if you treat your cellphone like a camera rather than a phone when it comes to photography. Clean your lens regularly to ensure clear and smudge-free photos. Familiarize yourself with all your phone's camera features, then try taking multiple shots of the same subject with different settings to find out what works best for you. You can also set your volume buttons as buttons for your camera so you can click them to take a shot rather than tapping the screen. Check your phone regularly for damage and update the operating system often to keep it to your standards.

Use an external lens.

An easy way to make a smartphone photo look professional is to use a professional lens. These lenses fit onto specific phones and work like normal camera lenses for specific effects and views. Get a fisheye look or wide lens without editing after the fact. Some even come with an app that helps you use the lens to its full advantage. Make sure the lens you want works with your phone before you buy.

Maximize editing tools.

No matter how good a shot is, you can often improve it with a little editing. Play with the photo settings for color, contrast, saturation and special effects after you take a shot. You can blur the background or create a sharper focus for portraits and miniature photography. If you find editing on a laptop easier, transfer the photos manually or via the cloud. Then use photo-editing software where you can see the image in a larger size. Tweak and alter until you think it's just right. Smartphone photography no longer requires that you sacrifice quality for convenience. With the right tools and know-how, you can snap shots that rival those taken with traditional cameras. Get used to your phone's abilities and practice often and you'll improve your mobile photography skills.