5 Tips to take smartphone photos like a pro


Discover some useful smartphone photography tips if you want to be better at phone photography? 

Many people think that the better the smartphone they buy the better their photos will be…. well that’s wrong!!

Your smartphone is only a tool. The photographer behind the camera is the most important.

Smartphone photography has become extremely popular for everyone to use. Most smartphones are user-friendly and anyone can get a decent photo by just pointing and shooting at an object.

But for those of you who are not always satisfied with the results, this post will help you improve some of your photographic skills.

Paying attention to some minor details is key to getting the most out of your smartphone.

©karelnoppe Photography_Close up beauty portrait of a mysterious little girl wearing a dark costume in woods

Content in this post:

  1. Get familiar with the settings on your phone

  2. Use a tripod with poor or dim light

  3. Apply basic composition skills

  4. Use the right lens

  5. Post-production / Raw Images

1. Get familiar with the settings on your phone [ smartphone photography tip 1 ]

Too many camera settings could be overwhelming at first.

Knowing your basic settings will help you understand the most important parameters and how to use them.

Pro or manual Mode

In most situations, the pro-mode will give you more control and flexibility before taking a photo. 

Shooting in Auto mode all the thinking is done by the camera and sometimes may not suit your likings.  

Sunset at Rovinj as shot from camera_Under exposed capturing highlight details.
Sunset at Rovinj as shot from camera_Over exposed capturing shadow details.
HDR sunset at Rovinj, Croacia_HDR image with Balance between highlights and shadows.
HDR sunset at Rovinj, Color grading applied

The camera’s CCD sensor takes an average light measurement of the scene to create a balance between highlights and shadows. In some cases, this may lead to low contrast and fade-out images. 

The image sequence above was shot in manual mode with bracket exposure. ( Shooting under and over-exposed shots ).
The contrast in this scene is extremely high and most camera sensors are not capable of capturing both shadow and highlight details in a single shot.

Some smartphones have High Dynamic Range (HDR mode) features to capture more information between highlights and shadows.

In HDR mode the camera will combine 3 to 5 images for best results.

White balance setting

Comparison between automatic white balance at 5600 kelvin and manual corrected white balance at 2860 kelvin

Getting the correct white balance in auto mode could be challenging for many smartphones, especially with complex light situations like this twilight scene.

2. Use a tripod with poor or dim light [ smartphone photography tip 2 ]

Viewing your photos on an average 5.5-inch smartphone screen everything may seem perfect at a glance. 

I’m sure many of you have had some kind of a surprise when zooming in to see that those perfect images are a little out of focus or shaky.

A simple way to avoid this issue is to use a tripod when shooting in tricky conditions like low light, bright daylight, or fast-moving subjects. 

It doesn’t have to be big or heavy as long as it’s steady and well built you good to go. 

I’ve been using both Manfrotto and Gismo Tripods for more than 25 years.

Night scene with a tripod. Sharp focus and stabilized image.
Night scene handheld_ Obvious camera shake causes blurry image.

3. Apply basic composition skills [ smartphone photography tip 3 ]

Including unnecessary information is the most common composition mistake many people make. 

[ smartphone photography tip 4 ] Keep it simple and remember “Less is more”

©karelnoppe photography_Grilled Cod with vegetable macro close up

When shooting appetizing food dishes try not to include parts of the table, chairs, and curtains as these objects will only distract the viewer’s attention.

By showing only the most important part of the image creates more visual impact.

Most latest smartphones offer both wide-angle and zoom lenses for more creative control of your images.

Smartphone photography tips
©karelnoppe photography_Portrait of a girl blowing gold glitter towards a younger kid in the forest.

Experiment with small apertures to achieve attractive out-of-focus bokeh shots, especially with portraits and close-ups. ( Bokeh is the way the camera lens renders out-of-focus points of light).

©karelnoppe photography_Wide angle lens with converging lines and vanishing point.

Make use of a vanishing point. A single point on the horizon line where parallel lines converge increases the illusion of depth in an image.

The rule of thirds is a composition guideline to place a subject in the left or right third of an image. This grid can be activated on most smartphones and is recommended to help compose your photos better.

Lines, shapes, and patterns can be of great use to make your images more interesting.

©karelnoppe photography_Perspective reference in Landscape

Using reference objects to your advantage will add perspective to your landscapes.

Use color pallets to create visual impact. Shooting on cloudy days with low light contrast can help to create cinematic-looking images.

©karelnoppe Photography_Same scene with different light

But the most important aspect of all is understanding the “LIGHT”. 

The same picture taken on a cloudy and sunny day will have a dramatic visual impact. The best natural light source is the sun. The intensity of sunlight brings out the saturation of colors.

Direct sunlight could be counterproductive for your outdoor portraits. Backlighting your subject or moving to the shade could be a positive solution for more pleasing results.

4. Use the right lens [ smartphone photography tip 5 ]


Getting too close to your subject with a wide-angle lens can cause image distortion but it can also create interesting dynamic shots.

©karelnoppe photography_Young Zulu dancer_Telephoto lens

Midrange and telephoto lenses are more suitable options for portraits.

©karelnoppe photography_Taj Mahal_Ulta wide-angle lens

Wide-angle lenses are great for landscapes or architecture.

Ever wondered why your selfie portraits are distorted? The reason is quite simple.

Most smartphone front cameras use wide-angle lenses to capture more information.

Although the front camera of your smartphone is the obvious reason to take a selfie it’s not the best option for a face shot.

These lenses have a typical optical distortion and become more obvious when the subject is positioned closer to the lens and around the corners.

Using a selfie stick to move the camera further away from your face will cause less distortion and more satisfying results.

The Camera angle and strategic subject positioning are important to minimize unwanted malformations.

5. Post-production / Raw Mode

[ smartphone photography tip 6 ]

Raw Image workflow

Whenever possible shoot in Raw Image capture mode.

Many smartphone cameras have a Raw Image mode which means that no image compression is applied to the file. 

You’ll have a more dynamic range, more detail in shadow and light areas, richer colors, and more creative control on your images.

When shooting in the default JPEG mode the images are compressed and sometimes heavily processed.

Often Jpeg files have over-sharpened images and internal software noise reduction could lead to loss of detail.

Creative control

If you don’t have a Raw capture option try the HDR option or shoot some manual bracket exposures for the same shot. ( Bracket exposure means shooting the correct exposed image, underexposed and overexposed shots)

These pictures can be easily combined in Adobe Lightroom CC to create the perfect shot.

Read my post on How to shoot a $1000 best seller photo and Secrets to shoot stunning Real Estate photos.


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